Though there's still some progress left to be made, Hollywood is making strides in terms of diversifying the casts of major studio tentpoles. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley headlined Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is the highest-grossing film ever domestically. Gal Gadot is starring in the first live-action Wonder Woman movie, due in theaters next year. Marvel Studios has Black Panther on the horizon, while Ant-Man & The Wasp and Captain Marvel mark the first projects in the MCU to be led (or in the former's case, co-led) by a female superhero.
Seeing a mixture of races and genders in front of the camera is a welcomed development, since it allows movies to better reflect the world they're released in. One area where people would like to see more growth is sexuality. Typically, the main characters in a massive blockbuster are all straight; there isn't anything wrong with this necessarily, it just seems odd that the filmmakers have been hesitant to include other orientations in their works. That could be changing soon, though, as Star Trek Beyond will feature a gay character: U.S.S. Enterprise pilot Mr. Sulu (John Cho).
The actor spoke with the Herald Sun to promote this summer's third installment of the Kelvin Timeline, where he confirmed that Sulu is the father of a daughter with a same-sex partner. Cho mentioned that co-writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung did this as a nod to the original Sulu, George Takei (who is gay). Cho talked about the decision, saying he hopes it's an illustration of where the human species is in the 21st century:
“I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicize one’s personal orientations.”
Longtime fans of Star Trek know that the franchise has long been a proponent of diversity in the entertainment industry. Creator Gene Roddenberry designed the property with the intention of showcasing a world where people of all walks of life could work together. Star Trek featured the first interracial kiss (Kirk and Uhura), and Chekov was a Russian protagonist during the height of U.S./Soviet tensions. It shouldn't come as any surprise that Trek would also tackle the subject of sexual orientation, which is one of the hot button issues of today. Sulu's personal life obviously isn't a major plot point of Beyond, but it's a nice detail that allows the film to be more inclusive for all audiences.
It will be interesting to see what, if any, impact this move has on Star Trek's contemporaries. J.J. Abrams mentioned in the past that he would love to see a homosexual character in the Star Wars film franchise, but that hasn't come to pass yet (though, the canon novels have dealt with the subject). The hope is that Beyond opens a new door for filmmakers to push through and ushers in a new era. There will probably be some backlash to this announcement, but the world has become far more accepting of different sexual orientations in the modern age, meaning it shouldn't become that big of a deal.
As one of the most well-known franchises in popular culture, Star Trek has a large platform to provide timely social commentary, sharing a relevant and meaningful message with a wide audience. It would almost be a wasted opportunity if they didn't do something like this, especially considering that a new film in the series is all but a lock to be a box office hit. Given Star Trek's history, they would be the ones to trail blaze in the industry and use their standing for ways that benefit all.
Star Trek Beyond hits U.S. theaters July 22, 2016.
Source: Herald Sun