It was with good intentions that screenwriter Simon Pegg decided to make Sulu gay in the upcoming “Star Trek Beyond,” giving John Cho‘s character a partner and daughter. It was a move made to honor the legacy of George Takei, the original Sulu, who also had to hide his sexual orientation to navigate a more conservative era in Hollywood. However, Takei wasn’t consulted on the decision, and while it’s glad to see progress made, he’s not exactly pleased to see Sulu be the face of that change.
“I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene [Rodenberry]’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate,” the actor told The Hollywood Reporter. “I told [John 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.’ ”
Certainly, Rodenberry’s carefully conceived characters and their backgrounds are treated with reverence by both “Star Trek” creators and fans, so it’s understandable why Sulu would have reservations about seeing Sulu, who he has carried for decades, being reinvented, even if its in his honor. And he has a point about introducing a new character as gay, rather than recalibrating an existing one.
However, Pegg has responded and defended his decision in a statement, and while praising Takei added that, “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,” Pegg said. “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?”
And addressing the impact on the canon, Pegg reiterates that the new films take place in the Kevlin timeline, and says, “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.”
Zachary Quinto has also chimed in, and while he understands that Takei is protective of the character, he hope the actor will eventually change his opinon.
“As a member of the LGBT community myself, I was disappointed by the fact that George was disappointed,” Quinto told Pedestrian. “….my hope is that eventually George can be strengthened by the enormously positive response from especially young people who are heartened by and inspired by this really tasteful and beautiful portrayal of something that I think is gaining acceptance and inclusion in our societies across the world, and should be.”
Thoughts? Let us know below. “Star Trek Beyond” arrives on July 22nd.