Social justice warriors and the media are up in arms after Star Trek writer and producer Roberto Orci jokingly compared Mr. Spock to one of his relatives.
Orci, who is himself Hispanic, was speaking to Variety Magazine‘s inclusion summit about how, as a lifelong Trek fan, he looked to Mr. Spock as a hero—a character that he thought faced issues similar to his own, as a stranger in a strange land.
“I always thought of Mr Spock as a Latino, he’s an alien, an immigrant,” Orci told the audience.
But it’s what he said next that left a few people speechless. “Just between us, and only I can say this, I personally used to call him Mr. Spic.”
The audience, social justice warriors, and journalists covering the event reportedly “gasped” at Orci’s use of the racial slur—even though Orci himself is Mexican.
“I said that not as a way to denigrate him, but as a way to get in touch with what it’s like for an alien to come into what looks like a great world,” Orci further explained. “He comes from another land. He’s half human, I’m half Mexican. He has this cultural baggage that he brings in while trying to fit in as much as he can.”
But it was too late. The outrage had already spread.
Orci on Spock “Just between us, and only I can say this, I personally used to call him Mr. Spic.” I hope they fire you!
— ComicBookCast (@ComicBookCast) November 2, 2016
Mr. Spic?!! what the actual fuck Roberto Orci?!!!
— Mr. Monkey (@Junsocko) November 2, 2016
Orci, of course, was trying to take the weight out of the term—and was suggesting that it helped him overcome discrimination and bias to see someone on television who also struggled with fitting in. He also seems to be saying that Mr. Spock, like himself, had to face a new community that didn’t always understand his cultural traditions—and responded negatively.
Unfortunately for Orci, no one took the time to delve too deeply.
But commenters on i09, which breathlessly reported his transgression, were quick to point out that the authors had completely missed Orci’s point. On MoviePilot, which claimed Orci had “enraged” the Star Trek fandom, a poll asking readers whether Orci’s comments were offensive overwhelmingly leans toward “no.”