9.15.2011

Star Trek: Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu

As portrayed by George Takei

As with Robert Beltran's Commander Chakotay, this is a classic example of an actor of color in a not-so-rosy situation.  Certain fans have talked about Takei's "attitude" over the decades, singing the "big chip on his shoulders" song which Shatner pretty much egged on, but these are the fans with severely deficient memories.

Let's have a history lesson, shall we?  Star Trek first aired in 1966.  So you have a gay Japanese actor trying to work in Hollywood, in the 1960s, on a TV show were staff are getting death threats for their attempt at diversity.  Meanwhile, the dude playing the Captain threatens to wreck this highly innovative and promising show every time he's not the center of attention.

Keep in mind, this is all going down a mere twenty years after the last Japanese internment camp has finally shut down, and the victims who survived (which include Takei and his family) are callously being denied reparations by the [Dis]United States government.  Meanwhile, for the average white American, being overtly racist towards is POC still considered polite, civilized conversation.

Hmm.

Let's just say if Takei hadn't come out of this sitch swinging, POC everywhere would've wondered what was wrong.

Character Pros

1) Lt. Hikaru Sulu is a character of good intent: his first name is a unisex Japanese name meaning "light" or "radiance", and his surname is derived from the Sulu Sea, which reportedly touches the shore of every country in Asia.  Sulu is thus meant to represent peace and unity in Asia.

2) In addition to his meaningful characterization, Sulu is a muscular, good-looking Asian man who speaks English fluently and sits at the helm of Starfleet's flagship. *nods* I believe the word you're looking for right there "bad ass".

3) There were attempts to let audience get to know Sulu better on a personal level; we learned his hobbies included botany and fencing.  Had Roddenberry been allowed a fourth season, we would've seen more of his personal life.

Character Cons

1) Sulu had a far less screen time than his white shipmates.  Instead of increasing during the movies, by the way, it actually seemed to decrease.

2) Though Sulu reportedly had a crush on Lieutenant Uhura, we never saw it come to fruition.  They wound up pairing her off with a white guy.

3) Come to think of it, we never saw Sulu in a relationship with anyone, even in the movies.  We learn later that he had a daughter, but we don't know her mother's name, or what her parents' relationship was like.

4) We didn't learn Sulu's first name during the original run of the show.  Meanwhile, everyone not only knew Kirk's first name from the get-go, but we also knew his middle name was friggin' "Tiberius."

5) Sulu didn't get to "do" much.  Yes, he was the helmsman, which one would think entailed massive responsibility (and authority), and yet...it always seemed as though either Kirk or Spock (usually Kirk) was single-handedly running and saving the damn ship while the rest of the crew was just chillin'.

Final Verdict

A decent opening effort considering the times.  Sulu appeared quite comfortable on the bridge of the Enterprise, and Takei did the most he could with the little he was given.  He originated an iconic role which sent a powerful message to an extremely backward society.  So...*applause*.

15 comments:

  1. When I was younger I got a chance to sit down and watch some of the original shows with my mom. I never liked Kirk, who my mom repeatedly called a "whore" which I loved to hear, but Sulu always interested me. He was HOTTTTT. Even today I have a crush on him though it will never be. I never knew the show was so close to the time of the internment camps. What a man!

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  2. Oh, yes. Sulu was a looker.

    I never knew the show was so close to the time of the internment camps. What a man!

    Interesting, hm? The things we learn when we do a little research.

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  3. Another con...he was never given a canon first name until the 2009 movie (and neither was Uhura come to think of it). All the main white characters had first names...it was only Uhura and Sulu who didn't.

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  4. Actually, his name was established in "Star Trek VI" (1991), 25 years after his character debut.

    Sucks, huh?

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  5. Interesting post.

    I remember watching reruns of Star Trek as a kid, I'm sure I've seen every single episode. The thing I liked most about the show, other than the scifi edge, was that the crew was diverse. Hell I remember watching Captain Kirk get it on with a green or blue woman too.

    My impression of him growing up was that he was an intergalactic freak and that he would have fucked a woodpile if he thought a snake was in it.

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  6. I with MG about Kirk. Sulu was hot..far hotter than he was in more ways than one. Sulu also had a sexy voice to go along with his looks, which would have been doubly good for him.

    I'm sorry, I do not see anything good and/or romantic looking about Kirk. I'm not saying that to be funny,but really..he just don't look like one of those men that arouse me when looking at him. Sulu looked like he wanted to make love to you, while Kirk looked on of those hit it and quit it kind of guys.

    When you brought up the topic about Sulu, I was thinking about an past episode of "A Living Color"when they was doing a parody about Louis Farakkhan(which was played by David Alan Grier).Even though it was done about him, David's character was mimicking about all of the inequalities he observed on the ship. The one that got my attention the most was when his character asked a question about Sulu..about him not having any love interests on the there.Although the skit was done for laughs..the moral behind it is honest.

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  7. @ M

    He did have a nice voice. And I loved his eyes. I loved that I got this picture because this look was just mesmerizing.

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  8. I loved Futurama and the character who was a direct parady of Kirk, Zap Branigan (sp?)....If you have not seen this character please take a look....He embodies the cheese-ness of the Kirk character to a tee....But that is always how I viewed Kirk as a pretty lame cheesy character....if we look at later captains they have a bit more depth than Kirk....

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  9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgedZswWVtM


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aIBF9hSI-I

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  10. I remember in one episode when Sulu had a sword, but mind you it wasn't a Katana but an actual fencing sword. Also he wasn't tied to any Asian stereotypes. So that was progressive.

    off topic: IS it ok to post something here?

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  11. @ Mie: Like I wanted to post an article here.

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  12. @ Javan Nelums

    Use the Contact the Narrators link to let us know more.

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  13. @Ankh

    How could I forget that? But you know, the fact that it took that long to give the poor man a damn name speak volumes. Sucks indeed.

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