Step Aside Spirk, It’s Hikaru Sulu’s Time to Shine

Hikaru Sulu is officially gay, a reveal we’ll see incorporated in the upcoming Star Trek: Beyond film. Given the overall lack of Asian representation in film (both movies and television) and the lack of queer characters of color on the big and small screen this is a huge step forward in regards to queer representation. Especially since science fiction is often bone dry genre when it comes to diversity. Yet, dispute this step forward for queer fans of color there’s already fans who are derailing the conversation in order to advocate for Kirk and Spock (both separate and apart) being queer over Sulu. There’s a key difference here, in that, fans are attempting to marginalize Sulu to build up Kirk/Spock (or “Spirk”) as the “better” form of queer representation. All while ignoring the racial aspects of the conversation and how white cis male characters already dominate the conversation of queer media. By pushing out a prominent man of color who is now canonically queer in order to prop up a popular white male/male fanon ship contributes to the continued diminishing of characters of color and queer characters of color.

The overwhelming whiteness of slash shipping culture has been discussed in detail before by fans of color. Spirk, despite being the original slash ship for many, is no different. If the source material has marginalized characters of color, that’s a criticism on the media itself and should be acknowledged not used as an excuse to further marginalize them by ignoring their importance or status in canon.

Which is exactly what some Reboot (or Alternate Original Series) Star Trek fans (both Spirk shippers and non-Spirk specific shippers) have begun to argue about Sulu. That him being gay in the upcoming film isn’t progressive enough because he’s a minor character, where as Kirk being bisexual or pansexual, and in a relationship with Spock in particular, would be. Derailing the conversation about the importance of having a canonically queer Asian character in a major science fiction franchise, to a conversation about white men. This argument also ignores the reasons why Sulu isn’t the lead character in the same way Kirk or Spock is – which is classic Hollywood racism that prioritizes white characters stories over characters of color.

Personally I disagree that Sulu is a minor character; he’s been apart of the fabric of Star Trek for decades and is a cultural icon in his own right as a character. As a character, Sulu is hugely important to the history of positive representation of Asian characters in film. To erase that erases one of the handful of positive representations Asian fans and other fans of color have (a similar aspect seen in how poorly AoS fans and Spirk shippers have treated Uhura since the beginning of the reboot).

sulu-5Bottom line, stop removing race from the conversation. If Sulu was a “safe choice” for Paramount to allow being queer, that’s a cause of racism in Hollywood. Instead of advocating, “Well Kirk should be bi or pansexual and get with Spock because there’s history there and their both leads” you could be advocating for Sulu to get more prominence in the franchise. Instead of pushing for the spotlight to be continuously on the white male characters.

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