Yesterday, I wrote a little piece about a decision made by STAR TREK BEYOND‘s Simon Pegg and Justin Lin, who wrote and directed the film, respectively. They decided to make iconic STAR TREK character Sulu, a role originated by George Takei, gay. Takei, who’s an advocate within the LGBT community, you’d think would be honored by the forward-thinking choice.
Turns out, he’s not.
“Iâ€™m delighted that thereâ€™s a gay character,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Unfortunately, itâ€™s a twisting of Gene [Roddenberry]â€™s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think itâ€™s really unfortunate.“
During the original run of STAR TREK in the late 60s, Takei once broached the subject with Roddenberry, and was told by the creator that it wasn’t something he could realistically do. “He was a strong supporter of LGBT equality,” Takei recalls., now 79. “But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope â€” and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air.”
One could argue that, based on that story, it sounds like Roddenberry would be pleased to make one of the main characters gay now that it’s no longer 1968 and doing so wouldn’t mean getting the axe. But that’s not how Takei interprets the situation.
Simon Pegg, however, shares with my take on it. The STAR TREK BEYOND writer got wind of Takei’s comments, and added his own two cents on the matter.
“I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humour are an inspiration,â€ he wrote in a message to The Guardian. â€œHowever, with regards to his thoughts on our Sulu, I must respectfully disagree with him.“
He went on:
“Heâ€™s right, it is unfortunate, itâ€™s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasnâ€™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 â€˜gay characterâ€™, rather than simply for who they are, and isnâ€™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 isnâ€™t something new or strange. Itâ€™s also important to note that at no point do we suggest that our Sulu was ever closeted, why would he need to be? Itâ€™s just hasnâ€™t come up before.
“I donâ€™t believe Gene Roddenberryâ€™s decision to make the prime timelineâ€™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 Platoâ€™s Stepchildren was the lowest rated episode ever.
“The viewing audience werenâ€™t open minded enough at the time and it must have forced Roddenberry to modulate his innovation. His mantra was always â€˜infinite diversity in infinite combinationsâ€™. If he could have explored Suluâ€™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, acrossan infinite matrix of alternate realities, we are all LGBT somewhere.
â€œWhatever dimension we inhabit, we all just want to be loved by those we love (and I love George Takei). I canâ€™t speak for every reality but that must surely true of this one. Live long and prosper.”
Indeed, if the main reason Roddenberry didn’t “go there” was because of the proverbial tight tope he was walking at the time, then can’t we extrapolate from that what he’d do in the current climate?
It’ll be interesting to see if all of the press this is getting will help or hurt STAR TREK BEYOND– which was on its way to a $60 million+ opening weekend based on industry projections– prior to all of this.