George Takei, the actor behind the original iteration of Star Trek’s Hikaru Sulu, has come out today and voiced his opinion about news that in Star Trek Beyond, Sulu would be gay. According to Hollywood Reporter, George Takei had tried to feel Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry out about the possibility of an LGBT storyline, but had been somewhat reluctant to pursue the idea. Then again, it was 1968, and Takei was still closeted; it would have been a significant risk for the then-31 year old to out himself.
“He was a strong supporter of LGBT equality,” George Takei, now 79, recalled of his boss, “but he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope — and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air.”
Among other storylines, Star Trek had recently shown television’s first interracial kiss in an episode that was deemed so controversial at the time that stations in the southern United States were either reluctant to show the episode or did not show it altogether. Of course, the year after George Takei pitched the possibility of an LGBT storyline to Roddenberry, Star Trek was cancelled.
— Vulture (@vulture) July 7, 2016
Now, with the revelation that Star Trek Beyond would feature a gay Sulu, George Takei, who came out in 2005, and is happily married to his partner Brad, said that he felt making Sulu gay was “really unfortunate.”
“It’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought,” Takei said, according to USA Today.
George Takei had even gone so far as to urge John Cho, who plays the new Sulu, to let another Star Trek character be revealed as being gay. He said he felt that Sulu had been believed to be straight for five decades, so why change that now?
Takei said he told Cho, “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.”
It wasn’t that George Takei had any issue with there being an LGBT character in the Star Trek universe. In fact, according to Gizmodo, Takei was “delighted” by the decision to have a gay character, and had even received a letter from Star Trek Beyond co-writer/co-star Simon Pegg “praising [him] for [his] advocacy for the LGBT movement and for [his] pride in Star Trek.” He noted that he thought it seemed that there would be a new LGBT character added to the Star Trek universe, rather than changing Sulu to a gay character.
While it could be argued that the Star Trek universe created in 2009 is a prequel in addition to being set in an alternate universe, therefore making it acceptable that a character such as Sulu could be gay, George Takei argued that Sulu as he has played him has been so long associated with being straight that it would be unusual for him to be outed in a chronologically late movie such as Star Trek Beyond.
— Rev Daniel (@RevDaniel) July 7, 2016
George Takei also noted that once Pegg sent the letter praising him for his advocacy work, he thought his words had been heard – that Sulu would not suddenly come out as being gay. Interestingly enough, the decision to make this alternate universe Sulu gay was made in order to pay homage to Takei himself.
Much as George Takei has appreciated the notice he has gotten as Sulu over the course of five decades, he is still confused by the decision to make Sulu gay in Star Trek Beyond.
“I thought after that conversation with Justin [Lin, director of Star Trek Beyond], that was going to happen,” George Takei said. “Months later, when I got that email from Simon Pegg, I was kind of confused. He thinks I’m a great guy? Wonderful. But what was the point of that letter? I interpreted that as my words having been heard.”
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