It looks like Star Trek has boldly gone where no other major big budget action movie has dared go before: the introduction of a lead gay character in Sulu, the Starship Enterprise’s helmsman. And not only is Sulu a gay man in the new movie, Star Trek Beyond, the third installment in the franchise’s reboot of the series; he’s also married (to a man) and has a daughter.
We have our first gay dad action hero.
In some ways, this news shouldn’t be so remarkable; LGBTQ representation has greatly increased in television and film in recent years. It’s worth noting, though, that the same director as many of the testosterone-fueled Fast & Furious movies, starring the testosterone-fueled action hero, Vin Diesel, was at the helm of the latest Star Trek installment. So while Modern Family’s Mitch and Cam may have introduced gay dads to a good chunk of Middle America, it’s safe to assume Star Trek Beyond is beaming the concept of gay fatherhood into theaters filled with a very different demographic.
To be sure—the reconceiving of Sulu as a gay father is such a minor plot point in the new movie that you could probably blink and miss it. That, however, is precisely what makes it so significant. “I liked the approach,” John Cho, who plays Sulu, said in an interview with the Herald Sun, “which was not to make a big deal out of it.”
Of course, not all are pleased with the tinkering of Sulu’s sexuality. The criticism, though, has a surprising source—George Takei, the man who originated the role in the 1960s television series.
Scripting Sulu as a gay man in Star Trek Beyond was intended as a respectful nod to Takei, who is now a prominent LGBTQ activist. But in an interview, the 79-year-old actor said he believed the revisionist take on the character was disrespectful to Gene Rodenberry, the show’s creator, who hadn’t originally conceived of the character as a gay father.
Many LGBTQ fans were surprised and disappointed in Takei’s take on a gay Sulu. But, seen another way, it’s somewhat remarkably that Takei—an out gay man—is the loudest critic of the recasting. Religious groups don’t seem to be calling for boycotts of the movie for “mainstreaming” the idea of homosexuality; social conservatives aren’t railing against a positive portrayal of gay parenthood. Audiences, meanwhile, have greeted the news with a collective shrug.
The skies the Starship Enterprise so boldly explores, in other words, don’t seem to be falling with the introduction of a gay dad action hero. So maybe the future portrayed by Star Trek Beyond—when one’s identity as a gay dad is merely an afterthought—is not so far beyond after all.
Too soon to hope Vin Diesel’s next film is Fast & Furious: Gay Fatherhood?
Image via Radio Times