So we all know that Star Trek Beyond decided to make the character, Hikaru Sulu, gay. They didn’t think the actor who originated the part, George Takei, would object. As he himself is an out LGBT activist. But Takei wasn’t pleased saying it was “a twisting of [Star Trek creator] Gene [Roddenberry]’s creation.”
Well John Cho has plenty to say. He spoke to Esther Zuckerman for The AV Club he had some concerns about this twist in the character saying
George was very important to me as a kid. Seeing his face on TV as an Asian American kid in Houston, Texas, in the early ’80s, was very impactful for me.
I was concerned that Asians and Asian Americans might see it as a sort of continuing feminization of Asian men. Asian American men, Asian men have been basically eunuchs in American cinema and television, and I thought maybe it would be seen as a continuation of that.
But the most pleasant surprise was that John Cho requested his husband in the film be Asian. Saying
The reason was that I grew up with some gay Asian male friends. You don’t really see Asian men together very often. It’s very rare in life. I’ve always felt that there was some extra cultural shame to having two Asian men together, because it was so difficult to come out of the closet, so difficult to be gay and Asian, that they couldn’t really bring themselves… It’s easier to run away from people that look like your family. I wanted the future to be where it was completely normal and therefore, aside from the gender, they look like a traditional heterosexual couple. So that relationship, to me, the optics of it are that it looks very traditional on the one hand and very radical on the other.
To read the rest of the interview go to John Cho on representation and his concerns with gay Sulu
UPDATE: John Cho was recently asked about this again in an interview. Here is the transcript
BALDONADO: I also read that you were one of the people who insisted that Sulu’s partner be Asian. Why did you want that to be the case?
CHO: Well, you know, it was a little bit of a valentine to my gay Asian friends. You know, this may be presumptuous, but I feel like the family hang-ups preventing gay Asian men from loving one another because the shame leads them away from people who look like themselves – and so I wanted to posit a future in which, you know, that it mirrored more heterosexual relationships, where there’s no shame factor – and so wanted to look hetero-normal.
And secondarily, I just feel like, sometimes I feel like, in American cinema, there’s a lack of Asian people loving one another. And I, myself, am more often paired with people who are – women who are not Asian, than Asian. And sometimes I wonder, is that healthy? In any case, I felt that it was important for it to look – this gay relationship to look as, quote, “normal as possible.” There was talk of, initially, was this person human? Is this an alien? And I said, no, it’s – I really want this person not only to be human but to be Asian, as well.