Sulu is gay because of quantum physics.
When I read last week that the new upcoming Star Trek Beyond would feature a gay character and that character would be Hikaru Sulu, I thought, “What a nice homage to George Takei. He’ll probably get a kick out of this.” I then immediately moved on to other things, because a gay character in something isn’t really news to me and shouldn’t really be news in our modern era. I’m proud of that. Later on, I read that George Takei thinks that this gay reimagining of a character he played straight (even if there was very little to no context within the original Star Trek series on Sulu’s sexuality) is an unfortunate twisting of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision. That made me pause, “Hmm, I really don’t understand anything about any of this.” I was less proud of that.
At least it got me thinkin’! As a white, heterosexual male, I’ve experienced approximately 0% hardships due to discriminatory circumstances in my entire life. That’s not a blanket statement for everyone of my ethnicity, sexual preference, or gender; it’s just that I have to analyze issues stemming from diversity a little harder to appropriately discern my feelings on the matter. I feel that Simon Pegg – the main writer of this new film – and whoever else had a hand in this story did an honorable thing pushing forward with Sulu being gay, however irrelevant it is to the overall story of the film. They approached George Takei about this development much earlier in the production process, received a hesitant response, and they went forward with it anyway. You’ve got to respect that level of commitment. When George f’n Takei tells you your gay priorities are off, and you stand by your story anyway, well…damn. Ain’t nobody gonna talk you out of anything!
I feel that George Takei did an honorable thing, too, trying to preserve the legacy of a creation and creator of which and whom he has a strong connection and relationship with. I assumed George Takei would be humbled by something like this, and I was challenged to think about him as not just a token gay man and famous actor but a person with complex, seemingly incongruous emotions and thought processes. Both sides are right in their own way, and we’ll all live our lives richer because of the discourse.
Then this entire drama got legitimately disconcerting when Simon Pegg published a blog explaining that this new Star Trek universe and Gene Roddenberry’s original universe can both coexist independent of each other. Not through already obvious reasons, like the fact that they’re different entities with different actors at a different time in the world. No, he explained Sulu being gay and/or not gay – and other less important details – can both happen at the same time and everyone can be happy because of quantum physics!
John Cho does not play a young George Takei, nor does he play the same character George Takei played in the original series. He is a different Sulu.
… Well, the explanation comes down to something very Star Treky; theoretical, quantum physics and the less than simple fact that time is not linear. Sure, we experience time as a contiguous series of cascading events but perception and reality aren’t always the same thing. Spock’s incursion from the Prime Universe created a multidimensional reality shift. The rift in space/time created an entirely new reality in all directions, top to bottom, from the Big Bang to the end of everything. As such this reality was, is and always will be subtly different from the Prime Universe.
Who is this explanation for? I know. In the dark corners of the internet on movie message boards and comment threads lurks a very vocal minority of incessant racists, misogynists, and hyperbolic fear-mongers. The type of people that will continually deride a movie like Ghostbusters for its all female cast, as if the movie studios didn’t already try to make it with the original cast for 20 years while Bill Murray consistently said, “Uh, no more Ghostbusters for me, guys. Like, move on already.” I wonder if there’s been an interview with the Ghostbusters cast and crew where they didn’t have to address the fact that they’re female. A movie should be judged based on its artistic merits alone, but these types of people love to lace their arguments with crap like “reverse sexism” or “political agendas” or who the hell cares. Everyone gets butthurt when something they love goes through changes.
What you don’t need is some theoretical scientific nonsense – no matter how brilliantly written – to explain a decision like this. If someone had asked, “Why did you make Sulu gay?”, he could’ve asked them right back, “Why did you assume he wasn’t?” All Simon Pegg is doing is giving credence to those who are forcing this to be an issue and attempting to placate their irrationalities. “Sulu ain’t gay, yo. Wait, this Star Trek is just some alternate reality, you say? I’ll allow it, then.” I don’t even care if decisions like making all female cast reboots or reinterpreting characters as gay are done solely to satisfy some liberal agenda. Pushing acceptance of diversity to the forefront of our society is a wholly good endeavor. Tell quality stories, and weed out the bigots along the way. Like Mark Hamill says: “‘Could Luke be gay?’ I’d say it is meant to be interpreted by the viewer. If you think Luke is gay, of course he is. You should not be ashamed of it. Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves.”