Anghus Houvouras on Sulu’s sexuality in Star Trek Beyond…
“God save us from people who mean well.” – Virkram Seth
Diversity has become such a buzz word and used so frequently that it has almost lost all value. All we hear about is the need for more diversity in entertainment, constantly berated with columns about Hollywood’s lack of multicultural creatives in front of and behind the camera. I’m by no means denying that there is merit in those observations. However, the well-intentioned diversity hawks are often so focused on diversification by any means necessary that they often miss the point by a country mile.
I’ve written on this subject before, most notable discussing the strange assertion that Black Panther needed a black director or that Wonder Woman needed a female director. This is the kind of thought process of well-intentioned people who believe themselves to be pro-diversity, when in reality they’re actually doing corrosive damage to the very idea of a world without labels. If we want to live in a world that is truly diverse, a woman would be directing a movie featuring a superhero with a penis and the race of the director behind the lens on Black Panther would be irrelevant.
Star Trek Beyond has been a marketing disaster since the first absolutely terrible trailer hit the internet. A series of subsequently uninteresting marketing materials have hit the web leading to a collective shrug. The most recent bit of publicity malfeasance came from a story about changes made with Sulu’s sexuality. Beyond co-writer Simon Pegg talked at length about introducing the idea that Sulu is in a same sex relationship to help further diversify the Enterprise Crew as well as a tribute to George Takei, the gay actor who originally played the role. While the gesture seemed harmless enough, Takei took umbrage saying that he didn’t care for the idea of retrofitting Sulu’s sexuality at the expense of the character and Gene Roddenberry’s original vision.
I’m sure Pegg was taken aback by Takei’s response. It’s the kind of blissful ignorance experienced by someone living in a politically correct bubble not realizing that making a character gay because the actor who first played him was gay is the kind of short sighted diversification band-aid that might not be appreciated by everyone.
Takei is spot on in his assessment. The Star Trek Beyond team found the laziest path between two points to try and pepper the franchise with some additional diversity. The idea that a character’s sexuality has been realigned to run parallel with a notable gay actor is the same kind of lazy thought process behind matching directors to characters with the same race and genitalia.
As I said, there’s nothing wrong with good intentions. Simon Pegg was making an honest attempt to introduce further diversification into a popular franchise with historical ties to breaking barriers. No one should rake him over the coals for his good intentions, but maybe future attempts at diversification shouldn’t be the product of historical revisionism.
Besides, we all know if anyone on the Enterprise was going to end up gay, it should have been Kirk. Chasing all those women? Always finding a way for his shirt to come off? Classic overcompensation.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker and the co-host of Across the Pondcast. Follow him on Twitter.