Sulu officially gay in STAR TREK BEYOND; George Takei not happy about it

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We recently heard from showrunner Bryan Fuller that there will be a definite drive to include LGBTQ characters in the upcoming Star Trek TV series. In a universe as racially and socially diverse as Star Trek this only makes sense and is an aspect that is painfully long overdue. But what about the rebooted movie universe (now officially referred to as the Kelvin Timeline, in case you didn’t get the memo), will they follow suit? The answer is a definite yes, as it’s now been confirmed that USS Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu, played by Cho, is in fact gay.

Cho made the reveal himself to Australia’s Herald Sun while promoting the film down under, and explained that the upcoming Star Trek Beyond will show Sulu to be the father of a young daughter, but with a same sex partner. Sulu’s daughter had previously shown up in the old timeline, so her inclusion is no big deal here. Much like the reveal of Sulu’s sexuality, according to Cho.

“I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicise one’s personal orientations.”

Of course in that classic timeline, Cho was played by George Takei who has not only been openly gay for years, but has become a very prominent LGBTQ rights activist. That wasn’t always the case though, as the actor needed to hide his sexuality when he originally played the role in the much more conservative 1960’s. And because of that Star Trek Beyond co-star/co-screenwriter Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin decided to honour Takei’s legacy by adding in this new scene confirming Sulu’s sexuality as canon.

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And with this new revelation, Takei probably could not be more happy, right? Apparently not, as Takei surprisingly revealed to THR:

“I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of [creator Gene Roddenberry’s] creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”

Takei had apparently known about the reveal when Cho himself called him up to inform him a month ago, and at the time Takei already had some reservations telling the younger actor to “Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.”

“I said, ‘This movie is going to be coming out on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the 50th anniversary of paying tribute to Gene Roddenberry, the man whose vision it was carried us through half a century. Honor him and create a new character’. I urged them. He left me feeling that that was going to happen.”

Clearly though, it hasn’t turned out the way Takei was hoping. And in a lengthy responsive statement issued to EW, Pegg “respectfully disagrees” with Sulu’s criticisms.

“I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humor are an inspiration. However, with regards to his thoughts on our Sulu, I must respectfully disagree with him.”

“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?”

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“[Beyond director] Justin Lin, [screenwriter] 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 isn’t something new or strange. It’s also important to note that at no point do we suggest that our Sulu was ever closeted, why would he need to be? It’s just hasn’t come up before.”

“I don’t believe Gene Roddenberry’s decision to make the prime timeline’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 ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’ was the lowest rated episode ever. The viewing audience weren’t open minded enough at the time and it must have forced Roddenberry to modulate his innovation. His mantra was always ‘infinite diversity in infinite combinations’. If he could have explored Sulu’s sexuality with George, he no doubt would have. Roddenberry was a visionary and a pioneer but we choose our battles carefully.”

“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, across an infinite matrix of alternate realities, we are all LGBT somewhere. Whatever dimension we inhabit, we all just want to be loved by those we love. I can’t speak for every reality but that must surely true of this one. Live long and prosper.”.

Who do you agree with? Is the apparent non-chalant way that Sulu is being revealed as gay a good thing or should Star Trek Beyond have rather left the character alone and created a new gay character? Sound off below. Star Trek Beyond releases in the US in just a couple weeks on 22 July, while we’ll have to wait until 26 August to see it locally.

PS: And for any of you asking who the mother of Sulu’s daughter is, Takei reveals that the 1995 Star Trek novel The Captain’s Daughter showed that “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.” And now you know.

Last Updated: July 11, 2016

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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