Star Trek Beyond just opened in theaters and it’s already breaking boundaries with the news that John Cho’s character Sulu is openly gay, but it could have gone even further with an onscreen same-sex kiss.
The kiss between Hikaru Sulu, Star Trek’s first openly gay character, and his husband didn’t make it into the movie, and Beyond actor John Cho said that was OK with him for several reasons, according to Vulture.
“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.”
Star Trek actor and screenwriter Simon Pegg imagined the same-sex kiss as a tribute to George Takei who first played Sulu, but the scene didn’t make it into the movie.
When the news first broke that John Cho’s character Sulu was openly gay, the LGBT community applauded the decision as yet another example of diversity barriers falling to Star Trek’s futuristic view of society.
“I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it.”
Cho told Vulture that when he first spoke with Pegg about the idea of making the historic Star Trek character Sulu openly gay, he had several concerns.
“My primary concern was that I was wondering how George [Takei] would feel, because he’s a gay actor that played a straight part and crafted a straight character.
“I didn’t want him to feel that we had reduced him to his sexuality by sort of borrowing this bit, if you will, from his life.”
Unfortunately, Takei, who played the historic Star Trek character, didn’t approve of the rebooted franchise portraying Sulu as openly gay because it wasn’t in the original Star Trek story line, according to the Hollywood Reporter. George Takei, now 79 years old, came out in 2005 when he publicly revealed he had been with his same-sex partner Brad Altman for 20 years.
“It’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
Cho also said he was worried that portraying Sulu as openly gay might contribute to the feminization of Asian men on TV, which he was totally against. Another concern centered on the alternate universe created by the reboot of the Star Trek franchise; presumably it’s the same genetic Sulu in both universes, so making one gay while the other is straight implies his sexual orientation is a choice.
The Star Trek actor finally gave his OK to playing Sulu as gay because it gave depth to the character; the audience got to see him do more than just pilot the Enterprise and perform his duty, reports Vulture.
“I thought that having the family deepened his character a little bit.”
The Star Trek franchise is known for pushing the boundaries of what is socially acceptable for mainstream audiences; in 1968 the science fiction series televised the first interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura. That scene was shot twice, once with the actors actually kissing and once with them pretending; CBS decided to air the scene where they only appeared to kiss.
Meanwhile, the cast and crew of Star Trek Beyond are struggling with the sudden death of actor Anton Yelchin who played Enterprise navigator Pavel Chekov. Yelchin was trapped by his own car in a freak accident in June, and producer J.J. Abrams announced the role of his Chekov character would not be recast, effectively retiring the Enterprise’s navigator
This year is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and the crew of the Enterprise boldly going where no one has gone before. Star Trek Beyond, the third movie in the rebooted franchise, debuted at San Diego’s Comic-Con convention July 20 and the movie hit theaters July 22.
[Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP Images]