Flawlessly Logical

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:

Obama on Rolling Stone Magazine Mr. Spock

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.

6 Replies to “Flawlessly Logical”

  1. We were Twit­ter­ing about this! Now, the prob­lem is … isn’t Spock like, the VP to Cap­tain Kirk? If so, then… should­n’t his VP be like, the Pres­i­dent? Just saying…

  2. Yes, I not­ed that at the begin­ning of the post. As for Spock being a sec­ond-in-com­mand, bear in mind that this is just for the orig­i­nal series. In the sub­se­quent movies (and in much fan fic­tion) he is a com­man­der in his own right.

    As for the resem­blance between Barack and Spock (they even rhyme!), I think I was more struck by the sim­i­lar­i­ty in tem­pera­ment and man­ner — the way they car­ry them­selves. I would have had lit­tle trou­ble see­ing Mr.Spock as the Pres­i­dent (although I’m sure there would be some plot-line about how you can’t gov­ern with just the head, but also with the heart — gee, was­n’t that the moral of Metrop­o­lis?), and I also could eas­i­ly see Mr. Oba­ma as a sci­ence offi­cer on an away mis­sion, and remem­ber, he’d be wear­ing a blue shirt, not the infa­mous secu­ri­ty colour that black offi­cers usu­al­ly wore in the series, lead­ing to the whole red­shirt char­ac­ter of Star Trek (and beyond):

    A red­shirt is a stock char­ac­ter, used fre­quent­ly in Star Trek, whose pri­ma­ry pur­pose in the plot of a sto­ry is to die soon after being intro­duced, thus demon­strat­ing the dan­ger­ous cir­cum­stances faced by the main char­ac­ters. The term orig­i­nates from the sci­ence fic­tion tele­vi­sion series Star Trek, in which secu­ri­ty offi­cers wear red shirts and are often killed on field mis­sions under the afore­men­tioned circumstances.

  3. What a won­der­ful analy­sis and cross ref­er­ence of pos­si­ble rea­sons Oba­ma is such a like­able char­ac­ter. He does present a sense of calm secure thought­ful deliberation.

    Sounds like a major improve­ment com­pared to the McCain/Palin/Bush — unpre­dictable Q‑like quick and thought­less responses. 

    To be fair, McCain does exhib­it the hon­or, courage and war­rior qual­i­ties of Worf. Good qual­i­ties for a sol­dier, per­haps not deep enough for com­man­der in chief re: for­eign pol­i­cy relations.

  4. Great post David. Fun but with insight. I did­n’t know the red shirt char­ac­ter was a term. Although, when I was grow­ing up we only had a black and white tv so my Star Trek was colourless.

  5. Thanks Artist3d and MJ!

    I tend to think of Bush/Palin/McCain as Fer­en­gi, the species who are (Wikipedia): “char­ac­ter­ized by a mer­can­tile obses­sion with prof­it and trade and their con­stant efforts to swin­dle peo­ple into bad deals”

    Yes, the red­shirt ‘device’ is actu­al­ly found in scripts. I remem­ber a hys­ter­i­cal play on the con­cept in the Sci Fi Com­e­dy Galaxy Quest, when Sam Rock­well, play­ing the char­ac­ter Guy Fleeg­man, real­izes (with great appre­hen­sion) that he’s a ‘red shirt’ and is not con­vinced by Daryl Mitchel­l’s char­ac­ter that he is the ‘quirky com­ic relief guy’ rather than the expend­able canon fodder.

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