Why George Takei’s Upset Over Star Trek’s First Gay Character
There’s a bit of miscommunication on the USS Enterprise. Last week,, it was announced that Star Trek Beyond will boldly go where no other Star Trek movie has gone before by featuring the franchise’s first openly gay character. However, this character has actually been a familiar face on the starship Enterprisesince its inception—his name is Hikaru Sulu (played by John Cho in the cinematic reboot).
The idea came from writer-star Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin, both of whom wanted to honour original Sulu actor George Takei’s legacy in the film. But in a surprising twist, Takei isn’t entirely thrilled about this latest development.
“I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of [Stark Trek creator Gene Roddenberry]’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
According to Takei, Roddenberry meticulously crafted each crew member’s backstory—and he had conceived Sulu as heterosexual. So to Takei, an LGBTQ activist and lifelong sci-fi fan, the decision to introduce Sulu’s husband and infant child in Beyond feels disingenuous to Roddenberry’s vision.
“I told [Cho], ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay,’” Takei said, “rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.’”
However, Pegg felt differently, telling The Guardian that he “respectfully” disagrees with Takei’s take. All he wanted to do was show audiences that “a gay hero isn’t something new or strange.”
“He’s right, it is unfortunate,” he added. “It’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character,’ rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?”
Pegg also debunked Takei’s claim that Sulu was closeted: “It just hasn’t come up before.”
All of this controversy shouldn’t take away from the fact that Sulu is the first openly gay character in the Star Trek film franchise, and that definitely means something. Representation matters. Queer heroes are important. So let’s all live long and prosper, OK?
It’s all about… pic.twitter.com/OM66bqZEnK
— John Cho (@JohnTheCho) July 8, 2016