The Sulu Sage continues, as George Takei has taken to Facebook to respond to Simon Pegg’s comments about the new LGBT status of John Cho’s Hikaru Sulu in the new film, ‘Star Trek Beyond.’ Fortunately, he seems much more amicable to the change now, and is merely explaining his initial response, and attempting to explain how he had been hoping for a new hero introduced into the series to be a gay character, for he did not believe that his friend Gene Roddenberry ever specifically wanted the character of Sulu to be gay. He goes on to explain that Roddenberry did want an LGBT presence on the show though, and Takei claims that he is proud that the series will now have a character that represents that part of the population.
Here’s the full post from George Takei that was posted on his Facebook page:
“Good morning from Montana! I’ve been here relaxing on vacation, but have noticed that many of you have been following the “gay Sulu” story and wanted to know why I’m being such a sourpuss. I’m writing to set the record “straight,” if you will.
When the news first broke, I gave a lengthy telephone interview, but the headlines have been misleading. Apparently, controversy makes for better sales! Let me be clear: I am not disappointed that there is a gay character in Star Trek. On the contrary, as I made clear, I am delighted that the Star Trek franchise has addressed this issue, which is truly one of diversity. It is thrilling to know that future generations will not see LGBTs go wholly unrepresented in the Trek universe.
On the specific question of Sulu being gay, when I was first approached with the concept, I responded that I hoped instead that Gene Roddenberry’s original characters and their backgrounds would be respected. How exciting it would be instead if a new hero might be created, whose story could be fleshed out from scratch, rather than reinvented. To me, this would have been even more impactful. While I understand that we are in an alternate timeline with the new Trek movies, for me it seemed less than necessary to tinker with an existing character in order to fulfill Gene’s hope of a truly diverse Trek universe. And while I am flattered that the character of Sulu apparently was selected as an homage to me, this was never about me or what I wanted. It was about being true to Gene’s vision and storytelling.
Gene had wanted long ago to include LGBT characters, and we spoke personally and specifically about the lack of them. Gene understandably felt constrained by the sensitivities of the time. Some fifty years ago, even TV’s first interracial kiss, between Kirk and Uhura, caused our ratings to plummet as the show was censored across much of the South for that scene. Gene made a conscious decision to make the main characters heterosexual, and worked within those parameters to tell incredible stories that still challenged many cultural values of the time. So the lack of gay characters was not some oversight by him; it was a conscious decision with which he grappled. I loved Gene as a friend, and I respected his decision and the context under which he created these stories. On this 50th year anniversary of Star Trek, my hope was to honor his foresight and bravery, as well as his ability to create discussion and diversity despite these constraints.
But Star Trek has always pushed the boundaries and opened new opportunities for actors, including myself. I am eternally grateful to have been part of this incredible and continuing family. I wish John Cho well in the role I once played, and congratulate Simon Pegg on his daring and groundbreaking storytelling. While I would have gone with the development of a new character in this instance, I do fully understand and appreciate what they are doing—as ever, boldly going where no one has gone before. Star Trek will live long and prosper.”
What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think Takei has a point? Or do you think it does not matter at this point, and he should appreciate the effort that went into crafting a new LGBT backstory for the character? Share your opinions in the comments below!
Nick is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, who belongs to the privileged few who enjoyed the ending to ‘Lost.’ For more of Nick’s thoughts and articles, follow him on Twitter.