So you hear that Simon Pegg, co-writer and star of Star Trek Beyond, has written John Cho's Sulu character as gay in honor of George Takei, and you'd think Takei would be happy about it. Well, he isn't really. It's not that he doesn't want to see a homosexual character depicted, it's that he doesn't want it to be Sulu. Here's what he told THR...
“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. 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.’ ”
On the one hand he's right that being gay isn't something that should just be decided, but on the other hand we're talking about an alternate Star Trek universe here. Nothing says a character now has to be a reflection of what we saw in Gene Roddenberry's original TV series. And Pegg would seem to agree, responding in a recent statement why he decided not to introduce a new character and instead update Sulu...
“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?"
He goes on to add a crucial point, “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.”
While Takei's perspective is obviously important, he's not the only gay Star Trek cast member to have an opinion on this. Zachary Quinto spoke to Pedestrian and his response was even more forceful than Pegg's...
"I get it. He [Takei] has had his own personal journey and has his own personal relationship with this character but, you know, as we established in the first 'Star Trek' film in 2009, we've created an alternate universe, and 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."
Takei obviously feels a closeness to the Sulu character, as well he should after playing him for so long. But it's not his character, and since he has such an obvious appreciation for the universe Roddenberry created he should probably understand that his estate would never allow this to happen without their say-so, making it considerably less than a "twisting" of his creation.
Star Trek Beyond opens July 22nd, when you can see how Sulu is portrayed for yourself.