ByJack Carr, writer at
You are the Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, and you are my daughter.
Jack Carr

Here's one you didn't see coming.

When the news broke yesterday that Star Trek Beyond will introduce the first gay character in a Trek movie (Sulu, as played by John Cho), most of the good, non-homophobic people of the internet managed not to vomit all over their keyboards. Most people, in fact, were pretty pleased about it.

If there's one person you would expect to be overjoyed by the news it's George Takei, the original Sulu, whose own sexuality was never incorporated into the character. Takei's gay rights activism in the decades since has been prolific.

Despite that fact, a new interview with the Trek legend reveals that he's not as pleased as you might have imagined. Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, he said:

"I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate. I said, 'This movie is going to be coming out on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the 50th anniversary of paying tribute to Gene Roddenberry ... Honor him and create a new character.' I urged them."

Takei's criticism of Sulu going gay — the character has a scene in Star Trek Beyond in which he and a male partner are seen at home with their daughter — is rooted in the fact that it's a betrayal of Gene Roddenberry's original creative decision to make Sulu heterosexual.

The originals: George Takei, Walter Koenig (CBS)
The originals: George Takei, Walter Koenig (CBS)

But, when you consider the disparity between the decade of Star Trek's creation (the 1960s) and the time period in which it's set (the 23rd century), the argument begins to fall apart. Roddenberry didn't write Sulu or any other character as gay because, by Takei's own admission, "if he pushed too hard [for LGBT representation], the show would not be on the air." It wasn't a creative decision, but a corporate one.

Those restraints no longer exist, and Star Trek Beyond is not damaging the legacy of Sulu by making him gay. This is a character who never had an on-screen love interest. He did have a daughter — as he does in Beyond. Even the fact that we see Sulu with a male partner doesn't explicitly rule out the idea that he could have had female partners in past, or in the future.

Trekkie to the death. (Kris Connor via Getty)
Trekkie to the death. (Kris Connor via Getty)

While it's true that the Beyond producers could have created a new gay character from scratch, that would feel a little tokenistic given that the focus is on the crew, all of whom are iconic characters with a long legacy in Trek movies and series.

Essentially, this feels like a big gay storm in a teacup. To his credit, while Takei may not be thrilled, neither is he ruling out the prospect of a return to the franchise in one way or another:

"Leonard Nimoy made two cameo appearances [in Trek movies]. There’s no reason why an ancient, wise Admiral Sulu can’t appear, or maybe an alien creature who sounds like me. That should be fun."

Even if Takei's opinion on gay Sulu differs from the majority, the man is a legend, he's committed much of his life to an excellent cause, and I await the day he returns to Trek.

Watch the final trailer for Beyond, which hits theaters on July 22 in the US, above, and check out Rihanna's 'Sledgehammer', the official and rather bombastic soundtrack single, below.



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