Star Trek's First Canonically Gay Character
July 7, 2016 4:49 PM   Subscribe

Spoiler.

Actor John Cho reveals Hikaru Sulu has a male partner in the upcoming film Star Trek Beyond (previously). From the article: "He said the decision by writer Simon Pegg and Lin to make Sulu gay was a nod to George Takei, who played the character in the original 1960s series, and was a sign of what he hoped were changing times."
posted by Iris Gambol (86 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh my!
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:51 PM on July 7, 2016 [49 favorites]


/nuTrek screeches to a halt on a dirtbike, yells "Up yours, Bryan Fuller!", disappears off into the distance to the sound of Beastie Boy's Sabotage.
posted by Artw at 4:53 PM on July 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yeah, but George himself isn't really happy about this change.
posted by hanov3r at 4:55 PM on July 7, 2016 [27 favorites]


YAY! this pleases me.
posted by pipoquinha at 4:56 PM on July 7, 2016


Wait what?
posted by pipoquinha at 4:56 PM on July 7, 2016


Yeah, but George himself isn't really happy about this change.

Probably just stalling to allow Joe Biden to weigh in on the matter first.
posted by Atom Eyes at 5:01 PM on July 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


So, if I'm getting this right, Mr. Takei doesn't like his character being retconned, would rather they have created a new character.

....I like him more and more.
posted by Canageek at 5:09 PM on July 7, 2016 [56 favorites]


I haven't seen something this progressive since gay Ian McKellen's (who is totally gay!) as Gandalf was a happy meal toy.

Yawn.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:18 PM on July 7, 2016


I'm glad that there is a canonically gay character in the new star trek. You still shouldn't watch it.

here's where we repost: Chortly's comment


I wish people would understand that for many of us complaining about these movies, it's not about fear of change and it's not because we can't enjoy bad movies or fun action-packed spectacles. It's because of the particular direction of this change, and the fact that there are hundreds of dumb action-packed spectacles already. Star Trek played a unique role in SF that has not been replaced by other narratives, much less augmented by reboots of other franchises that change them in the Star Trek direction. Perhaps more importantly, these changes are not just isolated events -- they are part of a sea-change that has occurred in a vast amount of mainstream film since the 70s, with very little counter-current in the other direction. Star Trek was optimistic science-utopianism, interested in exploration, mutual understanding, multicultural respect and non-interference, camaraderie, cool ideas and philosophy, and a variety of other progressive ideals as embodied in the first show and its sequel (TNG). Like so many other SF narratives (including Star Wars, in its way), what began as a flawed but genuinely progressive world has been step-by-step corrupted, rebooted, and sequelled into a fundamentally conservative mold, where violence solves most problems, characters are simplistic and relatively unchanging, science is merely a guise for plot, and the main argument in favor generally takes the apolitical form of "sit back, turn off your brain, and enjoy it." Again -- this isn't something unique to Star Trek, but in what has happened to Star Trek the general cultural shift to the right in the US and its premiere art-form is acutely evident. I feel some affection for Kirk, Roddenberry, and the rest, but what's really lamentable here is how yet another icon of my youth -- not just a piece of nostalgia, but a moral anchor, like Sesame Street -- has been not just corrupted, but corrupted in such a way that most people don't even notice or mind the damage that is being done and the broader cultural effects these bastardizations continue to have.
posted by lalochezia at 5:24 PM on July 7, 2016 [72 favorites]


Well, it sounds like Pegg and Lin's hearts were in the right place, maybe, but they really should've listened to Uncle George.

And on preview, what Chortly said.
posted by KHAAAN! at 5:27 PM on July 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Star Trek played a unique role in SF that has not been replaced by other narratives, much less augmented by reboots of other franchises that change them in the Star Trek direction.

I remarked recently that if you close your eyes, Rihanna's theme for the next Trek could easily belong to a Bond movie. Then a friend pointed out that this is equally true for the movies; close your eyes and they could easily be Bond movies. And that, he said, is the problem.
posted by mhoye at 5:32 PM on July 7, 2016 [19 favorites]


Yeah, but George himself isn't really happy about this change.

Takei says Roddenberry felt that he couldn't make an LGBT character in a 60's TV show, then says Roddenberry specifically wanted Sulu to be hetero, then says the only hetero relationship Sulu ever had was in a novel from 1995, 4 years after Roddenberry died.

So I guess TV Sulu was hetero, in the way that everyone on TV back then (and now, unfortunately) was hetero by default.
posted by thecjm at 5:32 PM on July 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Between all the big explosions and obvious jokes, where could they possibly find the time to add this vital lore?
posted by anarch at 5:40 PM on July 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Are they doing this so we won't notice that this movie isn't going to be very good?
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:41 PM on July 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Sorry, nether."

"Same here."
 
posted by Herodios at 5:57 PM on July 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


When we talk about a long running franchise, one of the reasons people come back is they feel like they know the charecters. Drastic changes to them can upset fans. But at the same time, it can be hard to add well received new charecters to the old tight cast. If you want to add more diverse representation, you are kind of between a rock and a hard place there. Somebody is gonna be upset, and it's not always as simple as fans opposing diversity.

You will be accused of altering a classic if you mess with charecters or of just adding a token if you throw in somebody new. All you can do is listen to the feedback and do your best to make the right choice for your story.

In this case, I understand what Takei is saying but I think this is a change that will be well received by fans if it is well executed and if so he will eventually come around. If the movie is garbage then we probably won't have to worry about any more Star Trek movies for a while so somebody can retcon it back later if they want.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:09 PM on July 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


While I tend to agree with Takei that it would've been better to just write a new gay character, Sulu was never very defined and it was only Takei's charisma that made the character so beloved. It's not like they're suddenly doing something wildly out of character, because we never saw enough of Sulu to know if he might be bi or polysexual.

I'd guess he wasn't simply gay, based on stuff like this exchange* from Mudd's Women about the space ladies who make men dopey with their beauty:

SULU: You're on duty, Johnny-o. Back to reality.
FARRELL: You can feel their eyes when they look at you, like something grabbing hold of you. Did you notice that?
SULU: I noticed. How I noticed. Come on, Johnny.

Could he also be into dudes? Sure, maybe. But unfortunately because they went that way with this particular character, we're going to hear a lot of arguments about Sulu being retconned as the first canonical gay hero character in Trek.**


* I am not proud of the time I spent Googling that.

** This definitely isn't Trek's first canonical polysexual hero character, since Jadzia Dax already blazed that trail. Come to think of it, so did Will Riker.***

*** Jesus. I do have a life, honestly.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:11 PM on July 7, 2016 [47 favorites]


Hafta say, Who got over this a long time ago.

Nobody minded.
posted by Devonian at 6:21 PM on July 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm okay with this. Hell, I'm excited about it! Sorry, George.
posted by SansPoint at 6:24 PM on July 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


And for those who thought the title belonged to Elim Garak:

Andrew Robinson provided non-canon insight into his role when interviewed by Amazon.com, stating "I started out playing Garak as someone who doesn't have a defined sexuality. He's not gay, he's not straight, it's a non-issue for him. Basically his sexuality is inclusive. But – it's Star Trek and there were a couple of things working against that. One is that Americans really are very nervous about sexual ambiguity. Also, this is a family show, they have to keep it on the 'straight and narrow', so then I backed off from it. Originally, in that very first episode, I loved the man's absolute fearlessness about presenting himself to an attractive Human being. The fact that the attractive Human being is a man (Bashir) doesn't make any difference to him, but that was a little too sophisticated I think. For the most part, the writers supported the character beautifully, but in that area they just made a choice they didn't want to go there, and if they don't want to go there I can't, because the writing doesn't support it."
posted by dannyboybell at 6:30 PM on July 7, 2016 [20 favorites]


I just realized something. There's a huge advantage to establishing a major character as openly gay. They're a hell of a lot less likely to kill off Sulu then they would be to kill off some J. Random Gay Redshirt who they added to the cast. And don't think they wouldn't do it. Gay characters get killed off all the fucking time.
posted by SansPoint at 6:34 PM on July 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


If everything about reboot Trek is already retconned, how is gay Sulu a specific retcon?

It's an entirely retconned universe.
posted by sonascope at 6:46 PM on July 7, 2016 [19 favorites]


So, if I'm getting this right, Mr. Takei doesn't like his character being retconned, would rather they have created a new character.

Why not both?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:49 PM on July 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah, we don't want Sulu to be lonely, after all.
posted by Kabanos at 6:53 PM on July 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Well, I'd say his partner counts as a new character? Or is that the joke I'm missing?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:54 PM on July 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


The ghost of Jadzia Dax shrugs, waits for Lenara Kahn to buy it so that they can canoodle in Trill heaven.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:57 PM on July 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Ensign Rand would also be a good chocie for a queering retcon. Honestly just for my sake. Or a cameo of Channing Tatum as a gay redshirt flirting with Sulu. You know I'm up for either really. Or both.

Quick, batman, to the slashfic cave!
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 7:21 PM on July 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I get where Takei is coming from, but I can't say that I agree with him re: creating a new character. Maybe for a television series this would work - and IIRC, the new series will be LGBTQ-inclusive? - because then you'd have time to build up new people. But for a film? The core crew is established. If you create an entirely new character, if you want him to have any significance or impact whatsoever, it means that he's either going to be a villain ("gay baddie" trope ahead) or an Enterprise newbie who takes time away from the beloved old-timers.

And yeah, if the reason that Roddenberry wasn't LGBTQ-inclusive the first time around was because he couldn't be inclusive in the 1960s television milieu, I'm not sure that it's really twisting his vision to make an established character gay in what is now a more progressive landscape.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 7:34 PM on July 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think Sulu being gay is a net gain for representation, even though I get why Takei is annoyed. I also think that Cho's comment that essentially comes down to "he just happens to be gay" is a bit tone-deaf. And, honestly, I bet it'll be a mention and that will be it. We won't see a husband.

Honestly, as long as he's gay and his daughter is still named Demora, I'm good with it.

That said, I have no desire to see this film. Come on, Bryan Fuller, I need a gender- and sexually-diverse crew now!
posted by crossoverman at 7:59 PM on July 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


everything about reboot Trek is already retconned, how is gay Sulu a specific retcon?

It's an entirely retconned universe.


Further, I'm sure there's a timeline out there where a planet far away exploded and I'm straight, so why not Sulu?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:18 PM on July 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


I've always thought it was kind of adorable how seriously Takei takes Sulu. Like, it's a really big deal to him that Sulu became a captain in the era of the movies, he brings that up a lot. It doesn't play like pure ego, he's almost more like a proud papa boasting about his son. So I can see how for Takei, it could feel really wrong to see this major change in a character he spent decades playing a certain way. It's not that being gay is wrong (obviously,) but Takei has this whole biography he's worked out for Sulu.

(I just checked, and I'm kind of surprised to find he's never written a Sulu novel. How has George Takei never written a Sulu novel?)

everything about reboot Trek is already retconned

Retconned by a director who openly detested Trek! Hence the suck.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:47 PM on July 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I respect George Takei, but I'm thinking less of his feels about his legacy and more about the new and future generations of young gay Trek fans who recognize themselves in an iconic character. Representation matters.
posted by Kitteh at 9:03 PM on July 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I suspect that Takei's laptop has four of five volumes of The Adventures of Captain Sulu: Master Navigator just waiting for the right moment to publish.

(He also co-wrote a book with Robert Asprin called Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe which is about killer robots and fencing and fencing killer robots.)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:05 PM on July 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Maybe straight original Sulu could travel back in time and tell gay retcon Sulu he's cool too and they could have adventures together fencing space nazis?
posted by Drinky Die at 9:13 PM on July 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


(He also co-wrote a book with Robert Asprin called Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe which is about killer robots and fencing and fencing killer robots.)

Yeah, the cover is not super subtle.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:19 PM on July 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


Come on, Bryan Fuller, I need a gender- and sexually-diverse crew now!

The spaceships are also gay.
posted by The Whelk at 9:41 PM on July 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


Well, it's a male couple, so that reduces the chance that one of them will die by about 90%.
posted by happyroach at 9:44 PM on July 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I do see his point though. They couldnt have had another gay character? Bones could be totes gay.

...and just saying Bones may be my favorite of the new actors/characters
posted by Windopaene at 9:59 PM on July 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Missed opportunity for bi Kirk.
posted by schmod at 10:02 PM on July 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


There's something kind of insulting about assuming that the characters played by a gay actor must also be gay. As if Takei hadn't been, you know, acting.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:36 PM on July 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


Representation matters.

I don't think anybody here was saying it doesn't. And I sure don't think Takei, of all people, would say that. I don't agree with Takei, but I can see why he might feel that way.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:38 PM on July 7, 2016


The only problem I have with this is that is just feels sort of weird. Like the writers just took advantage of the fact that the original actor, George Takei, is Asian and (openly) gay, and, arguably, famous (in part) for those two facts, so since the current actor is also Asian but not gay (openly?), why not make the character gay though because now it's two-for-one, and maybe it'll look cool, like a tribute to George or something. "Hey George, check it out! Sulu is gay! Just like you!" Uh, OK? I mean, say Takei is also an avid fan of Ancient Egyptian history, why not give THAT trait to the new Sulu? It border on pandering, and singling someone out for one facet of their personality. Although, again, maybe Takei has invited that a bit by capitalizing on his identity in his career.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:04 PM on July 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


What if they made everyone gay except for Sulu, and he was like, super frustrated and lonely? Because I mean EVERYONE. In the Star Trek Universe.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:10 PM on July 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Roddenberry created Star Trek but he didn't always have the best judgment about it. I'm surprised by Takei's statement. It's not like this was an artistic world building decision that's not being honored. It was a political non-decision.
posted by bleep at 11:15 PM on July 7, 2016


Windopaene: "I do see his point though. They couldnt have had another gay character? Bones could be totes gay."

Whoa. Today I learned that Bones (and DeForest Kelley) were not gay. For the last 30 years I just assumed that either Bones was gay, DeForest Kelley was gay, or both were gay.
posted by Bugbread at 11:23 PM on July 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm surprised by Takei's statement. It's not like this was an artistic world building decision that's not being honored. It was a political non-decision.

I think the thing to note is the conversation Takei had with Roddenberry wasn't necessarily about having Sulu be gay.

In the summer of 1968, George Takei attended a pool party at the Hollywood Hills home of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. The actor, then 31 and famous for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise, swam up to his boss and "had a conversation with him, a very private one. I was still closeted, so I did not want to come out to him."

Nevertheless, Takei — who announced he was gay in 2005 — was fully attuned to the gay equality conversation gaining momentum at the time. He felt it was a topic worth exploring on the socially minded science-fiction series, which had previously tackled issues like the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War through keenly observed allegory.


I think what Takei is saying is he wanted Star Trek to tackle this issue but Sulu being gay was not what he had in mind for it because that was not who he and Roddenberry thought Sulu was.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:35 PM on July 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Bones definitely had an eye for the ladies. He married a woman in a so-so episode of TOS, and I don't even know how many times we saw him flirt with the space babes.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:15 AM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


The idea that bisexuality won't become the norm by the 23rd century amuses me. They should be plowing one another left, right and centre in the holosuite.
posted by longbaugh at 1:28 AM on July 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


If everything about reboot Trek is already retconned, how is gay Sulu a specific retcon?

It's an entirely retconned universe.


It turns out that the gravimetric charge imbalance caused by the hyperwave resonance of Nero's time travel created a nanowave frequency shift that polarized the sexual development of children throughout several quadrants of the galaxy.
posted by straight at 1:49 AM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was born this way.
posted by polymodus at 1:51 AM on July 8, 2016


The first? What about Scotty and Keenser?
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:09 AM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


The only reason I'm sympathetic with Takei here is because it's Takei. A lot of the characters are different - Kirk in particular is different in ways that I don't like. Sulu is now different in a way that I do like. So it goes.

This makes me mad tho:

His timeline logic, however, is enough to befuddle even the most diehard of Trek enthusiasts, as the rebooted trilogy takes place before the action of the original series. In other words, assuming canon orthodoxy, this storyline suggest Sulu would have had to have first been gay and married, only to then go into the closet years later.

It's an alternate timeline in an alternate universe, dingo
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 3:18 AM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Guys, I think you're forgetting one of the main laws of time travel!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:19 AM on July 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


My reading of why Takei is unhappy is simply this: if we had to wait so long to find out Sulu is gay, then that means he was in the closet before then.

Takei doesn't want to imagine a 23rd century where that closet is still a problem.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:20 AM on July 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Takei doesn't want to imagine a 23rd century where that closet is still a problem.

Unfortunately, based on the text as presented across five series and 12 films, there's no canon gay character in the 23rd century at all. And Takei is clearly saying he's got a problem with the change to the character he played, not with some fannish theory that by the 23rd century everyone is comfortable with their sexuality... so much so that they seem to all be straight.

Fiction is a product of the time when it was written. Roddenberry was never going to make a lead character gay on a TV series in the 1960s. But then none of the subsequent series went there, either. It's quite damning for a franchise that was so diverse and progressive in other ways.

I get why Takei is protective of his character. But, on the other hand, it's long past time that a Trek character was gay. We'll have to wait until the new series in 2017 to get a fully-fledged queer character in Trek. In 2016, Sulu gets to be token representation. It's still progress.
posted by crossoverman at 4:49 AM on July 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


If Sulu's sexuality is handled as just a matter of fact, as no more importance than the color of his bedsheets, as no more importance than Chekov's sexuality I'll have no problem with it. I'll even applaud it.

If they make his sexuality to be more of a "hey look at how diverse we are, give us brownie points" then that will be wrong. It will be wrong because it is pandering and letting PC get in the way of a story.

It appears that the former will be the case and that is a good thing.

As a good example I especially liked the way television's The Flash handled the fact that the police captain was gay. His sexuality wasn't stressed, it wasn't used for pandering, it wasn't used as a way to show how cool the producers/writers are. Instead it was handled as it was just-so. His sexuality had no effect on story. His sexuality wasn't the story. His sexuality was treated as anyone else's.

As it should be. Treat everyone the same
posted by 2manyusernames at 5:38 AM on July 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


His sexuality had no effect on story. His sexuality wasn't the story. His sexuality was treated as anyone else's.

As it should be. Treat everyone the same


Arguably, David's sexuality was treated more respectfully and maturely than the heterosexual relationships on the Flash. Though that's a low bar: "Stop creeping in your adopted sister, Barry." You're not telling your girlfriends your secret ID for...reasons? You're blurting it out to pretty much everyone else."

At this point, I would much rather watch a police procedural involving David and Rob than anything involving Barry Allen.
posted by happyroach at 7:18 AM on July 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's also David Mack's Harbinger, depending on how you consider licensed novels by former show writers. A few years ago, his response to an anti-gay fan made the rounds. Unfortunately the original seems to have been purged from livejournal.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:35 AM on July 8, 2016


There's something kind of insulting about assuming that the characters played by a gay actor must also be gay. As if Takei hadn't been, you know, acting.

This is what is bothering me, too. One of the reasons actors stay in the closet even now is the fear that audiences won't take them seriously in straight roles -- or, more to the point, that casting directors will presume that audiences wouldn't take them seriously in a straight role. That's a real problem, since it rules out a lot of roles. So, while I guess this change is well-intentioned (in a way that isn't risky at all; a chaste nod to Sulu's sexuality is hardly the progressive moment that, say, Kirk full on sucking face with a dude would be), I think it unintentionally reinforces the idea that gay actors can't play straight characters, which is clearly false but a thing people believe.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:50 AM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


This might make me a bad Trekkie, but I absolutely loathe "word of god." Understanding the intentions of Roddenberry, Frakes (who argued for bi Riker), and Robinson as they constructed characters is all well and good, but we have a production and post-production process for very good reasons, and we need to judge what's on the screen or on the page and not what was discussed off the soundstage. Everyone has a few thousand brilliant ideas that would make killer stories and characters. The hard work is actually performing and producing them. And if that interpretation doesn't make the cut due to the squeamishness of the studio, that's still a problem for me in the audience.

I'm also getting a bit sick and tired of writers and actors off-screen dropping LGBTQ interpretations of scenes where that's buried in subtextual ambiguity and supported primarily by frame-by-frame analysis for the lip bite. (Stormpilot) It's great you're open to that interpretation, but will you actually deliver that to the screen? Will the market forces dictating your performance let you?

And there's a bit of bisexual erasure going on around this topic. Flirting with Uhura and having a daughter does not make a same-sex relationship impossible. Alternately, DS9 already established that character sexualities can change in alternate universes. (I agree that mirror universe sexuality was used badly, but it is what it is.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:35 AM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


And there's a bit of bisexual erasure going on around this topic.

Yes, I actually thought around the time of Star Trek Into Darkness being released that it was a great opportunity to make one of the TOS characters bi, but of course that didn't happen--my choice was to make McCoy bi.

I do find it interesting that they're working really hard to fit gay Sulu into established canon (even though this is technically a reboot, the timeline didn't split until the destruction of the USS Kelvin) and Sulu is the one TOS character that was not definitively portrayed as straight--but then, hey, Khan is a white British dude because why not?

That was a different writer and director though, so I'm trying to keep an open mind about Star Trek Beyond.
posted by Automocar at 8:41 AM on July 8, 2016


One of the reasons actors stay in the closet even now is the fear that audiences won't take them seriously in straight roles -- or, more to the point, that casting directors will presume that audiences wouldn't take them seriously in a straight role.

Argh, never mind that most of us learn to convincingly play straight for survival reasons, and straight actors often fail utterly at acting convincingly gay.

I do have to say that Sulu coming out is the only incentive I have to see this movie. I love Star Trek, but the reboots thus far have been awful.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:10 AM on July 8, 2016


I for one look forward to an epic scene of Sulu coming out of the closet on top of a burning, crash-landing starship
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:38 AM on July 8, 2016


I'll be honest -- when I heard that Sulu would be shown to be gay, I assumed that this was something that had George Takei's backing. Even though I disagree with his reasoning, I'm glad that he spoke out, at least to correct that assumption of mine.

That being said, I guess there could be good reasons for choosing another main cast character (or creating a new character), but I feel like perfect would be the enemy of good for any of those choices as well. Especially a new character, because new characters in existing franchises are often not long for the world and how progressive would it really be to introduce a gay crewmember and have him/her get redshirted.

If you go down the list of "main" crew characters, Kirk, Bones, Spock and Uhura are established, in this universe, as having opposite-sex attraction. Yes, any of them could be outed as bi, but given the general consensus of Jadzia Dax's bisexuality not being "enough," I can see why the writers wanted to go for a undisputed gay or lesbian character.

Chekov (RIP Anton) and Scotty are both played a little on the campy side, and I could see criticisms flying about how "of course they made the waifish one gay." This is also why I think that making a fleshed out version of Aisha Hind's character be a lesbian could be problematic.

Sulu is kind of just a casual badass. Who conveniently could do for some more character development.

So, I come down on the side of "this is good."

Bryan Fuller's 2017 Trek will be a good opportunity to show off a 21st century level of diversity with completely new characters. Given Fuller's approach to sexuality in Hannibal, I wouldn't be surprised if we get more casually gay/bi characters just as a matter of course. This will also be good.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:52 AM on July 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


One problem I have with Jadzia, (and I'll admit, I came to DS9 late because it first aired during one of those periods when I did not have TV) is that she's only shown to be bi for the sake of plot, usually involving one of the Dax symbiote's historic ex lovers. So we have an episode where Dax is on trial involving one of Curzon's lovers and Jadzia falling for Torias Dax's wife's symbiote's current host (yes, it is that convoluted). Later, we have a write-by-numbers love triangle where Worf gets jealous over one of Curzon's lovers. Otherwise she's shown flirting and dating a number of male figures, including fitness instructors and holodeck massage therapists.

I have another problem with it. The grand narrative of Star Trek is that the federation is humanity's phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the problems of the 20th and 21st century. And sometimes it gets rather preachy about it. Human characters comment on a whole host of social and political ideas from the 20th century: capitalism, sexism, racism, war, disability, transgender rights, and environmental justice. Not to mention the cultural callouts to baseball, music, cuisine, cars, Las Vegas, James Bond, more baseball, science fiction, fanfic, and still more baseball. Humans are always bragging about how they're better than the bad old days, and often move forward from mistakes with "we can get better."

But on the other hand, I'm strongly sympathetic to the view that the language of LGBTQ is the culturally constructed legacy of European heterosexism and cissexism, so that language isn't always appropriate for science fiction. So I have a little fanfic involving Bashir and Jadzia in the midst of "Rejoined" about how that might have been addressed:

Bashir: "You know Jadzia, back in the dark ages of 20th century Earth, I would have been forced to give you a medical discharge."

Jadzia: "What?"

Bashir: "Oh yes, we had all kinds of dumb ideas about sexuality back then. It's something something we thankfully got rid of, along with racism, capitalism, malaria, and American football."

Jadzia: "Really Julian? Are you really comparing our taboos about intergenerational joining to your human hangups about gender and sex? You're not quite as past them as you think."
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:49 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm watching Voyager (also aired during a TV gap) and in this week's episode:

1. Chakotay is shot down.
(credits)
2. Chakotay is rescued by guerilla fighters.
3. Chakotay talks about how his people don't use violence anymore.

Human characters in Star Trek love to brag about their cultural evolution, for them to never mention one of the most significant civil rights struggles of the current generation is a hole begging to be filled.

(It's a really dissonant line for me, since Chakotay has been the rebel space pirate and the voice of cultural relativity. But that sort of thing happens all the time in Trek.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:24 PM on July 8, 2016


One problem I have with Jadzia, (and I'll admit, I came to DS9 late because it first aired during one of those periods when I did not have TV) is that she's only shown to be bi for the sake of plot, usually involving one of the Dax symbiote's historic ex lovers.

I don't know if it's really just "bi for the sake of plot." I don't see any reason why they couldn't have just written Dax's ex-lovers to be whichever gender would have resulted in a hetero-pairing at the time. The biggest example, of course, is in Rejoined, where both the Dax and Kahn symbiants were in new hosts and the "safe" answer would have been to make Kahn's new host male. The plot would have been the exact same, though the "message" of the episode would have been diluted.

Which, of course brings up the problem that previous Trek has only touched on LGBTQ characters as part of trying to explicitly teach a message, as opposed to just showing that this is how life is.

And that's not even getting into the way that Jadzia (and Ezri) Dax were handled leads to a logical conclusion that Jadzia/Ezri, the human looking hosts were likely straight, while Dax, the genderless symbiote was probably bi(pan?)sexual. Or the whole, we can only show some kind of non-cishet arrangement if it involves literal aliens, thing.

Which is why it's important that nuTrek does better.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:28 PM on July 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Regarding Trek's previous treatment of LGBT issues, I feel like they could have (obviously) gone farther but they don't get nearly enough credit for what they did do.

It's worth noting that none of the Federation people in Rejoined even mention the same-sex aspect of Jadzia's romance, it's not an issue. No, we never got to see a crew member in a happy, uncomplicated same-sex relationship, but DS9 clearly establishes that same-sex romances are not controversial in Trek-land. And TNG's The Outcast goes places that would shock people even now. Riker falls in love with an alien who is anatomically androgynous, but she identifies as female. It didn't make an unambiguous, pro-gay rights statement, we had to wait for DS9 for that. But it did make an impressively progressive statement about gender. (Maybe I appreciate this episode more because I'm trans. Riker falls in love with a woman who is a woman because she says she is, contrary to what her society insists.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:14 PM on July 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


I remember watching The Outcast back in the 90s (as a teen with zero openly LGBTQ friends) and thinking of it as a "gay" episode.

It wasn't until I rewatched it recently, and listened to a recap on a podcast hosted by a couple of gay men that I realized that it really was a "trans" episode.

Which shows to go you how invisible trans people were to me back then, which is shitty because back then was not that long ago. And it wouldn't surprise me a bit to hear that the showrunners weren't even thinking about the trans implications of their Very Special Message about Gay People Episode at the time either.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:33 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I figure they probably set out to do a gay rights episode, and as Paramount kept pushing back the story evolved until Riker wasn't in love with a male alien but was instead in love with a female-looking, female-identifying alien. The episode's conclusion, where she is made "normal" and basically lobotomized, is chilling as hell and probably did cause some people to really think about trans rights. I like the episode where it ended up and as I said I feel like they don't get enough credit for what they did there... but I don't want to give them more credit than they deserve either. I doubt they set out to do a trans rights episode, and I think they should have been a lot more bold about gay rights.

(It's worth noting that Jonathan Frakes pushed for the episode to go farther, and wanted the alien love interest to be played by a man.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:18 PM on July 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


More and more, I think that trying to integrate the "Kelvin timeline" into some misguided sense of "canon" was a big old mistake that could have been avoided by treating it the same way that DC/Warner handles having a half-dozen different Batmen. (Dumb idea of the night: Batman vs. Batman vs. Batman vs. Batman vs. Batman vs. Batman. And yes, at least two are animated.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:46 PM on July 8, 2016


MeFi: a hole begging to be filled.
posted by fairmettle at 2:01 AM on July 9, 2016


I've heard the "how did the Kelvin incident change sexuality all over the universe?" gotcha in my own circles, which makes me wonder why people think the divergence from the TOS universe happened there and not earlier.

Also, if Sulu is anything but a hardline Kinsey 6, why isn't it possible that he might have found a male partner he loved instead of a female one as a subtle result of all the changes to the chain of effects in the Abrams timeline?
posted by sonascope at 9:22 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


As we all know from Ronbledore, any meddling with the space time continuum has sexuality reversing potential.
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I really do not understand the illogical insistence that the AOS is rewriting or overwriting the TOS, particularly since the existence of a multiverse in the TOS is canon. To wit, the Mirror Universe, not to mention the deus ex machina that is the The Guardian of Forever.

Then again, I don't believe that the "Kelvin Incident" represents an incursion into the TOS universe or that this is when the AOS universe began or branched off. Jim Kirk was born in Iowa in March of 2233 in the TOS, and more importantly, his parents did not serve together on a ship anywhere that I'm aware of. In my opinion, TOS!Spock and Nero wormholed into a different timeline/universe and altered that reality even farther.

So, TOS!Sulu can't show up in the AOS, because he's never been physically present in that universe. TOS!Spock alone has been separated from both his timeline and universe, and is left adrift.

Finally, although Demora Sulu is Hikaru Sulu's daughter, no mention was ever made of her other parent. Why couldn't she have had two fathers, even in the TOS universe, much less the AOS one?

I'm a fan of all ST universes, canon, book, and fanon, and I am very pleased to have an acknowledged LGBTQIA* character on the bridge of the Enterprise.
posted by B_Pithy at 7:43 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Original Sulu had at least an eye for the ladies. Original Sulu had a child, via the semi-canon of the novels. New Sulu is married to a guy. I don't see an incompatibility or rewriting of the character here, nor do I see a requirement that Sulu was closeted in the original series.

At the time, he was more interested in ladies than guys - or at least, that's what we saw of him onscreen; presumably, he also had some interests we didn't see, and some of them might've been romantic. At some point, he got married to a guy. This is... not a problem? I know that my teenage kids and their friends will not see any contradictions here.

My preferred label for situations like this, if the person isn't suppressing large portions of their personality and hasn't undergone major persona-changing trauma, is not "gay," but "character is bi yet not actively flirtatious/promiscuous" is probably a ways off yet.

I am also glad they are making an existing character gay - one with a high enough popularity to hopefully avoid being killed off - rather than introducing J. Random Gayperson. Part of what we need for representation is "Character X, whom you've known and loved for years, has always had this trait that we couldn't mention before." Our existing myths need to expand to hold new truths, rather than staying stuck in the biases that existed when they were created.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:14 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is a story in which humanity has acheived faster-than-light space travel by means of channelling anitmatter through some crystals which somehow creates a "warp" field around the ship, allowing it to move faster than light because e != mc2 inside the warp field AND all the alien beings look humanoid except for very slight variations in skin color/hair/bone structure on the head (few of the aliens have six arms or evolved from arthrodopods or lizards) AND time travel is possible by going really fast around a sun AND given the incredibly high speeds necessary for space travel to be practical, the space battles look just like dogfights from WWII films, which occurred at much slower speeds, in atmospheres, with gravity as a factor AND they have a machine that converts the matter of living beings into energy, saves all the information about the organism into a computer hard drives, then beams and reassembles the organism thousands of miles away without that beam giving off extra radiation (think of the immeanse power needed to simply do the reassambling - when the sun does that with very simple molecules it causes the big fireball heat that makes the sun so useful 93 million miles away)

None of this bothers me, a lifelong fan, even though it's there in the back of my mind. What is strange is that there are lots of smart ST fans for whom this is also not a problem but the idea that a character we used to percieve as heterosexual is going to be revealed as being homosexual is. Like, the dilithium crystals and EPS manifolds and reversed polartities of the neutron flows and the beaming are all fine and need no explanation, but let a character you never knew much about turn out to be gay and then, stop the presses, Rodenberry wouldn't have wanted this, it is not logicial.

tl:dr: it's sci-fi, you've already suspended all the beliefs. I, for one, welcome our new gay Sulu overlords.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:21 PM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


No, I gotta disagree, like. Things still need to make some kind of sense even when there are dragons and spaceships and lightsabers. That's one of the problems with midichlorians, because not only did the "magic!" explanation work just fine as it was, it made more sense than "... bacteria?? ???" Not that any of it actually makes sense, but it feels sensical. And like, I personally have a huge problem with spaceships going into atmosphere because that's just not how anything works okay point is people can choose to suspend some disbeliefs and not others

In this case I think it makes perfect sense because of everything people have been just saying. Alternate universe. Alternate timeline. New artistic interpretations. Things change.

Just to clear things up, all the characters in AOS are about ten years younger than their counterparts in TOS. Kirk was something like 35 years old in the original series; still the youngest starship captain in history, but he earned it with an extremely accomplished career. (one of the reasons I think the reboot has him just totally wrong)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 3:15 PM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


My point wasn't "nothing makes sense so why should Sulu's orientation make sense." My point was: learning that a person you once thought was straight is actually gay happens all the time in real life yet somehow many people who are ok with the utter nonsense that is Star Trek physics and xenobiology are taking issue with Sulu being gay. Even if the TOS Sulu turned out to be gay not even the fact that he has a daughter or the fact that he's talked about women with space brodudes are indicators that he's not gay just like in real life. Yet this seems too far-fetched to the same people for whom beaming and the top brass of Starfleet being 90% human are perfectly ok.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:56 PM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


My point was: learning that a person you once thought was straight is actually gay happens all the time in real life

As others pointed out, we don't know that NuTrek Sulu is gay. He may well be bi or pansexual.

Simon Pegg responded to Takei, and made some good points.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:19 PM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]




I kinda agree with Takei but I think it's the nature of the reboot beast that we're not going to get new bridge characters except for a possible Chekov replacement since the actor died.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2016


Lt Naraht! I've said it before, will say it again. Horta crew member! (Thank you, Diane Duane)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:19 AM on July 14, 2016


Takei clarifies comments.

Maybe it's because I'm only in the right fan circles, but I'm pretty impressed by how adultly this conversation seems to have been handled, both by the principals involved, and the fans discussing it.

Makes me proud to be a Trekkie.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:41 AM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty impressed by how adultly this conversation seems to have been handled, both by the principals involved, and the fans discussing it.

It's very how Roddenberry would want it, isn't it.
posted by Etrigan at 11:43 AM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


while I am flattered that the character of Sulu apparently was selected as an homage to me, this was never about me or what I wanted. It was about being true to Gene’s vision and storytelling.

Dayim!



*sniff*
 
posted by Herodios at 2:50 PM on July 14, 2016


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