Star Trek has been more inclusive and progressive than any TV/movie franchise its age or size has ever been, yet has never had an openly gay major character until now.
Hikaru Sulu, originally played by George Takei and more recently by John Chu, has been revealed to be gay in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond. But George Takei is not okay with Sulu being gay.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, Takei said that while he was pleased the LGBT community was being represented more, the move betrays the vision of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
“Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought,” Takei said. “I think it’s really unfortunate.”
Since those comments hit the Internet, many have found themselves taking a stand about LGBT activist Takei for his comments.
Simon Pegg, who has portrayed science engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott since 2009’s Star Trek and co-wrote Star Trek Beyond, released a statement to The Guardian Friday, denouncing Takei’s regressive stance.
“He’s right, it is unfortunate,” began Pegg. “It’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most incisive, tolerant universe in science-fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now.”
“We could have introduced a new gay character,” Pegg continued, “but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality [and] seen as the ‘gay character,’ rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?”
Pegg also thinks his decision to out Sulu as gay doesn’t betray Roddenberry’s vision because Sulu’s presumed heterosexuality wasn’t a choice in the ’60s days of television but a sad necessity.
“I don’t believe Gene Roddenberry’s decision to make the prime timeline’s Enterprise crew straight was an artistic one, but more of a necessity of the time,” said Pegg. “Trek rightly gets a lot of love for featuring the first interracial kiss on U.S. television, but [that episode] was the lowest rated episode ever.
One point defenders of the move have made is that, in all canonical Star Trek series and movies, Sulu has never been seen with a partner. (He was shown to have a daughter in Star Trek: Generations, but nothing was mentioned of her other parent.)
The other, even more relevant issue is that J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek rebooted the whole series’ timeline, either erasing all the previous adventures of Capt. Kirk and company or taking place in a completely different reality. So, even if the Hikaru Sulu George Takei played between 1966 and 1996 wasn’t gay, that doesn’t mean that Hikaru Sulu in the reboot and Star Trek Into Darkness wasn’t.
Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the new movie series and is openly gay, raised that very point to Pedestrian.tv Friday, stating that he was “disappointed by the fact that George was disappointed.”
“I get it. [Takei] has had his own personal journey and has his own personal relationship with that 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.” (Zachary Quinto)
As of this writing, Takei has not responded to Pegg’s or Quinto’s comments.
Star Trek Beyond beams into theatres in Canada and the U.S. July 22.
(Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, Pedestrian.tv)