Published Jul 08, 2016Yesterday, news emerged that the world of Star Trek would have its first openly gay character onscreen, as Starship Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu (now played by John Cho) is set to be portrayed in a loving relationship with another man in this month's Star Trek Beyond. While the news has been positive for most, one key individual is disappointed in the casting — former Sulu actor George Takei.
Takei, who came out of the closet in 2005 and has been a key LGBTQ figure ever since, told The Hollywood Reporter that he was disappointed with the change-up in the Star Trek universe.
"I'm delighted that there's a gay character," he said. "Unfortunately, it's a twisting of [Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's] creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it's really unfortunate."
Takei added that Roddenberry always towed a fine line about LGBTQ issues. "He was a strong supporter of LGBT equality," he recalled. "But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope — and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air."
Simon Pegg, who wrote and stars in Star Trek Beyond, spoke out to explain that he "respectfully disagrees" with Takei. In a separate piece for The Hollywood Reporter, he explained that making Sulu gay was an excellent way to avoid "tokenism."
"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," added Pegg. "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?
"Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic," he continued. "Also, the audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek universe from the beginning (at least in the Kelvin timeline), that a gay hero isn't something new or strange. 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."
Watch the trailer for Star Trek Beyond below. The movie arrives on July 22.