In 2013, a fan asked 'Star Trek' to make Sulu gay. Here's his response to the news.
John Cho's recent announcement that Sulu will be gay in "Star Trek: Beyond" predictably set the Internet on fire.
According to Cho, the decision was made, in part, as a tribute to George Takei, the openly gay actor and LGBT rights activist who played the character in the original series.
The actor revealed that Sulu's relationship with his partner — with whom he has a daughter — would be treated as any other relationship in the film and essentially be "no big deal."
Lots of fans were thrilled.
But the announcement about Sulu's sexual orientation had a surprise critic: Takei himself.
"I’m delighted that there’s a gay character," Takei told The Hollywood Reporter. "Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene [Roddenberry’s] creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate."
Takei explained that he believed that while "Star Trek" is ready for a gay main cast member, the decision to depict Sulu's same-sex relationship in a prequel recasts the Enterprise helmsman as closeted in the original series.
Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the screenplay, responded in The Guardian to "respectfully disagree" with Takei.
"Justin Lin, Doug Jung and I loved the idea of it being someone we already knew because the audience have a pre-existing opinion of that character as a human being, unaffected by any prejudice," Pegg said in a statement.
"Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic."
One fan who was particularly excited by the news was Dan Wohl, a California graduate student who asked for exactly this move in a 2013 essay published on The Mary Sue.
"J.J. Abrams, if you’re listening, I think you should make Sulu gay," Wohl wrote.
Giving Sulu a same-sex partner, Wohl argued — and treating their relationship as simply something that is — would not only be a moving tribute to Takei's life and work, but help begin to correct "complicated but ultimately disappointing history" of mostly ignoring LGBT themes and characters on "Star Trek."
Wohl told Upworthy that he was delighted by the news.
"I think it's awesome, and I'm really glad they're doing it," he said.
While he expected that the franchise would eventually introduce LGBT characters, he explained that he didn't believe the writers of the film would actually choose a character with such a long history to be the series' first.
"It's very rare to have something that you want so much to happen in your fandom come true."
"The normalization of things is really powerful," Wohl explained, praising the creators of "Beyond" for choosing not to make a grand statement about Sulu's sexuality within the film.
Making Sulu's sexual orientation just one more facet of a character with decades of rich backstory rather than a major plot point, he said, is just as powerful as using the character to make a big, sweeping statement.
"Almost just as important is to show that the things that were fought for should be viewed as just parts of life."
While he criticized the franchise for being behind the curve on LGBT issues to date, Wohl hopes that with a new series about to launch on CBS, "Star Trek" will further affirm its inclusive values.
"What I really think 'Star Trek' could and should become a pioneer in is when it comes to trans characters," he said.
Similarly, he said, if the franchise does introduce a trans character or characters, it could break new ground by refusing to make their gender identity the focus of their arc.
"The only time that you basically see a trans character is when the story is about them being trans."
But first, the franchise is — thankfully, finally — boldly going ... where many have gone before.
The show "was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms," creator Roddenberry wrote in an essay on the "Star Trek" philosophy.
While creators, actors, and fans may disagree about the particulars, with "Star Trek," what else is new?