Sci-fi geeks across the world rejoiced when actor John Cho, who plays Sulu in the latest Star Trek movie, announced that the iconic character traditionally played by out actor George Takei would be portrayed as gay. The film shows Sulu’s husband and child back on Earth.
Takei, however, was less than pleased with the announcement, saying the change spoils creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision for the character. While it was meant as an honor for Takei, the older actor’s vehement rebuke of the decision really set fans’ phasers to stun.
“I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” Takei told The Hollywood Reporter, especially given that he once campaigned for creator Gene Roddenberry to add one. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
After Takei’s hissy fit, screenplay writer Simon Pegg, who also plays Scotty in the rebooted franchise, came out swinging.
“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 told the Guardian. “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?”
Roddenberry’s son followed Pegg in the news, saying he could see Takei’s point and admitting that he wasn’t sure how his father would react to the news. Still, Roddenberry said the introduction of an LGBT character should have happened years ago.
“In a way, it’s George’s character,” Roddenberry said. “I can understand why he feels strongly about it. I don’t see why everyone is bickering about it. It’s about (expletive) time. Let’s just do it.”
Now Abrams is joining the battle, saying Takei’s reaction was “preposterous.”
“It’s about time that there’s a gay character in this universe,” Abrams told the Huffington Post. “It is done, as you saw, in a way that is not in the story of the movie, which is one of my favorite things about it. It’s beside the point. I feel that George Takei’s reaction ― I’m sure has more to do with George Takei, and the baggage he brings to the proceedings. I think it may be his perception of having played a character a certain way. It might mean something personally to him. I have nothing but respect for the man, but I think it’s a preposterous thing for, of all people, a ‘Star Trek’ actor — who’s come out himself — to say that Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t have wanted this.”
“It feels like that is classic Roddenberry, so I don’t know what or why George Takei would take issue with it. Of the many things I hope that this film honors, and what Roddenberry did, is that sense of family,” he said. “No matter what you look like, no matter what your cultural, religious, sexual preferences are, regardless of your sex or in fact species, that we are all reliant upon each other and part of a collective. And I think that that’s the thing that resonates the most to me about these stories.”