William Shatner
By: Peggy Nelson | Categories: HiLo Heroes

Despite commercially viable efforts (T.J. Hooker, guest appearances on many other TV shows) to shake his typecasting as Star Trek‘s Captain Kirk, WILLIAM SHATNER’s (born 1931) career seemed destined to stall out at that fictional peak. Before nerds and science fiction conventions were cool, Shatner was their icon; the 1986 Saturday Night Live skit in which he pointed at a Trekkie and bellowed, “You! Get a life!” gave voice to the anger of a highbrow adored by lowbrows. And despite the precedent of song-speakers like Rex Harrison and Richard Harris, Shatner’s song-poems were too avant-garde — closer to the stylings of Yoko Ono or Björk — and therefore alienating to earth-bound listeners. However, Shatner the actor eventually figured out how to gain creative leverage on Shatner the icon. It’s been a pleasure to watch Shatner captain Boston Legal as Denny Crane, and perform indie rock reflections with Ben Folds on the 2004 album Has Been; casting him as the voice of “MyDad” in the movie spinoff of @ShitMyDadSays was brilliant. How did he pull all this off? By subverting television’s middlebrow aesthetic of artifice with hilobrow playfulness.

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Star Trek fans, check out our 2012 series KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Justice or vengeance? by DAFNA PLEBAN | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss by MARK KINGWELL | “KHAAAAAN!” by NICK ABADZIS | “No kill I” by STEPHEN BURT | Kirk browbeats NOMAD by GREG ROWLAND | Kirk’s eulogy for Spock by ZACK HANDLEN | The joke is on Kirk by PEGGY NELSON | Kirk vs. Decker by KEVIN CHURCH | Good Kirk vs. Evil Kirk by ENRIQUE RAMIREZ | Captain Camelot by ADAM MCGOVERN | Koon-ut-kal-if-fee by FLOURISH KLINK | Federation exceptionalism by DAVID SMAY | Wizard fight by AMANDA LAPERGOLA | A million things you can’t have by STEVE SCHNEIDER | Debating in a vacuum by JOSHUA GLENN | Klingon diplomacy by KELLY JEAN FITZSIMMONS | “We… the PEOPLE” by TRAV S.D. | Brinksmanship on the brink by MATTHEW BATTLES | Captain Smirk by ANNIE NOCENTI | Sisko meets Kirk by IAN W. HILL | Noninterference policy by GABBY NICASIO | Kirk’s countdown by PETER BEBERGAL | Kirk’s ghost by MATT GLASER | Watching Kirk vs. Gorn by JOE ALTERIO | How Spock wins by ANNALEE NEWITZ

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Peggy Nelson is Arts Editor at HiLobrow, covering art, art-makers, and the virtual life; she was also HiLobrow's first Artist in Residence. She is a new media artist whose work involves fractured narratives in film, augmented reality, Twitter, and even objects on occasion. Follow her on Twitter at @otolythe.