You all know George Takei. His personality and charm have far exceeded the popularity of Mr. Sulu. Remember the original Star Trek? Helmsman Hikaru Sulu, the Star Trek character most of the world knew first, became a household face when Asian faces practically stood for foreign enemy.
For years, until 2005, he was Mr. Sulu in my mind. I don’t say “just Mr. Sulu” because to a young Asian boy who loved science fiction, his presence was the link my imagination needed. I got to picture myself in the vast space epics taking place in my mind.
As an aside, I always felt like Spock was Asian too, the way people treated him like an outsider and the irrationality of it resonated with me.
For his pioneering role alone, George Takei would earn the OG Asian BMF Award, but there’s more…
The social environment in most of the world is a hostile place for sexual minorities. It’s hostile enough to keep LGBTQ folks “in the closet,” and secretive about their sexual gender preferences and identification. It’s 2015 and hostile. That’s sad.
As a straight man, I live in a world where I don’t have to think about what that’s like. I live in a world where straight men have a lot of power and privilege. If someone finds out that I’m straight, I don’t have to think about maybe losing my job, housing, friends, or family. It’s 2015. I saw on the news today that gay persons had been stoned to death. This is horrific not only because innocent men will die in a gruesome way, but also because there are those among us who are willing to throw the stones, to bludgeon a man to death for the way he loves. It’s 2015 and hate crimes still happen everywhere in the world. We are killing and suppressing love.
So when George came out ten years ago in the public way that he did, I took notice. Not only did he come out as a gay man, but he shared his experiences. Personal ones too. His public life would be out of his hands, in the judgment of the public, and that’s a big sacrifice and gamble. Based on what I read, and on his interviews, he did it because it was the right thing. Overall, I think the public liked him better. His good character stood out. And after all, he was still the same ol George Takei, the man behind the beloved Mr. Sulu. We were just getting to know more about him.
The way he faced the media and public head on, carved out a social safe space for young persons identifying as LGBTQ to be (more of) themselves. His conversation with the public moved the public because it was in earnest. He turned the question of sexuality into one of dignified right. For that alone, he’d get the BAP up vote. But there’s more…
With one exception (he talks frankly about this on a recent NPR interview), he has steadfastly turned down acting roles that denigrate Asian men. I don’t know how many readers know (or are) starving artists trying to make rent or eat a nicer dinner, but it ain’t easy. In an industry where neophytes claw for any role, George stood away from the stereotype. Think about how few nonstereotyped Asian roles there were when he was a young actor.
So for all these reasons, folks should recognize:
George Takei is an original Asian bad ass motherfucker.