George Takei

Simon Pegg and the “Star Trek Beyond” team approached George Takei months ago about their decision to make the character he played for decades, Hikaru Sulu, a gay man. Mr. Takei politely told them that creator Gene Roddenberry never wrote the USS Enterprise officer that way and that they should create a new character instead. The “Beyond” team disrespected his wish and now trots out Zachary Quinto to twist the original Sulu’s words.

Here is what Takei told The Hollywood Reporter earlier in the week:

“I told [John Cho], ‘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.’ 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 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, the man whose vision it was carried us through half a century. Honor him and create a new character. I urged them. He left me feeling that that was going to happen. I think it’s really unfortunate. I really tried to work with these people when at long last the issue of gay equality was going to be addressed. I thought after that conversation with [director Justin Lin] that was going to happen.”

Here is the proper context: Mr. Takei, an LGBT activist, has played Sulu since the 1960s. He is the original Sulu and he knows what the creator would have wanted. A bunch of young guys essentially came to him for his blessing. They received an answer they did not like, did what they wanted anyway, and now try to frame his displeasure as if he has a thing against gay representation on film.

Here is what Zachary Quinto told Pedestrian.TV on Friday:

“As a member of the LGBT community myself, I was disappointed by the fact that George was disappointed. I get it that he has had his own personal journey and has his own personal relationship with this character, but … as we established in the first Star Trek film in 2009, we’ve created an alternate universe. 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.”

There is no need for “eventually” because Mr. Takei already said he is “delighted” there is a gay character, Mr. Quinto. Therefore, Spock, it is “logical” to conclude that you are purposefully twisting the man’s stance like a petulant child because he wasn’t on board with the decision.

Zachary Quinto Star Trek Beyond trailer
“Disagree with Zachary Quinto? Why that’s … illogical.”

Simon Pegg was also offered his best straw man argument for the Guardian on Friday:

“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?”

Again, it cannot be stressed enough that Simon Pegg and his team went to Mr. Takei for his advice and decades of experience with the character and Gene Roddenberry. They went to the original Sulu, defied him, and now pretend as if people won’t logically differentiate between the old and the new by calling Mr. Pegg’s version “gay Sulu.”

No one calls Captain Holt from the television show Brooklyn 99 “the gay Captain.” He’s just “Holt.” Why? Because the writers have done an excellent job.

If Brooklyn 99 is is reimagined in 25 years and writers make him straight, then people who loved the original will call him “straight Holt.” Lesson: Don’t mess with the source material.

Simon Peg Star Trek Beyond trailer
“We went to him for advice and he suggested we create a new character instead of altering the source material? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Marvel Comics made the same mistake with Iceman. The character has been around for decades, but writer Brian Michael Bendis decided to make him gay overnight. Critics who said it was lazy writing and disrespectful to the source material then faced the kind of backlash now experienced by George Takei.

Takei gay Sulu Twitter hate

George Takei is finding out what the rest of us have known for a long time: If you dare to disagree with activist-writers, then you will be demonized. If you dare to show any kind of reverence for source material, then you will be slimed as “homophobic” or “on the wrong side of history.” Their “right side of history” is defined as “those who agree with us.”

I hope the original Sulu sticks to this guns on this one because he has no reason to apologize. If anyone should apologize, then it’s those who came to him for his advice, led him to believe they would take his recommendation, and then did the exact opposite.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

10 comments

  1. I first heard about this on a “Star Trek” forum, where there was a some discussion as to whether the timeline change was sufficient to explain the change in Sulu (the diversion was four years before he was born, for what it’s worth).

    As a long-time Trekkie, I can confirm that Sulu is not a gay character; in fact there’s evidence that he’s straight in canonical material. The Animated Series episode “The Magicks of Megas-Tu” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” all support this idea (not to mention that all non-canon material regarding his family from “Generations” assumed a straight orientation). Also, a parallel universe version of Sulu from the “mirror universe” in Original Series show “Mirror, Mirror” was also shown to be straight.

    This’s one of the reasons I don’t like the new movies’ treatment of the franchise very much. They treat their parallel universe setting as an excuse to do whatever they want, forgetting that the backstory they created for this movie series in the ’09 movie sets several boundaries, including that all changes must be able to be affected by the destruction of the Kelvin in the first film. This isn’t like comparing, say, the old Disney movie “Sleeping Beauty” with its live action adaptation, “Maleficent.” Those films have no common continuity with each other, so there’s no problem that the lead villain in the first movie has a different characterization and story arc in the second. Whereas, in the Kelvin timeline “Trek” movies, the only changes that could happen to Sulu are ones that would be based on nurture part of “nature vs. nurture,” and I don’t think sexual orientation is one of them.

    So, I’d personally chalk this up as a continuity error to be ignored as a filming mistake (along the lines of boom mikes and the like). The reboot movies are full of them (to the point that I think the creative team should’ve just gone the clean reboot, like Disney did with the “Sleeping Beauty”/”Maleficent” scenario, since that’s clearly what they want to do and are doing despite the fact that that’s not how the Force works — as Abrams put it in his “Star Wars” movie — according to the rules the ’09 movie set with the alternate reality thing).

    Now, taking this strictly from an “in-universe” perspective and ignoring all the real-world discussion, there is one instance of a character’s sexuality being different across parallel universes; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Major Kira. In the prime universe (where the TV shows and first ten movies are set), Kira is consistently shown as being straight, while her counterpart in the “mirror universe” is bisexual. I’m still not sure how that exactly works, but frankly, I think the Powers That Be would be better off using that example then trying to justify their decision as a good idea; at least they can try and claim that they’re following the rules of the franchise, rather than saying: “Yeah, we know this is not correct, but we’re doing it anyways because we can.”

    Also, for what it’s worth, if we assume that Sulu was straight in the prime universe, but gay in the alternate reality, that could explain the discrepancy with his daughter; Demora Sulu (who first appeared in “Star Trek Generations,” was born in 2271 (a year after the five-year mission of the Original Series/the Animated Series and a couple years before “Star Trek – The Motion Picture). “Star Trek Beyond,” which wants to use the character, takes place a decade before her birth. If we assume that the prime universe Demora wasn’t born in the Kelvin timeline and the Demora in “Beyond” is a different person (Sulu adopted a different girl, but gave her the same name), that would fix that problem. However, it does ignore the fact that having a gay Sulu and a Demora born before the Original Series are stuff that shouldn’t have been even on the table in the first place.

    1. “This’s one of the reasons I don’t like the new movies’ treatment of the franchise very much. They treat their parallel universe setting as an excuse to do whatever they want, forgetting that the backstory they created for this movie series in the ’09 movie sets several boundaries, including that all changes must be able to be affected by the destruction of the Kelvin in the first film.”

      This, in a nutshell, is my beef with most creators. They take beloved material and act as if they have a creative license to do “whatever they want.” They make changes that tick off a lot of people and then act as if the fans are the ones who “don’t get” the characters they grew up with.

    2. “In other words, it’s maximum laziness. They want to be able to create whatever they want and have you already love it without having to put in the work to earn that audience and give them a reason to love it.”

      Exactly.

  2. Wow, this just gets sadder and sadder. I honestly didn’t have much of a problem with them opting to make Sulu gay until I read this. My only real criticisms at the time were:

    1) It came off as a rather big admission that (like in the old continuity) Sulu keeps drifting into the background and needs something to stand out. I mean, remember how in the 2009 movie where the only thing they gave him was a fencing gag referencing “The Naked Time”?

    2) They were only doing this because Takei himself is gay (which, incidentally, is a rather brazen admission that this reboot continuity will forever live in the shadow of the original).

    3) Most importantly, fear that the movie characters would treat this as a big deal. The whole point of “Star Trek” is that humans have moved past caring about skin color and such; that’s why Roddenberry and later creators had diverse casts for these shows and had main characters who were aliens. I said it on Twitter, and I’ll say it again: if the movie treats this as a big deal (well-beyond (pun intended) simply, “Oh, I never knew that about ol’ Sulu”), then you know the movie is playing to the SJWs and nothing more.

    ‘Course, now reading what Takei had to say, they really are just playing to the SJWs, aren’t they? Shameful, as is the way people are disagreeing with him (particularly those lunatics on Twitter you quoted). You know that if Takei supported this, they would use him to say, “See? The guy who played Sulu is okay with this, and he knows better than you, so shut up.”

    If anything, this goes a long way towards justifying my feelings about these reboot movies: no heart. I think they have a great cast, but creative decisions keep holding them back. Y’know, they wanted us to care about the friendship between Kirk and Spock in the two movies so far, but they did nothing to earn it; the 2009 movie wedged Nimoy in just to say, “You two guys should be good friends,” and “Into Darkness” got wrong everything that “Wrath of Khan” got right. I’ve seen remakes/reboots that coast by on viewers’ love of the originals, but these new “Star Trek” movies have to be the most flagrant about it. Now, they’re trying to leech off the image of an actor who hasn’t played Sulu in years. This is getting pathetic. Yeesh, when you add it all up, these movies are just a cheap imitation of a show (plus several movies–not to mention the spin-offs) that you can see on Netflix for the price of one movie ticket.

    Of course, there is an upshot here. The funny thing about the way those SJWs are acting is that Sulu is explicitly not a gay character in the original continuity. Besides the words of Takei himself, there’s like what WebLurker said, Sulu had a daughter in “Generations.” So, I have a (deliberately trolling) question for the SJWs and those creators who cater to them: “Does this mean Sulu *chose* to be gay in the new continuity?” Ya just know that question would irritate them.

    1. “Wow, this just gets sadder and sadder. I honestly didn’t have much of a problem with them opting to make Sulu gay until I read this.”

      I was sort of in the same boat. I wasn’t even going to do a post on Sulu being gay until I saw people attacking Takei. It seems as though there’s one quick scene where John Cho’s Sulu is with a child and another guy in their living quarters. I would never say, “Booooo! This movie is crap!” because of something like that. I would just roll my eyes at another blatant move to excite the social justice crowd. What irritates me is the attempt to distort Takei’s stance because he dared to stick up for Roddenberry’s original vision.

      This whole thing is more disgusting to me because they went to Takei and, for all intents and purposes, asked for his blessing.

      There is nothing more frustrating than someone coming to you with a problem, asking for your advice, and then when you give it they go off and do precisely the opposite of what you suggested. It’s even more annoying when everything you said would happen unfolds and the person doesn’t have the decency to admit that you were right…

      “So, I have a (deliberately trolling) question for the SJWs and those creators who cater to them: ‘Does this mean Sulu *chose* to be gay in the new continuity?’ Ya just know that question would irritate them.”

      Zing! As I’ve said before, I honestly do not care if there are gay people in my comics, sci-fi movies, etc. I just care about writers who take another man’s creation and then treat it like it was always their own. I have a problem with writers who make significant changes to source material and then lash out fans who get upset.

      These creative questions often have no real “right” or “wrong” answer. I get that. I just wish the people in charge would be a bit more humble.

  3. Never ceases to amaze me how a mildly liberal entertainer can just casually toss out a bigoted comment without any push-back whatsoever because the crowd is so conditioned to seeing it one way and ignoring it another.

    “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?”

    Wow. I suppose any diverse character introduced anywhere for any reason will be defined by their gender/race/whatever and be seen as a token! What a good excuse not to introduce any new diverse characters. I doubt introducing a straight white character would come across Simon’s smug little mind as ‘tokenism’ and therefore is perfectly fine. How bigoted, how….liberal.

    Maybe this is Marvel’s feeling’s too, they are trying to avoid a straight white guilt attack by just changing the race/gender of their characters…with already established personalities, they can avoid the pain of ‘tokenism’ by ummm placing a new diversity character!

    1. “Wow. I suppose any diverse character introduced anywhere for any reason will be defined by their gender/race/whatever and be seen as a token! What a good excuse not to introduce any new diverse characters. I doubt introducing a straight white character would come across Simon’s smug little mind as ‘tokenism’ and therefore is perfectly fine. How bigoted, how…liberal.”

      Simon Pegg did not really think that one through. It’s such a strange defense of his decision. It’s a shame that big media outlets won’t call him out on it.

  4. Evidently Takei had a good enough relationship with Roddenberry that he still respects what the man wanted, even though Roddenberry has passed. It was Shatner who mistreated everybody, not Roddenberry.

  5. To me, this just comes off as more a meta-commentary than an actual active attempt at pandering to the diverse crowd. “Oh, the actor’s gay, we’ll make the character gay”.

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