This week the world found out that John Cho’s Sulu in the new Star Trek franchise is gay, making him the first openly gay character in the Star Trek universe. Obviously I was seriously pissed off when I first heard about this. Spoiler warning, anybody? Seriously though, there were people that were genuinely upset (when aren’t there?) and that included the original actor behind the character, George Takei.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Takei came out and said:
“I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene [Rodberry]’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty and co-wrote the film) spoke to The Guardian yesterday and very respectfully disagreed with Takei, saying:
“I don’t believe Gene Roddenberry’s decision to make the prime timeline’s Enterprise crew straight was an artistic one, more a necessity of the time.”…”The viewing audience weren’t open minded enough at the time and it must have forced Roddenberry to modulate his innovation. His mantra was always ‘infinite diversity in infinite combinations’. If he could have explored Sulu’s sexuality with George, he no doubt would have. Roddenberry was a visionary and a pioneer but we choose our battles carefully.”
As far as celebrity arguments go, this has been the most polite, respectful and best articulated ones that I’ve seen in a long time but who do you agree with?
There is no doubt that whilst the film industry is slowly moving towards more diverse characters and that the sci-fi genre has been lacking in that respect.This is particularly crazy when you consider the fact that science fiction brings forth the craziest of plots in unimaginable landscapes but two boys kissing is just too out there.
Fascinatingly, the two sides of this argument agree on this key point and the only issue that seems to divide them is Roddenberry – the creator of the show. Sadly Gene Roddenberry died nearly 15 years ago so he can’t speak for what he envisioned for the character of Sulu but neither can Takei or Pegg.
Would he have wanted the character to be heterosexual? Was the character’s sexuality ever supposed to be a defining characteristic? We’ll probably never know but we do know Star Trek. It was the most racially diverse show on television when it began and that was something that Roddenberry had to push for.
Personally, I can’t imagine that a man so progressive in his thinking would have been incredibly bogged down by the sexuality of his characters. When slash fan fiction stories of Kirk and Spock began to appear, Roddenberry didn’t try to shut them down or deny the possibility, he commented:
“We never suggested in the series… physical love between the two. But it’s the… we certainly had the feeling that the affection was sufficient for that, if that were the particular style of the 23rd century.” (He looks thoughtful.) “That’s very interesting. I never thought of that before.”
Even if he never thought of Sulu in that way, I would like to imagine that he would also find it interesting.
What do you make of the Sulu sexuality reveal? Do you think that it’s disrespectful to Gene Roddenberry? Let me know in the comments.