If they say that any press is good press for a movie, Star Trek Beyond’s marketing team must be ecstatic. However, it’s a little more likely that the people behind the next installment of the film and television franchise are feeling headline fatigue right now, because the news surrounding John Cho’s Hikaru Sulu is beyond heated. It all started, of course, with the revelation that Cho’s character will have a husband in the upcoming Justin Lin-directed picture, and there really wasn’t much else to it. Sulu is gay and people should accept this as progress in creating more diversity in films, and especially franchises with huge followings.
Except the original Sulu, George Takei, isn’t necessarily thrilled about it, and that caught a lot of people off guard because he’s gay and a very well-recognized figure in the fight for LGBT rights. To his credit, Takei isn’t upset that Sulu is gay, but that the filmmaker and writers are “twisting” Gene Roddenberry’s original creation. Instead, he told Lin and Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the film with Doug Jung, to create a new character and leave Sulu as he always has been, because this film should be a tribute to Roddenberry on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.
On Friday morning, Pegg defended his decision to disagree with Takei in a statement to The Guardian, saying that a new gay character would ultimately be known as the “gay character,” and asking if that is “tokenism.” He also notes that Roddenberry’s decision to not have a gay character on the Enterprise was probably a “necessity of the time,” meaning that people 50 years ago would not have been cool with a gay character going where no man had ever gone before. Both men have made their points, and so we now turn to the actor playing the most logical Star Trek character.
Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock, addressed Takei’s reaction in an interview with Pedestrian.tv, alongside his castmates: Karl Urban, Chris Pine, and Cho. Simply put: Quinto is not happy that Takei is not happy.
As a member of the LGBT community myself, I was disappointed by the fact that George was disappointed. I think any member of the LGBT community that takes issue with the normalized and positive portrayal of members of our community in Hollywood and in mainstream blockbuster cinema… I get it. He has had his own personal journey and has his own personal relationship with this 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.
We’ll be sure to report back when Takei responds to Quinto’s response to his response. Unless, of course, the issue simply becomes a redshirt.