Justice

George Takei Doesn't Support His Gay 'Star Trek' Character for an Unexpected Reason

July 8th 2016

By:
Lucy Tiven

George Takei shared his thoughts about the decision to make the character of Sulu the first openly gay character in the upcoming "Star Trek" movie in an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Friday.

The choice, announced Thursday in an interview with actor John Cho and Australia's Herald Sun, was inspired by Takei — who is gay and played Sulu in the classic 1960s TV series. However, the iconic "Star Trek" actor and LGBT activist took a surprisingly critical stance.

“I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” Takei told THR. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”

But Takei's objections are grounded in more than just "Star Trek" mythology.

He said he believed the writers missed an opportunity to create an original LGBT character with an in-depth story.

Takei described a conversation with 'current Sulu' John Cho, who called him about the idea last year.

"I told him, '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,'" he explained.

Takei said conversations with director Justin Lin and co-writer Simon Pegg — who reached out to him to praise his LGBT advocacy — led him to believe his suggestion was taken to heart.

"I really tried to work with these people when at long last the issue of gay equality was going to be addressed," Takei said. "I thought after that conversation with Justin that was going to happen. Months later, when I got that email from Simon Pegg, I was kind of confused. He thinks I’m a great guy? Wonderful. But what was the point of that letter? I interpreted that as my words having been heard."

He also claimed that it was unrealistic for "a character who came of age in the 23rd century," to be in the closet, according to THR.

Though gay marriage is legal in the U.S. and LGBT advocacy has made a great deal of progress in recent decades, not all LGBT people are "out."

But Takei disagrees. The "trapped in the closet" trope may not be the most dynamic or relevant way to write an LGBT character, as he points out.

Bustle writer Jefferson Grubbs took issue with how closeted homosexuality was depicted in the television series "True Detective." Grubbs wrote:

"Creator Nic Pizzolatto isn't exactly breaking any new ground with Paul's character yet. The gay man who's so far into self-denial that he swaggers around using gay slurs is such a well-worn trope that it has its own name: the "Armored Closet Gay." ('See also Gayngst if the character is particularly self-tormented about it.') Some of the more famous examples of this trope include Glee's Dave Karofsky, American Beauty's Colonel Fitts, and Brokeback Mountain's Ennis Del Mar."

Though Sulu may not fully illustrate the self-loathing, homophobic "Armored Closet Gay" trope, Takei pointed out that the character's story included specific sexual encounters with women. Making Sulu gay in the new movie sheds a different light on his history, and suggests that it involved deep "self-denial" about his sexuality.

Pegg, for his part, responded to Takei and defended his choice in a statement reported on The Guardian.

“I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humour are an inspiration,” he wrote. “However, with regards to his thoughts on our Sulu, I must respectfully disagree with him.”

“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," Pegg continued. "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?”

[h/t The Hollywood Reporter]