This summer, Star Trek Beyond finally introduced a gay character into its supposedly progressive universe. The franchise’s Hikaru Sulu was rewritten to have a husband in the movie. But the original Mr. Sulu — George Takei himself — isn’t impressed.
After voicing his concerns early on over retcon and insensitivity to his original portrayal of Sulu, Takei, who is openly gay and openly delightful, is now saying that Beyond didn’t go “far enough” by showing Sulu’s husband.
“Just hugging the baby and arm around the guy … and it’s over.” Takei said in an interview with Digital Spy.
Back in July, Takei voiced concern that by rendering John Cho’s Sulu as gay, an unnecessary revision of the original Star Trek was being coupled with insensitive tokenism. At that time, Takei suggested the film introduce a new character who was gay. Simon Pegg, co-writer of Beyond’s screenplay countered, claiming that a new character would have been even worse on the “tokenism” front. The gay Sulu debate was a draw, but Takei’s new comments have called into question something more than just topics of tokenism or retcon: Was Star Trek a little too pleased with itself by slipping in Sulu’s gay husband?
Notably, Sulu’s husband was played by the other co-writer of the film, Doug Jung. The character also has a name: Ben, though it’s somewhat telling that in writing about this particular plot point, nobody mentions this person, as a person. Ben isn’t given any lines, and a casual viewer can easily miss him. That hat means that, on the one hand, Beyond didn’t make a big deal out of Sulu’s husband because, in the 23rd century, being gay would not be a big deal. On the other hand, it also means that Trek took the path of least resistance. Could we have lingered with Sulu and Ben for a moment longer? Kirk doesn’t even speak to them in the final scene in the movie where everyone is drinking and having a good time.
While some might say that something is better than nothing, that doesn’t render Takei’s point invalid.
Even if you’re loathe to concede that Beyond engaged in troublesome tokenism, it’s hard to ignore Takei’s most telling point, that was “not even a kiss.”