A warning right off the bat: I’m going to get nerdy here.
It had occurred to me earlier in the week and I twittered it, but it hit me again, full-force, during the final Presidential Debate:
Obama = Spock.
There are the obvious parallels: The offspring of two races (white and black vs. Human and Vulcan), the odd looking ears, strange name and most of all, the cool, calm logic. It’s true that Barack Obama does show emotion, which no self-respecting Vulcan would do, but his demeanor, elocution and sheer unflappability suggest the same, dispassionate (and hence, very sexy and admirable) role model that so many of us kids of the 70’s had.
Like many other gawky high-schoolers, I wanted to be Spock. Even though Star Trek was already in syndication, I knew most of the episodes by heart, and hence, was intimately familiar with the Vulcan half-breed outsider character. Fast-forward to this evening; as I watched John McCain get angrier and grumpier, throwing everything he could at Obama in this final debate, the other man remained cool and calm, as he always does. I half expected him to say something like ‘Excuse me Senator, but you are letting your emotions get the better of you.’ and perhaps even (a real quote from the series): ‘After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true’
I’m not alone in making this observation. A Google search for Obama=Spock hit pay dirt instantly. I was pleased to see that the New York Observer had an article on this very subject a little over a week ago: Be Logical, Captain! and two professors, Mitchell Aboulafia, who teaches at the Julliard School, and Henry Jenkins, who is at MIT also made the connection. In fact, Jenkins made a speech at Future of Civic Media conference hosted at MIT this past summer that dwelt deeply upon the parallels between Spock and Obama, and came to this inevitable (I think) conclusion, and then some.:
In its own small way, Star Trek and Spock may have helped to prepare the way for Obama’s victory in the Democratic primaries, helping us to imagine a different set of relationships between the races. Nowhere was this social utopian vision more fully expressed than the “great friendship” between Kirk and Spock and so we can see some legacy of this theme of acceptance across racial boundaries emerging through the slash fan fiction which became one of the major legacies of early Star Trek fan culture. The other “non-white” characters may have been more suggestions than fully developed figures — at least on the original series — but Spock was someone we got to know and care about because, not despite, his differences. This is one reason why so many fans of my generation were upset when Kirk praises Spock for being “the most human” person he has ever known during his funeral eulogy in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. Can you imagine the uproar if someone praised Obana’s “whiteness”?
I’ve included a couple of photos from Jenkins that point out the startling similarity between the candidate and the character:
At any rate, if ever there were a need for a calm, logical Vulcan at the helm of the USS America, it would be now. Let’s hope he can get the warp drive working before the ship drops out of orbit and burns up in the atmosphere. Or something like that.