Earlier this week, John Cho said that in Star Trek Beyond, his character, Sulu, would be revealed to be gay. Many folks responded positively to this revelation, glad to have the representation. However, George Takei, who originally brought the character to life in the classic Star Trek series, said that he would’ve preferred that another character be created to add representation. Many of the headlines on the internet have presented Takei’s position as one of disappointment and even anger at the change, but according to a Facebook post from Takei himself, those headlines were wrong.
Takei clarified his position, saying he wasn’t “disappointed that there is a gay character in Star Trek.” He said, “On the contrary, as I made clear, I am delighted that the Star Trek franchise has addressed this issue, which is truly one of diversity. It is thrilling to know that future generations will not see LGBTs go wholly unrepresented in the Trek universe.”
It was in changing Sulu that Takei took issue. Also according to the same Facebook post referenced earlier, Takei said:
On the specific question of Sulu being gay, when I was first approached with the concept, I responded that I hoped instead that Gene Roddenberry’s original characters and their backgrounds would be respected. How exciting it would be instead if a new hero might be created, whose story could be fleshed out from scratch, rather than reinvented. To me, this would have been even more impactful.
Ultimately, Takei is glad to have the representation, though he strongly suggests that he would’ve handled it differently. Consider it a creative difference, at the most—not an argument or “war.”
Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the script for Star Trek Beyond, insisted upon the same as well. In a conversation with BANG Showbiz (via Mirror), Pegg said, “We were emailing the other day, you know it’s discussion. We’re adults, we’re not catty fighters writing comments to each other on the Internet, we’re grown men.” He also went on to point out something particularly striking about this conversation:
I think the reaction has been brilliant. It’s been amazing. The debate has never been about whether there should be an LGBT character in ‘Star Trek’, it’s been about who it should be, whether it should be a new character or an existing character.
In that way, the revelation that Star Trek Beyond‘s Sulu is gay has already accomplished something pretty big. Does this mean there won’t be people who disagree with the idea of a LGBT character in Star Trek? Probably not. But as long as the conversation can center upon who it should be, then that’s a tiny baby step in a decent direction, I’d say. Tiny. But there.
Frankly, if the early buzz from critics holds true, then perhaps we’ll get more of a chance to play in this world. And that’s plenty okay by me.
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