Thursday, May 7, 2009

Spock as sex symbol

So, I've been reading through everyone's Star Trek hoopla and the one that has struck me the most is Annalee Newitz's over at The article is a review, to be sure, but it reads as a bit of a lust love letter (or is it a tribute?) to the new Spock's sexiness.

Zachary Quinto's Spock, while still a slave to logic, can't hold back his emotions nearly as well as the old Spock could. The current Spock loves and yearns.

That isn't to say that the Leonard Nimoy's Spock didn't have a legion of fans who fell for him:

When celebrated science fiction writer James Tiptree, Jr. (AKA Alice Sheldon) started watching Star Trek in the 1960s, she wrote in letters to her friends about how the one aspect of the show that truly fascinated her was Spock. She wrote a fan letter to Leonard Nimoy, explaining that his sexual magnetism came from humans' natural exogamy, their urge to marry outside their own groups. An alien would be the ultimate outsider, the ultimate object of desire. In one besotted passage, she described Spock's "touching shoulder blades, the tremor, the shadowed and infinitely effective squint."
Tiptree's renegade nerd sexual desires have now gotten a lot closer to being the desires of the mainstream. Zachary Quinto's new Spock still has a thin, trembling body and the squint of a scientist, but he's emerged into this special-effects blockbuster of a film as a leading man, competent, virile, and sexually desirable. This triumphant sexualization Spock could only have happened in the early 21st century, when geeks are culture heroes and dork actor Michael Cera has become a romantic lead.

I haven't seen what Quinto has done with the role yet, but I'm struck by Newitz's observation. The original Spock probably resonates more with women who grew up in the late 20th and 21st century, where geek suddenly become chic (think David Tennant as Doctor Who). He would have been a much less likely sex symbol in 1969 than in 2009.

While Kirk is still the object of most people's desires, a large enough minority of people are drawn to Spock. At least among the large minority of nerd girls (a largely ignored group of comic book readers and sci-fi lovers who came of age sometime between Amidala and Arwen). Where Kirk is hot, Spock is cool - cold even. I figure that there are two types of straight women in the world: the ones that fell for Kirk, and ones that fell for Spock. I've always been a Spock girl.

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  1. "While Kirk is still the object of most people's desires, a large enough minority of people are drawn to Spock. "

    Actually, it is the opposite. The huge majority of female fans of Star Trek have always been lusting after Spock, then and now. I can't think of many females who prefer Kirk. The idea of Kirk as the main sex symbol of Trek is a misconception held by general public and by men. To quote Jolene Blalock: "Spock was the sex symbol. Many people think it was Kirk, but it was Spock."

    If you want some statistics, there was a poll on the Star Trek The Original Series section of startrekmovie website, started abotu a year ago or so - "One for the ladies - who was sexier: Kirk or Spock?" Last time I checked, Spock ws winning 18:6. Recently, there is a similar thread on the IMDB board for the new movie, and yesterday when I checked the last time, the score was something like 34:4 in favour of Spock.

  2. Ah, now that is interesting. Thank you so much for sharing. And here I thought I was in the minority this whole time. In some ways, I suppose I still am in the minority - most of the female Star Trek fans I know, choose Kirk over Spock. I wonder if the statistics being in Spock's favor have to do with the type of women who choose to watch Star Trek.

  3. I thought Brandon Routh of Superman fame was the new Mr. Spock on Star Trek. I found out it's someone else.