USS Enterprise Helmsman Hikaru Sulu Revealed As Gay

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By Karen Valenzuela, @VictoriaNoir89

 

Star Trek has arguably been the science fiction genre’s most progressive television franchise since its beginnings in the 1960s, known for featuring the first ever interracial kiss on US television in an episode of its show back in 1968.

 

John Cho, who plays Hikaru Sulu the helmsman of the USS Enterprise, said in a promotional interview that his character is in a same-sex relationship in Star Trek Beyond. He continued by saying writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin wrote Sulu as gay in a nod to the original actor who portrayed the character in the 1960s, George Takei, who came out as gay in 2005. There will reportedly be a scene in the film with Sulu, his male partner, and their child in the film. But he also stated that they’ve made a point of not making a big deal out of Sulu’s sexuality, showing an LGBT relationship in the same light that they’d show a heterosexual relationship. Cho said it is a sign of what he hopes means the industry and society as a whole are progressing.

 

George Takei has been an activist for LGBT rights for years now, but he neglected to reveal his sexuality during the filming of the TV series in the 1960s for fear of facing judgment or ruining his career.

 

However, Takei has made a statement in light of the revelation, saying he asked Simon Pegg and Justin Lin not to change Hikaru Sulu’s sexual orientation for the film when he found out about it, that they did it anyways, and that their decision is “unfortunate”. According to Takei, changing Sulu to make him gay goes against original Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision. And he asked both Pegg and Lin to instead create a new character and make them gay.

 

In response, Simon Pegg stated that he respectfully disagreed with Mr. Takei, and that it was unfortunate that “the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now.”

 

Pegg was also quoted saying that they wanted to pick a character that was already established in the minds of the audience, a character already loved by fans and seen as a human being without any pre-existing prejudice. He said that introducing a new character as gay would be like “tokenism”. Pegg continued by saying this change to Sulu’s character meant “the audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek universe from the beginning.”

 

Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the latest reiterations of the franchise, is also in support of Sulu’s change in sexual orientation. He praised the representation as a “normalized and positive portrayal of members of our community in Hollywood and in mainstream blockbuster cinema.” Quinto, who is also gay, said in response to Takei’s disappointment: 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.”

 
In spite of past and present Star Trek stars disagreeing on the decision to change the character’s sexuality, Hikaru Sulu will be the first openly gay character in Star Trek’s 60 year history. What do you think about this change for Hikaru Sulu, nerds? Let us know in the comments!

 

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    2 Comments

  1. Alana DillJuly 10th, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    I think it’s a beautiful idea to have a gay character, and Sulu’s a good choice because he’s always been a badass who garnered the audience’s love and respect. And you can bet that, in the 60s with World War 2 reparations only 20 years behind us, the production company probably got a lot of flak from people who couldn’t stand the thought of a Japanese man on the bridge of a distinguished vessel such as the Enterprise. So Roddenberry took a real chance. The decision to have a gay character playing a key role is simply an extension of Roddenberry’s progressive thinking.

    Regarding your article, I feel it’s unfair to say that Takei “neglected” to come out while he was involved in Star Trek production. It would have destroyed his career, which must have been tenuous enough since it was so hard for any Asians to get cast as dimensional characters in Hollywood. That’s not neglect. That’s a survival tactic.

    I respect his point of view, since he created his character and there is a lot of real love for Sulu. But great characters such as Sherlock Holmes and James Bond are reimagined all the time, yet retain their core essence. it’s not really that different from the brilliant decision to cast the amazing Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck, in the BSG reboot.

    Star Trek can be relied upon for good acting, characters with depth, telling stories that make viewers want to be better human beings. It’s win-win.

  2. Karen ValenzuelaJuly 10th, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Alana, thank you for your comment!! Absolutely agree with your take. It will be a huge statement for a blockbuster like this to have a gay character.

    You’re right. “Neglected” wasn’t the right word to use concerning Takei’s decision not to come out during the filming of the TV show. It has a negative connotation that I did not mean to be there. There was absolutely so much pressure on him, and the atmosphere of TV audiences in the 1960s would have been less accepting than audiences today.

    Shout out to BSG, because Katee Sackhoff was arguably the best part of the reboot! Thanks again, Alana!

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