Star Trek has always been a leader in breaking new social grounds. The show introduced the first interracial kiss on American television back in 1968, and featured a Russian officer in the crew during the middle of the cold war between the United States and USSR. Now the newest movie, Star Trek Beyond, is following in the stigma-dashing footsteps of the classic, forward-thinking sci-fi series, revealing Star Trek’s first gay character.
During an interview with The Herald Sun, John Cho revealed that his character Hikaru Sulu is gay. In Beyond, the movie mentions how Cho has a daughter back on Earth with a same-sex partner. What impressed Cho the most was how nonchalantly the revelation was made.
“I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicize one’s personal orientations.”
The change in the Sulu character is a nod to the originator of the role, George Takei. Since his time on the U.S.S. Enterprise came to an end, Takei has become a strong voice for the LGBT community. So, to pay homage to a Civil Rights activist like Takei, co-writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung decided to give the role of Sulu a more personal touch.
Today’s announcement is a major step forward for the LGBT community. In the aftermath of the deadly Orlando shooting, petitions went online calling for a gay character in the Star Wars Universe, following previous efforts to make Finn and Poe Dameron a couple. The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams had previously went on record in his support of a gay character in a galaxy far, far away.
“When I talk about inclusivity it’s not excluding gay characters,” Abrams said at an event in February. “It’s about inclusivity. So of course.”
Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, shared that sentiment when asked if his iconic character was gay. Hamill left it ambiguous, saying fans could believe whatever they wanted since he wants fans to judge Luke “by his character and not who he loves”. Star Wars has already addressed the issue by including a gay character, Sinjir Rath Velus, in its novel Aftermath, a character who should appear in the sequel to be released later this month.
It’s not just sci-fi movies getting involved, either. Marvel Studios head-honcho Kevin Feige said it was likely a gay character would eventually appear in the MCU. Pixar also appeared to have a same sex couple in their summer blockbuster Finding Dory, but have yet to confirm it. As for Star Trek Beyond, go figure that after decades of television shows, movies, comics and everything else… the franchise continues to find new ways to become a leader in social issues.