George Takei Says ‘Star Trek Beyond’ Sulu Reveal Is ‘Unfortunate’
Well this is certainly unexpected. Earlier today, we learned that Star Trek Beyond will reveal that John Cho’s Sulu is gay, a move partially intended to honor the legacy of George Takei, the actor who originated the iconic role in the classic television series and who himself came out as gay in 2005. You’d think that Takei of all people would be thrilled by the decision, but that’s not exactly the case.
As THR reveals in a fascinating piece, it was co-writer Simon Pegg’s decision to make Sulu gay in the new sequel, which hits theaters this month. Cho, who is playing the role for the third time, contacted Takei to give him the good news, but the original Trek star wasn’t too happy about it. The reason? Series creator Gene Roddenberry, whom Takei says was “exhaustive” in conceiving his characters and never envisioned Sulu as gay:
Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.
Takei says he had conversations with Roddenberry about exploring LGBT rights in the original series, but the creator felt as though he was already pushing the boundaries enough with his commentary on race relations and war.
Although Takei is “delighted” that there is finally a gay character in the series, he says he implored Cho to create a new, original gay character instead of retconning Sulu’s sexual orientation. In the classic series, Sulu never has a romantic relationship on-screen, but he does have daughter who eventually appeared in Star Trek Generations. The only mention of Sulu’s personal life is in a 1995 tie-in novel, which is considered canon and which reveals how his daughter was conceived. Per Takei:
It was, to put it crudely, a one-night stand with a glamazon. A very athletic, powerful and stunningly gorgeous woman. That’s Demora’s mother.
Takei’s stance on Sulu’s sexuality is very similar to complaints we often hear from fans whenever someone posits a race or gender change for a character — like when it was suggested that Donald Glover play Spider-Man, or when Paul Feig cast women as Ghostbusters. It goes against established canon and traditional depictions of these beloved characters, but it’s also necessary. Sure, we should be introducing new, original and diverse characters with new, original stories that challenge convention and defy stereotypes. But why can’t we change existing stories — which were often conceived in more restrictive times — to be more inclusive?
It’s easy to see why Simon Pegg and Paul Feig are taking this approach to diversifying franchises. By taking an established character like Sulu and revealing that he is gay (and in a way that doesn’t make a huge deal out of it), Pegg & Co. are saying that even one of the most beloved, familiar characters in one of the most popular franchises on the planet can be gay. Sulu was already a bit different — in fact, most Trek characters aside from Kirk were diverse and unique — but now he’s relatable to tons of fans in the same way that Takei became relatable to even more fans when he came out.
There’s absolutely no harm in revealing that Sulu is gay. Is it different from what Gene Roddenberry envisioned? Yeah, but he created the series at a time when including gay characters on a network TV show was pretty much impossible. That’s not the case anymore. Revealing that Sulu is gay can only have a positive effect on gay fans, who will finally get to see themselves reflected in the Star Trek universe.
I get where Takei is coming from, and it’s great that he’s taking such a diplomatic, thoughtful approach to a sensitive subject, but the bottom line is this: Sulu is gay, and that’s pretty damn cool.