May 24 2024

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Takei’s Loyalty to Gene Roddenberry

2 min read

Even though George Takei didn’t convince Gene Roddenberry to address homosexuality on Star Trek back in the 1960s, he respected why Roddenberry didn’t do so and his loyalty to Roddenberry meant that he was unhappy about Sulu being portrayed as gay in Star Trek Beyond.

Star Trek “has enhanced my life and amplified my voice in so many ways,” Takei explained. “The idea was to use science fiction as a metaphor for the issues of the time – the civil rights movement, African-Americans’ struggle for equality, the peace movement during the Vietnam war, the cold war. That was an exciting, thrilling idea, because television wasn’t being used at all for that sort of thing.”

As were most gays in the 1960s, Takei was closeted and it was a difficult time for a gay man. “You live under the fear of being outed all the time,” he said, explaining life fifty years ago. “I played the game. I took a female friend to premieres and parties, and then I’d take her home and go to a gay bar. It was a double life. Interestingly, I recognized some faces in those bars and we’d say ‘Hi’, but we didn’t mention it the day after.”

In that atmosphere, it wasn’t practical to address homosexuality via Star Trek. “I was closeted then, so I talked to him as a liberal, you know, and I said: ‘We’re dealing with all these other issues of our time. What do you think?'” Roddenberry had to reluctantly say “no,” as he felt enough controversy had already happened with the kiss between Bill Shatner and Nichelle Nichols.

In 2004, Takei came out when Arnold Schwarzenegger, then governor of California, refused to sign the marriage equality bill. “When he vetoed it, I was raging,” said Takei. “Young people poured out on to Santa Monica Boulevard, venting their fury, and here Brad and I were, comfortable at home, watching the late-night news. I said: ‘All right, I’ve had a good career,’ and I was fully prepared for it to fade.” But instead, his career seemed to take off.

One would expect that Takei would therefore be supportive of Sulu being gay in nuTrek, but that was not the case. “Now that we have this opportunity to explore the sexual orientation of the characters, they should have been as creative as Gene Roddenberry,” he said. “Invent a new character who has a whole history as a gay person! Don’t change a character that Gene intentionally created as straight.”

It was his loyalty to Roddenberry though, that prevailed. “The reboot wouldn’t have existed if it hadn’t been for Gene Roddenberry. He created the base of Star Trek. And so in the fiftieth anniversary, they need to focus in on the Star Trek heritage. They should respect and honor Gene.”

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