Well that was real mature...

Well that was real mature...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

RIP Leonard Nimoy: The Humanity Behind Our Favorite Alien

Leonard plays a death scene over three decades before his actual passing.
It's been almost two months since the passing of Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy and I've been contemplative. I have thought a lot about what is so appealing about the actor beyond the character that made him famous: Mr. Spock. I'll confess much like the character of Mr. Spock himself, I'm conflicted. My emotional side and my logical side are having a tug of war. My emotional side is very bummed that Leonard is gone. I was only in the same room with him a single time (along with a throng of giddy Trekkers) so do I have the right to be so familiar as to call him Leonard? You betcha, I invited that man into my home hundreds of times every time I fired up my TV, VCR or DVD player, so I'm going with Leonard. Anyhow, watching the multitudes morn seems kind of silly. Illogical if you will. Leonard lived a long life, passing less than a month before his 84th birthday. He was healthy enough to work and make personal appearances through 2014. He had a successful career both in front and behind the camera, and created a character that is so iconic that he will be remembered generations from now even when other aspects of 20th century pop culture have long been forgotten. He was wealthy, loved, respected and by all accounts happy in his later years. Life was pretty good to Leonard.


I miss him. The idea that he will not be in the next Star Trek film due out for the 50th anniversary in 2016... makes me... illogically sad. The idea that he will never make the movie about conjoined twins Chang and Ing Bunker makes me sad. The idea that he won't again challenge traditional views as he did with his photography makes me sad.

The man behind the ears: Actor, director, photographer & poet.
 There is probably a little placing of the actor on a pedestal because of the devotion and love his character inspired. Leonard was not perfect. There were reports that he fought with producers of Star Trek, even being so narcissistic as to think that Mr. Spock was the central character. Spock was clearly the break out character because he was so identified with by fans. His character along with Dr. McCoy served as emotional and intellectual counterbalances. Ying and Yang. Logic and emotion. The two characters illustrated the conflict within the main character (Kirk). He was important, instrumental and necessary, but not the main character. He initially shunned his fans, because of typecasting going so far as to write a book condescendingly called I'm Not Spock. He clearly resented the character and felt it hurt his career, and only returned for a big payday (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) and again later for the opportunity to put the character away by killing him off (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn). He would allow the resurrection of the character only for the opportunity to direct (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock). By all rights he should be hated by Trekkers.


When the Star Trek animated series was on he refused to participate unless George Takei and Nichelle Nichols participated. He realized the ethnic diversity was important to the show and the ideals of Star Trek. He was ready to let a payday slide by if the project didn't live up to it's own ideals. He ensured his co-stars who didn't get big paydays in the early movies got equal pay in the latter films. He would again push the ideals of Star Trek when he directed his second feature by promoting an ecological message (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and pushed a allegorical tale for the final film of the original franchise when executive produced Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It wasn't until Star Trek star William Shatner published his autobiography Up Till Now was anyone aware of how much Leonard tried to help Shatner's late wife deal with her alcoholism. His philanthropy is now well known but was not overtly advertised for public relations purposes.  Only years after the fact did it trickle out that he gave to charity, provided grants, and contributed to restoration projects. Who could hate a man like that?

So, I guess what I'm saying is that Leonard wasn't perfect; he was self centered one day and self sacrificing the next.  In other words, he was a perfect example of a human being: flawed. To his credit he never stopped striving to improve and do better. In the process, he left a legacy steeped in the arts and humanitarianism and that's more than most of us get to do.

It's illogical to be sad, yet I am, because part of the appeal of Leonard Nimoy was that we identified with his personal flaws and admired his striving to overcome them.

No comments:

Post a Comment