Why Star Trek Beyond Couldn’t Simply Show a Gay Couple Being Gay
I loved Star Trek Beyond, and thought it not only entertaining, but spiritually similar to both TOS and TNG, and a much needed course-correction after Star Trek Into Darkness. Even better, it brought some long-overdue LGBTQIA representation into the Trek universe by making Kelvin Universe Hikaru Sulu gay and giving him a husband. That we could see and everything! Yet their one scene together in the film left something to be desired. **SPOILER ALERT IF YOU WANT TO GO INTO THE FILM COMPLETELY UNSULLIED**
Lately, there seems to be a lot of coyness around being gay in large film franchises. In the new Ghostbusters film, while it’s clear to anyone with eyeballs that Holtzmann is into women (her wink at Erin, her penchant for suits, her “I’m One of the Boys” t-shirt, her asymmetrical haircut), director Paul Feig still felt the need to be coy about her sexuality when asked about it directly, citing “the studios, and that kind of thing.”
Cut to Star Trek Beyond, where it was announced prior to the film that there would be a scene depicting Sulu and his husband. That husband’s name is Ben, and according to Hypable happened to be played by co-writer and producer on the film, Doug Jung, after the actor originally cast pulled out last-minute and John Cho insisted that the husband remain Asian. This was a good thing, right?
Well, it could have been. Except that in the final cut of the film, in the one scene where we see Hikaru and Ben interact — as Sulu arrives on leave at the Yorktown station where Ben and their daughter live — is kinda lukewarm. Sulu comes off the Enterprise and goes to greet his family that he hasn’t seen in a long while, is super-affectionate with their daughter, but then doesn’t kiss his husband hello. He simply walks off with his arm around him.
What’s more, the camera comes back to Kirk who watches the family scene approvingly — as if the film is giving the couple approval through Kirk. Gee, thanks for Kirk’s permission?
According to Collider, however, there was supposed to be more to the scene than that. Cho revealed that there was indeed a kiss that was filmed, but was subsequently cut. He says:
There was a kiss that I think is not there anymore…It wasn’t like a make-out session. We’re at the airport with our daughter. It was a welcome-home kiss. I’m actually proud of that scene, because it was pretty tough. Obviously, I just met the kid, and then Doug is not an actor. I just wanted that to look convincingly intimate. We’re two straight guys and had to get to a very loving, intimate place. It was hard to do on the fly. We had to open up. It came off well, in my view.
So, it was filmed, but then somewhere higher up the food chain, the decision was made to cut the kiss out entirely. For what? Time? It couldn’t have been more than a second, and the scene as it is now is already plenty brief. Even more disappointing is that, out of necessity or no, the role of “Ben” was played by a non-actor, which greatly reduces the likelihood of that character coming back for an actual scene with Sulu in a future film. They could recast, of course, but would they?
It’s disappointing to know that Hollywood studios (who have plenty of LGBTQIA people working all up and down them mo-fos) still feel so squeamish about actually showing gay people being openly affectionate. What are they afraid of, exactly?
What’s interesting is that, despite television’s own problems with LGBTQIA representation, kissing doesn’t seem to be one of them, which is all the more interesting when you consider how much more conservative broadcast network television needs to be since 1) it comes into people’s homes, and so OMG, the children! and 2) they’re beholden to advertising money to do what they do, with shows needing to appease not only studios, but advertisers that are themselves beholden to “Middle America” (whatever that means anymore), often making them more conservative about their choices.
Despite that, ad-supported broadcast network and cable television has given us this:
And also this here:
And from the Wayback Machine:
And my personal favorite
So….what the hell, film industry? Get it together! If television can manage to not be squeamish about two gay characters showing affection toward each other, you sure as hell have no reason to! We now know that the Kelvin Universe version of Hikaru Sulu is gay. Great. But you can’t see gay the way you can see race or gender or physical ability. So, if you’re really interested in increasing LGBTQIA representation in mainstream blockbuster films, saying a character is gay isn’t enough. It needs to be visible.
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