When it was revealed a couple of days ago that it would be shown in Star Trek Beyond that Mr. Sulu has a same sex partner and daughter, it was assumed that George Takei would be pleased with what seemed to be a nod to him. However, it turns out it’s almost the opposite, as talking to THR, he says he thinks the decision is ‘really unfortunate’.
He explains his opposition by saying, “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s [Roddenberry] creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
While Sulu was never given a proper love interest in either the TV series or films, he was shown to have a daughter. It appears the makers of the new film felt this meant that Sulu’s sexuality was open to be explored, but Takei disagrees, and that the character is completely straight.
During a conversation with John Cho (who plays Sulu in the new movies), when it was first decided that the character would be gay, Takei said to him, “‘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.'”
However, technically what the film is doing isn’t saying that he was closeted, as presumably the other crew members know Sulu has a male partner, but it just hasn’t been mentioned – and the events of the current movies are taking place in a alternate universe to previous Trek incarnations. Takei also seems frustrated that he felt they were going to listen to him, but more recently it’s turned out they weren’t.
However, others feel very differently, not least Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty and co-wrote the Star Trek Beyond screenplay, and whose idea idea it’s believed it was to show Sulu as gay. He released a statement to THR reading, ‘I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humor are an inspiration. However, with regards to his thoughts on our Sulu, 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. 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? I like this idea because it suggests that in a hypothetical multiverse, across an infinite matrix of alternate realities, we are all LGBT somewhere. Whatever dimension we inhabit, we all just want to be loved by those we love (and I love George Takei). I can’t speak for every reality but that must surely true of this one. Live long and prosper.’
Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock, also disagrees with Takei and pushes the idea that different things are possible in this alternate universe, saying, “I was disappointed by the fact that George was disappointed. Any member of the LGBT community that takes issue with the normalized and positive portrayal of members of our community in Hollywood and in mainstream blockbuster cinema…I get it that he 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.”