Although the original “Star Trek” series aired during my parents’ youth, growing up around my uncles, proud “Trekkies” (to the extent that my one cousin is named Kirk, as in James T. Kirk, the captain of the fictitious Starship Enterprise), made me familiar with the name Mr. Spock. However, it was not until the recent passing of beloved actor Leonard Nimoy, who brought the iconic Mr. Spock to life, that I realized that we should all consider Nimoy, as well as his character, an important model for the acceptance of one’s self and others.

After witnessing the overwhelming amount of tributes on mainstream and social media for Nimoy, I began to wonder what he had done during his life to garner the genuine love and respect of so many people from different walks of life. However, after learning more about his initial struggle with accepting the fame that the role of Mr. Spock thrust upon him, I realized that Nimoy’s eventual acceptance of himself and his role was not only a stepping-stone that would help pave the way for young people learning to accept others, but was also one that would enable myself and many other people to accept our unique qualities.

The most significant of Mr. Spock’s stand-out features were his angular eyebrows, his pointed ears, and his quick intelligence that allowed him to solve problems at a faster, more “logical” rate than most. Mr. Spock’s high abilities, coupled with his physical distinctions from humans, reveal how unjustified discrimination is, given that the appearance or ethnicity of a person is not representative of his or her actual value. The morals extended by the series and through the character of Mr. Spock should be seen as what enabled Nimoy’s portrayal of him to be one not solely remembered for his acting prowess, but more so for Nimoy’s assistance in revolutionizing the idea that despite the physical and ethnic differences people have, these differences do not diminish a person’s worth.

Understanding the historical time period during the series’ inception is also important to comprehending the significance of Nimoy’s impact on the public. When he made his first appearance as the detached, albeit clever Vulcan in the rejected 1965 pilot of “Star Trek”, civil rights issues were highly prevalent in the United States. Seeing a respected and intelligent non-human character that was also one of the series’ protagonists on the big screen was not common for the time period in which it was shown. “Star Trek” touted a racially diverse cast, yet the racism that was displayed was directed towards Mr. Spock, the only half-Human, half-Vulcan member of the Enterprise.

The creation of this character allowed racism to be depicted and exposed in such a way that would not have been possible had the target been any other “real” minority. The constant remarks about ethnicity endured by the character of Mr. Spock, often by the character of Dr. McCoy, who belittled Spock for his pointed ears and green blood, as well as his logical mind, depicted the parallel struggles of racism often faced by minorities. Nimoy’s portrayal of his character’s ongoing struggle to cope with prejudice that was, for all intents and purposes, parallel to those faced by many people in our real life culture helped add another layer to the series that showed young people how much pain can be caused by not accepting others because of their differences.

Additionally, by having a non-conforming character whose persona was considered, as stated by Matt Atchity, the Editor-in-Chief of the film review website Rotten Tomatoes, to have been “used as a device for the writers to examine humanity and examine what it meant to be human,” Nimoy’s impact on the acceptance of others became only that much more powerful and meaningful.

“Star Trek,” and the character of Mr. Spock, remind us that the social issues we face today are timeless. Although Nimoy is now gone, it is crucial that we do not let his greatest lesson to us, so powerfully portrayed through his character Mr. Spock, go with him. Through his own personal journey of acceptance and the example that his iconic character has provided for people of all ages, Nimoy has helped those who may consider themselves outsiders based on their ethnicity, interests or physical differences embrace those differences and be proud of their individuality. Furthermore, if we are to truly “live long and prosper” and reach “the final frontier,” we must resolve our conflicts and accept the fact that differences between people are not inherently bad.

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-- Online Editor-in-Chief Emeritus-- Digital Journalism

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