If you haven’t heard the news (where have you been, under a Jeffries Tube?) Sulu in Star Trek: Beyond is a big gay, George Takei is not happy about this, and Simon Pegg is not happy that George Takei is not happy about this. Having trouble keeping it all… straight? Don’t worry, the preeminent gay Star Trek podcast Trekabout is here to guide you through this.
The reason I think it was a good idea to make one of the characters gay here is that you always have this problem with introducing representation into long-running franchises that are fueled in part by nostalgia. And so it’s always risky and yes, even a little brave (admittedly, a very very little) to deviate from the typical fan’s “default” view of what the characters should look like and be like. And in general what creatives actually do is realize that it would be really hard to thread the needle and so they figure the hell with it, and then nothing ever changes.
As for waiting for Trek 2017, while I recognize that majority creators are always going to made clumsy by their own privilege, I don’t think it’s a good idea to just let the queers worry about queer representation (and the women about female representation, and the African-Americans, and the Muslims, etc., etc.) For one thing representation can be the first step in a virtuous circle. More importantly it lets us in the majority off the hook.
Finally, sure, it is on the nose to make it Sulu. Post-hoc rationalization notes that he’s the only male cast member that didn’t have at least one episode with a breeder romance, although of course that wasn’t the reason. But TOS Sulu’s celibacy wasn’t a coincidence either; it was itself because of the desexualization of Asian men. So I think you might be missing that factor — yes, this was an opportunity to show a gay character in Star Trek, a franchise that has gone way too long without any. But it was also an opportunity for an Asian male director to show an Asian male character with a romantic life, something that is still exceedingly rare in film and television. (More rare than gay characters, in fact, although I’m not going to make any claims about quality.)
Anyway, I though it was done rather well, but I doubt you (Eric) are going to like it it when you see it. I’d rather it hadn’t been a news story before the film was released, certainly, but I expect that was the studio more than the creators.