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Friday, July 08, 2016

A Tale of Two Sulus

With all the terrible things happening in the world today, it's often hard to forget how far we've come (while of course recognizing how far we have yet to go). This thought was on my mind when the mini-kerfuffle over Star Trek character Hikaru Sulu's sexual orientation hit the news.

In case you haven't heard, in the next Star Trek film we'll find out that Mr. Sulu, played in the new films by John Cho, has a same sex partner. Somewhat surprisingly, George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu in the original television show upon which this rebooted series of films is based, doesn't approve, even though he himself is gay.

According to Takei, he played Sulu as a straight man back in the 60s (and in the first six Star Trek films in which he appeared, presumably). This is because according to Takei, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned Sulu as heterosexual (although considering the time one wonders if even the famously progressive Roddenberry ever gave a passing thought that any of his characters would be anything but hetero).

This has led to some polite but firm chatter through the media between Takei, Cho, and various other actors involved in the franchise.

Frankly, I don't see the problem; it's easy enough to imagine that the Sulu played by Takei is/was heterosexual, while the one played by Cho is gay; after all, Cho's Sulu is from an alternate timeline, so this can read as merely one of many differences between the original crew and their alternate counterparts.

But even if you don't accept this hair-splitting, how nice is it that we can have this discussion and it's about the show and the characters, and not about whether or not homosexuality is okay? Clearly it's okay, and we're reaching a point where sexual orientation is growing less and less controversial among more and more people.

I'm also encouraged by how the reveal will apparently be handled: in passing and as a matter of course, because by the 23rd century sexual orientation won't be a big deal at all, to anyone. Oh my! 

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