Simon Pegg has added his voice to the debate regarding the sexuality of Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek Beyond.
The actor, who stars as Scotty and also co-wrote the latest addition to the sci-fi franchise, responded to remarks by George Takei, who criticized the decision to make his character Sulu — now played by John Cho — openly gay.
“I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humor are an inspiration,” Pegg wrote in a statement issued Friday. “However, with regards to his thoughts on our Sulu, I must respectfully disagree with him.”
Highlighting the sexuality of the USS Enterprise helmsman was actually the idea of Pegg and director Justin Lin, both of whom wanted to pay respect to Takei’s legacy as a sci-fi icon and LGBT activist. But Takei told The Hollywood Reporter that he thought it was “really unfortunate” that the filmmakers had turned to Sulu instead of introducing a new character.
“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,” added Pegg. “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 said that he, Lin and Doug Jung “loved” the idea of the gay character being someone already known, ensuring that the audience already had a “pre-existing opinion” of them as a “human being,” and therefore were hopefully unaffected by any prejudice.
“Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic,” he added. “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.”
The Brit asserted that his Star Trek was located in an “alternate timeline” than the one of Gene Roddenberry and whatever “magical ingredient” determines sexuality was different for Sulu in this 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 said. “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.”