First off, I have to say “hats off” to Zachary Quinto for coming out of the closet as a response to a bullying incident that he felt warranted his revelation of his gay lifestyle. Quinto, who is best known for playing Spock in the Star Trek reboot and the sinister Sylar on the television series Heroes, probably could have remained incognito about his sexual lifestyle and no one would have really suspected (or even cared), but now that he has revealed his personal background it should be interesting to see where things go from here.
The reason I mention this is because of a distinct hypocritical situation that is probably going to play itself out over the next few years. You see, Star Trek has always been one of those shows that likes to think of itself as forward thinking and taboo breaking. It was known for the first interracial kiss that occurred between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura. When Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura, was thinking of quitting Star Trek, Star Trek lore reminds us that Martin Luther King, Jr. told her she couldn’t quit, that she was making strides for the Civil Rights Movement that were happening in front of the audience in ways that no one else could do at the time. Whereas she thought she was playing a simple part, and not receiving the recognition deserved, others saw her as the ground-breaking maverick who would forever be remembered for her accomplishments.
It seems somewhat ironic, or surprisingly symbolic, that Lieutenant Uhura is again involved in another stride forward from Star Trek, as it is her reboot relationship with Commander Spock that breaks the traditional lore, showing her involved in a relationship with the Vulcan, whereas none was suggested before during the Leonard Nimoy era of Spock. Now, this Spock is going to be seen in a completely different light, because now everyone going to see the new episodes of the reboot will forever know that the new Spock is being played by a gay man. If seen from the eyes of the Star Trek universe, this should be seen as nothing but a step forward, as some of the newer episodes of the later series, like the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine were not afraid to explore very controversial and ground-breaking ground in this area, including an episode where the Enterprise’s doctor, a woman, rekindled a romance with a species hopping former lover who was now in the body of a woman, causing one of the more awkward love-scenes between two women in a way that was quite brilliant in that it was not exploited, comfortable or in any way frightened of what it was attempting to portray.
However, even though the show might be ground-breaking and willing to explore new ground, I wonder if the fan base feels the same way. While I have zero problem with an outed gay man playing the iconic Commander Spock in the new reboot, one has to wonder how the loyal fans will handle the same kind of scenes where Kirk and Spock were conquering the galaxy together. Even during the straight days of the two iconic galactic heroes, there was a spread of fandom fiction that postulated the possibilities of Kirk and Spock being gay lovers, and quite often such portrayals were seen with harsh indignation from other fans. The very idea that Kirk and Spock might have even been suspected of homosexuality filled pages and pages of fan blogs about the two characters, and quite often there was an immediate condemnation of the very nature of the idea.
So, how will fans handle this sort of a character going forward? Will they be able to separate the actor from the character, or will they feel an apprehension with Quinto as the iconic Spock? When they see Spock wooing Lieutenant Uhura, will there be a sense that something’s just not right, as it is very hard to see the character through the eyes of an actor who is perceived to be faking a romantic involvement (even though that’s what most actors are supposed to be doing anyway)? Much like the criticisms of Rock Hudson after it was discovered he died of AIDS and was secretly gay, are audiences capable of that suspension of disbelief, or will they spend their time over analyzing every scene, kind of like music critics over analyzed Melissa Etheridge’s lyrics after discovering she was a lesbian, believing that somehow that changed the very nature of any love ballad she may have composed?
Personally, I find Quinto to be a brilliant actor and look forward to the many roles he will continue to play, but at the same time I wonder how much criticism he will receive as the indominable Spock, now having to live up to the baggage that will now be added to the part.