Earlier this week, it was revealed that Hikaru Sulu, played by John Cho in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond, is gay. Many speculated that the character’s gayness was a tribute to George Takei, the homosexual actor and activist who first played Sulu in the original Star Trek series. Most fans were delighted. George Takei, it turns out, is not.
Takei’s not angry because it was the character he played, but is instead angry that it was a character that has existed for almost exactly 50 years. Created by Gene Roddenberry, the character was for all those years assumed to be straight. Takei believes that making this declaration now forces us to assume that Sulu had been living a closeted life all of this time, and that that shouldn’t happen in the future. He also said that the decision was “unfortunate,” and that he had discussed it privately with Cho, director Justin Lin, and co-writer (and co-star, as Scotty) Simon Pegg. He told them, “Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu.”
Obviously, they didn’t listen. Takei says this is “a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate,” and adds that Roddenberry was a “strong supporter of LGBT equality.”
Once Takei’s statements were released by The Hollywood Reporter, Pegg responded, saying that he “respectfully disagrees” with Takei’s stance. His argument? That to create a gay character would lead to that character being seen as nothing but “gay.”
“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?”
Pegg goes on to explain that the history of Sulu endears him to the viewers and also helps give the character’s sexuality context, and also makes it easier for some of the maybe not-so-tolerant fans to see it as just one aspect of a multi-faceted member of the Star Trek team. His statement also contains a lot of talk about differing timelines, but, for anyone other than super-fans, all that stuff is moot.
We can all judge for ourselves when we see the gay revelation scene, which is apparently “very matter-of-fact, in which Sulu is pictured with a male spouse raising their infant child.” Star Trek Beyond is set for a July 22 release. Watch the trailer below.