It would seem that if it was not Pokemon filling up your Facebook feed this week, it was the whole “gay” issue with a longtime character from the series Star Trek. On Thursday, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Sulu in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond film would come out as gay. Many on the production side thought the original actor George Takei would be happy with the revelation but that was not the case.
“I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
In fact, when actor John Cho revealed the news to Takei, instead of being excited about the news, he was dismayed. “I told him, ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.'”
After news of his disappointment in the decision made it online, Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the script, “respectfully disagrees” that they should have gone with an original character. Pegg had written a response to The Guardian:
I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humour are an inspiration. However, with regards to his thoughts on our Sulu, I must respectfully disagree with him.
He’s right, it is unfortunate, 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?
Justin Lin, Doug Jung and I loved the idea of it being someone we already knew because the audience have a pre-existing opinion of that character as a human being, unaffected by any prejudice. Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic. Also, the audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek Universe from the beginning (at least in the Kelvin timeline), that a gay hero isn’t something new or strange. It’s also important to note that at no point do we suggest that our Sulu was ever closeted, why would he need to be? It’s just hasn’t come up before.
I don’t believe Gene Roddenberry’s decision to make the prime timeline’s Enterprise crew straight was an artistic one, more a necessity of the time. Trek rightly gets a lot of love for featuring the first interracial kiss on US television, but Plato’s Stepchildren was the lowest rated episode ever.
The viewing audience weren’t open minded enough at the time and it must have forced Roddenberry to modulate his innovation. His mantra was always ‘infinite diversity in infinite combinations’. If he could have explored Sulu’s sexuality with George, he no doubt would have. Roddenberry was a visionary and a pioneer but we choose our battles carefully.
Our Trek is an alternate timeline with alternate details. Whatever magic ingredient determines our sexuality was different for Sulu in our timeline. I like this idea because it suggests that in a hypothetical multiverse, across an infinite matrix of alternate realities, we are all LGBT somewhere.
Whatever dimension we inhabit, we all just want to be loved by those we love (and I love George Takei). I can’t speak for every reality but that must surely true of this one. Live long and prosper.
Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock and is himself gay, echoed Pegg’s response with surprise:
“I find as a member of the LGBT community myself, I was disappointed by the fact that George was disappointed,” Quinto told Pedestrian.TV. “I get it that he’s had his own personal relationship with this character, but, you know, as we established in the first Star Trek film in 2009, we’ve created an alternate universe. And my hope is that eventually George can be strengthened by the enormously positive response from especially young people, who are heartened by and inspired by this really tasteful and beautiful portrayal of something that I think is gaining acceptance and inclusion in our societies across the world — and should be.”
It would seem that it was originally meant to be an honor for the actor, who is gay in his real life, but given that the character was never considered that in the series he can see it as a gimmick, which has been done in other movies, series and comic books. I do somewhat agree with the concept of being lazy and non-original but we shall save that for The Away Team podcast that will come out Thursday.