"Star Trek Beyond" co-writer Simon Pegg says he must "respectfully disagree" with George Takei's criticism of the decision to reveal in the upcoming film that Sulu is gay.
The character development was purportedly introduced in honor of Takei, who originated the role in 1966, nearly 40 years before the franchise veteran came out publicly. However, the 79-year-old actor was quick to take issue with the move, saying, “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
Takei argued that the writers and producers of "Star Trek Beyond" would've better honored franchise creator Gene Roddenberry by introducing a new character who's gay.
In a statement to The Guardian, Pegg expressed his admiration for Takei, but insisted a new gay character might be viewed as "tokenism": “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?”
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Takei revealed he first learned of the plans for Sulu last year, when he was contacted by actor John Cho, who plays the character in the rebooted film franchise. Takei said he tried to convince Cho that creating a new gay character would be better, but he later realized they were indeed moving forward after he received a call from director Justin Lin. That was followed by an email from Pegg praising Takei "for my advocacy for the LGBT movement and for my pride in 'Star Trek." "And I thought to myself, 'How wonderful! It’s a fan letter from Simon Pegg. Justin had talked to him,'" Takei recalled, thinking they'd reconsidered their plans for Sulu. However, about a month ago, he received another message from Cho confirming hat Sulu is gay in "Beyond."
Pegg, who argued in his statement that Roddenberry's decision to make the Enterprise crew straight was not "an artistic one" but rather "more a necessity of the time," said that he, Lin and co-writer Doug Jung gravitated toward the idea of the gay character being someone fans 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," he explained. "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.”