Last week, the creators behind the upcoming Star Trek: Beyond revealed some pretty huge news: the film will reveal longtime fan favorite character Hikaru Sulu to be gay, making him the first LGBT character in the history of the franchise. It was a pretty monumental announcement that was met largely with praise, but wasn’t without criticism. Some of this criticism came from a seemingly unlikely place: that of openly gay original Sulu actor, George Takei. This was a somewhat surprising revelation, especially considering that the decision to make Sulu gay was inspired entirely by Takei and was meant as a tribute to him, and it saw current Trek actors Zachary Quinto (who is also openly gay) and Simon Pegg politely disagreeing with their friend.
Takei recently took to Facebook to clarify what he meant when he initially voiced his “displeasure” — which he insists isn’t displeasure at all, just a slight disagreement as to how he would have gone about introducing an LGBT character to the franchise.
It’s an important clarification to make on Takei’s part. He makes it abundantly clear that he’s thrilled that Trek now includes LGBT characters. He simply disagrees with the fact that series creator Gene Roddenberry’s original characters have been changed to fit the need for representation in the series rather than a new character being introduced that represents that community. Takei also notes that Roddenberry’s versions of the characters were crafted very intentionally to suit the constraints of the time in which they were made, and that the strength of Roddenberry as a storyteller was his ability to create dialogue and challenge norms within those constraints — effectively, to force his viewers to think outside of them without doing anything to compromise the longevity of the show or the livelihood of the actors and crew who depended on it.
Takei has been a longtime supporter of the rebooted franchise, so it understandably shook some people up to hear him allegedly badmouth the new kids, especially given how supportive he’s been in the past. Thankfully, there’s nothing to worry about. Takei understands the importance of the decision and is clearly delighted by the tribute — it’s just not the way he would have done it. And as a gay man, the gay man they’re paying tribute to here, he obviously has insight as to how to best represent his community that shouldn’t be disregarded.