Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto React to George Takei Calling Gay Sulu ‘Unfortunate’
Takei told The Hollywood Reporter yesterday (July 7, 2016) that while he is “delighted that there’s a gay character,” he thinks that “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene [Roddenberry]’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.” He even urged Cho and Lin to let Sulu remain straight and create a new gay character for the series instead.
Pegg, who co-wrote the screenplay and is reprising his role as Scotty in the upcoming Justin Lin-directed Star Trek Beyond, wrote a statement to the Guardian that he “must respectfully disagree with [Takei].”
Noting that their installment of Star Trek is an “alternate timeline with alternate details,” Pegg explained in full:
“I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humor 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. 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?”
Pegg added that Sulu is a beloved character for fans of the franchise, and that’s why they went with him:
“Justin Lin, Doug Jung and I loved the idea of it being someone we already knew because the audience have a pre-existing opinion of that character as a human being, unaffected by any prejudice. Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic. Also, the audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek Universe from the beginning (at least in the Kelvin timeline), that a gay hero isn’t something new or strange. It’s also important to note that at no point do we suggest that our Sulu was ever closeted, why would he need to be? It’s just hasn’t come up before.”
Pegg also responded to Takei’s critique that portraying Sulu as gay wasn’t respecting of creator Gene Roddenberry’s original vision, especially in light of the fact that the film’s release coincides with Star Trek’s 50th anniversary year. He noted:
“I don’t believe Gene Roddenberry’s decision to make the prime timeline’s Enterprise crew straight was an artistic one, more a necessity of the time. Trek rightly gets a lot of love for featuring the first interracial kiss on US television, but Plato’s Stepchildren was the lowest rated episode ever.
The viewing audience weren’t open minded enough at the time and it must have forced Roddenberry to modulate his innovation. His mantra was always ‘infinite diversity in infinite combinations’. If he could have explored Sulu’s sexuality with George, he no doubt would have. Roddenberry was a visionary and a pioneer but we choose our battles carefully.”
“Our Trek is an alternate timeline with alternate details,” he wrote. “Whatever magic ingredient determines our sexuality was different for Sulu in our timeline. I like this idea because it suggests that in a hypothetical multiverse, across an infinite matrix of alternate realities, we are all LGBT somewhere.”
He ended his statement by praising Takei and standing behind their decision: “Whatever dimension we inhabit, we all just want to be loved by those we love (and I love George Takei). I can’t speak for every reality but that must surely true of this one. Live long and prosper.”
In addition, Quinto, who plays Spock and is openly gay, also responded to Takei’s comments noting that he was disappointed.
“As a member of the LGBT community myself, I was disappointed by the fact that George was disappointed … I get it. He [Takei] 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.”
Watch the trailer for Star Trek Beyond, in theaters July 22, below: