George Takei discusses why there weren't any gay characters in space in the 23rd century.

Space. The Final Frontier. Where sexuality is still an unfortunate taboo.

Before George Takei was the source of silly Internet memes, he was known for playing Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu on the original "Star Trek" series.

And "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry was an early champion of diversity and representation. As Takei explains in a recent interview with Big Think, Roddenberry considered the Starship Enterprise to be, "a metaphor for Starship Earth, and the strength of this starship lay in its diversity."

When it came to the show's Asian character, Takei says, Roddenberry didn't want him to be associated with any specific Asian country. He wanted Takei to represent multiple groups in an imagined, idealistic future that had evolved beyond earthly border disputes and superficial racial squabbles.


"The problem [Roddenberry] had was to find a name for this Asian character from the 23rd century because every Asian surname is nationally specific," Takei explains.


GIFset via Big Think.

And that's how Takei's character came to have the name Sulu.

"Star Trek" boldly went where no show had gone before ... but in 1966, it could still only go so far.

The show was undoubtedly progressive for its time. In addition to launching a long-running sci-fi franchise and the careers of several notable actors, "Star Trek" also gave us the first interracial kiss on television.

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) locked lips with Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) in "Plato's Stepchildren," an episode originally broadcast on November 22, 1968. And even that scene only made it to air because Shatner and Nichols purposely messed up the network-requested takes where their characters didn't kiss.

GIF from "Star Trek: The Original Series."

While that's an exciting hallmark to celebrate, and we can appreciate the significance of it today, some people weren't as receptive back then.

GIF via Big Think.

According to Takei, "Our ratings plummeted. It was the lowest-rated episode that we had."

That was just one of the factors that led to the show's cancellation later that year after three seasons on the air. And, unfortunately, that's also one reason there were no explicitly gay or lesbian characters in the show's idealistic version of the future.

Takei says he did, very privately, bring up the issue of gay and lesbian characters on "Star Trek" with Roddenberry.

And while Roddenberry was, "as a sophisticated man, mindful of that…" he also shied away from addressing LGBTQ issues head-on, in favor of dealing with other issues that he felt were more pressing at the time.

GIFset via Big Think.

Of course, the exclusion of explicitly gay or lesbian characters still didn't save the show from cancellation. (I say "explicitly" because Roddenberry did suggest in William Shatner's 1979 biography that Kirk and Spock could have shared in the "Greek ideal" of love — much to the relief of fan-fic writers everywhere.)

We're certainly on our way to the bright future envisioned in "Star Trek" … but we haven't quite reached that final frontier.

Science fiction shows like "Star Trek" still give us something to aspire to in 2015.

And while things aren't perfect, we're a lot better off than we were in 1968 — a recent GLAAD report points to MTV and FX in particular as having nearly 50% LGBTQ-inclusive programming. But that's only half of the shows on two cable networks that feature queer characters.

Heck, there still hasn't been a queer character on any of the subsequent "Star Trek" series, or the recent movie reboots.

Like Takei discussed with Roddenberry, we know sometimes progress takes a while. There's plenty of work left to do, but it's still nice to know that we're headed in the right direction, and that progress is being made.

And even Takei himself is feeling pretty good about it:


GIFset via Big Think.

Cheers to you, Lieutenant Sulu. Now let's keep going boldly toward that brighter future.

Here's the full video, courtesy of Big Think:


More
Alie Ward

Your dinner plate shouldn't shame you for eating off of it. But that's exactly what a set being sold at Macy's did.

The retailer has since removed the dinnerware from their concept shop, Story, after facing social media backlash for the "toxic message" they were sending.

The plates, made by Pourtions, have circles on them to indicate what a proper portion should look like, along with "helpful — and hilarious — visual cues" to keep people from "overindulging."

There are serval different styles, with one version labeling the largest portion as "mom jeans," the medium portion as "favorite jeans," and the smallest portion as "skinny jeans."

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

In today's installment of the perils of being a woman, a 21-year-old woman shared her experience being "slut-shamed" by her nurse practitioner during a visit to urgent care for an STD check.

The woman recently had sex with someone she had only just met, and it was her first time hooking up with someone she had not "developed deep connections with."

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being
Youtube

Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared