Sulu, To Queer or Not to Queer?

(Left) “Sulu promotional image” Paramount pictures 2016.
(Right) “Classic Sulu,” George Takei, OTS, 1960’s.

A little late in the game but I thought I would throw my hat into the ring on the issue.

There has been some contention surrounding making a prominent character, Hikaru Sulu first portrayed by icon George Takei and then later John Cho in the reboot films, was made officially gay  in the most recent film incarnation, Star Trek:Beyond.

This has caused varying reactions within and without the Trek fan community, all informed in their reactions from various backgrounds, and in their relationships to either the character or the franchise as a whole.

This article shall examine some of those various vocal contentions out there.

  1. Canon Purist Position (as I call it):

This position, as with many canon traditionalists, is critical of either subtle or not so subtle changes made to a character from the original material. In the case of Sulu, the argument is that Sulu being gay somehow fundamentally compromises his original depiction as a symbolic figure of multiculturalism (in this case as ambiguous Asian representation).

In Star Trek Beyond, according to writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin, the change was made as an homage nod to George Takei.

Takei was not nodding back, as in an article in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, George Takei was disproving of making Sulu canonically gay (even if it was in an Alternate Universe), stating: “…Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought.” Takei had been trying to talk to the filmmakers into creating a new character instead of using a canonically straight character, with unfortunately little success.

  1. Living up To the Promise Position (as I call it).

This position lies in the contention that Trek as a whole has been sorely lacking in prominent queer representations, particularly human ones, and has not lived up to its promise of all-inclusive equality and discourse on the human condition that premises the foundation of the ideology of Trek at its core.  Certainly there has been some representations here and there, but they were usually isolated to a handful of episodes throughout the franchise’s decades long tenure, and mostly to aliens.

The pro position claims that having Sulu being gay, despite the objections from Takei and others, at least gives something towards those Trekkers looking for themselves in Star Trek without devolving into a few isolated appearances or venturing down the tricky slope into Tokenisim. Pegg claims he chose not to create a new character in an article from The Guardian, outside of the nod to Takei, is because he was afraid it would be seen precisely as a token. Particularly as this is the third film of the new universe series (and one of the excuses he uses to explain having a canonically gay character that wasn’t in the original).

These are perhaps the most prevalent positions in the debate over Beyond’s Sulu in bare bones.

So the question then: Who is right?

Much like with many other contentious debates, there is no clear right or wrong side in this issue.

Of Traditionalists end, which has the highest support of the two in the general reaction mishmash floating online do have a point: the Star Trek Franchise does need its own new character, which is something that the fanbase has been asking for a long, long, LONG time.

The new movie franchise was all about a fresh new start with an AU concept that does allow for things like new prominent characters of whatever identity to come to the fore, and if they are written well, then there is no excuse for not having one already.

There is even a perfect spot such a character could take up that was never really filled until Tasha Yar came along in ST:TNG ,that was never filled in TOS (at least not steadily), the Security Chief. There is no Security Chief in the latest films either,and with the crew a bit more settled, thus provides a perfect spot to put in a prominent character, a place for optimum re-appearance possibilities without treading the dangerous ground of one off the token.

The “fresh take” that the latest three films promise does cling a little too hard to what came before it in some aspects  -cough! Into Darkenss, cough!-  such as maintaining the main character lineup without introducing new long term faces to the main crew,  this has hindered more then helped, at least in regards to some of Pegg’s intentions.

Though to be fair, introducing a new character would have worked better if they were introduced within the first or even second film certainly, but if written smart there is definitely a spot there for a new character provided they continued as a regular throughout later films.

As for whether it compromises Sulu’s character…well not much really, at least in my opinion.

Takei’s Sulu was a Swordsman, a Botanist, a friend to others, and had a great personality. He was a family man with a daughter, had excellent command ability, and did well as an et al Asian culture figurehead for the times, especially with so few positive representations during the period he first appeared.

Cho’s Sulu is a Swordsman, a Botanist, has personality, is a family man with a daughter, has excellent command ability, and retains his ability to be a multicultural symbol representing Asian culture. Being suddenly gay doesn’t take away any of the fundamental core qualities of Sulu and what makes him important to Star Trek as a whole, with the only difference perhaps being that Sulu now relate to even more identities in Asian culture, and presents one of the few prominent Asian Queer characters to ever grace mainstream Western Cinema, especailly tied to such a prominat franchise juggernaut as the Star Trek franchise, just as original Sulu did for television with Asian culture in the 60’s.

As a plot point in and of itself outside of Old vs New Sulu contention, it actually aided in small way to providing an added emotional connection between one of the crew to the “giant show globe in space” during the climax and didn’t override the main story. In fact, the gay reference is very subdued and brief, and Sulu doesn’t even mention the word “Husband’ at all, or display any other sort of overt intimacy with his significant other except an embrace.

In the end, Sulu being gay doesn’t detract from what made Sulu who he is and why we love him. But at the same time, the Star Trek Franchise as a whole does need more inclusion. This could be better facilitated with a new character that is given development outside of just their queer identity, with well written parts, great acting and preferably a human character (to avoid the “othering” argument of science fiction).

Fortunately with the upcoming show Star Trek: Discovery this coming May, it has been stated that Brian Fuller, one of the creators along side Alex Kurtzman, was particularly concerned with making sure there was better representations within the cast, including queer representations, and there has been press releases that have stated there will be a prominent Gay character. Hopefully the show will meet with expectations in a way that the attempts with Sulu in the films  were not as able to reach and the Star Trek Franchsise, finally, can keep its promise of equality.

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Screen Squinty’s “The Tick, Pilot” Review.

 

Show: The Tick (2016).
Directed by: Wally Pfister.
Season/Ep: E1 “Pilot.”
Released: 2016.

Ah yes, The Tick, that glorious blue behemoth of melodramatic verbosity packaged in the meaty vacuum seal of clueless brawnality.

He bounded into our hearts out of his first appearance as a humble newsletter mascot for the New England Comics chain created by Ben Edlund in 1986. He leaped into a comic book series of his own only a couple of years later, and he smashed walls in his own animated series in 1994 picked up by Fox, which lead to merchandise and a video game, then in 2001 a short lived single season live action series. Since then, he was only remembered only in re-run epitaphs. Tick had been ingloriously shelved, the public’s hunger for the absurdist blue fists of justice into limbo.

Then from the flavorless mothballs The Tick emerges again to cause copious property damage as Amazon, looking to take a bite out of the fiscal delights of fictional superjustice, announced that a new live-action The Tick series, directed by Wally Pfister and starring Peter Serafinowicz, would air, and released a Pilot to indice th eaudience to choose continuation for Big Blue. Tick fans, including yours truly, excitedly gathered around there computer screens to see what new version of this creature had emerged.

What came out of the pupa of prolongation was…well…an amalgamation of opinion of whether this show does justice to all that has come before it.

First of all, the warm yeasty praise for the first episode to come out of the oven lies in the rich harvest grain of Arthur’s backstory, whom is being played by the appropriately built Griffin Newman, and Arthur’s added butter of possible mental disorder.

The fuller development as a character, other then the unwitting leaf stuck to the blued buns of spoofery, was very needed for Arthur fans, and was one of the things that the previous incarnations lacked. Admittedly though, seeing an Arthur without his suit at first, give you that uncomfortable scraped-kneee naked feeling on behalf of the character, but the serious yet you-can’t-help-laugh-stock child tragedy intriguingly provided both a motive and challenge for Arthur’s reasons behind becoming a superhero, and added weight behind when he is confronted with putting the suit on for the first time.

The crispy golden crust of Tick provided a Darkwing Duckian wordplay around the soft bread of the episode, so it was difficult to get a proper flavor for the main chewey focus that is Tick, but from what was seen of Serafinowicz so far, he is doing a decent job of filling his predecessors antennae with his excellent narration and monologue filling.

Despite the positive aspects of the episode, the show itself as a whole was an awkward dancing macarana between the full on saddle blazing humour of the previous shows and all they parodied, and the serious superdramas that were being made fun of in the previous incarnations. No matter which side it gyrates it’s still an all-around awkward first dance for the series, lacking the precise amount of the particular humour that was entirity of hte previous incarnations.

The Aue du Netflix/CW scent possibly enticing Amazon to drink the koolaid is the big worry here for many fans and newcomers looking for something more, but only later episodes will tell if The Tick will bare the cloying scent of production hegemony, or will be a breath of fresh air.

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Screen Squinty’s “Sausage Party” Review.

Film: Sausage Party.
Directed by: Greg Tiernan.
Released: 2016.
Running Time: 88 min.

Sausage Party is adult computer animated adventure comedy directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, with the story conceived by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jonah Hill. The film centers around a sausage trying to find the truth to the meaning of his existence and that of every other sentient food item in a grocery store.

This is the first CGI film to ever earn an R rating, and the directorial debut for Tiernan. That is both allegorical and can be read as a spoof of big name animation companies such as Pixar and Dreamworks. it had a hamstring (for an animation) budget of 17 million; so it’s no wonder that it’s been a slow burn of 8 years to be made (among other reasons).

Usually when a film, particularly an animation, goes through such a long stretch, what comes out the other end is not always the best (Pixar’s Dinosaur is a classic example of the foibles that can arise from long term production limbo).

The question then lies if Sausage Party goes the way of other animations in this regard. Is this truly worth the ridiculously priced ticket fees?

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Nitrogen Studios, “Potato,” screen shot from Sausage Party Trailer, 2016.

The animation is certainly worth it. The simple yet clever character designs, the detail of the grocery store and human world from the perspective of the food characters, and the flow of movement of each character within the world was impressive. Then there was the horrifically detailed gore some how worked through cartoon food items so well its stunning. The attention to visual tone of the overall story combined with the walking visual puns and innuendos was a visual treat to the eye. Kudos and credit goes to all 83 of the hard working animators at Nitrogen Studios, this movie couldn’t have made it as far as it did without their amazing work.

The voice acting was top notch with Rogen (Frank), Kristen Wiig (Brenda Bunson), Michael Cera (Barry), Edward Norton (Sammy Bagel Jr.), Selma Hayek (Teresa Taco), David Krumholtz (Kareem Abdul Lavash), and Nick Kroll as a Douche of a main antagonist.

Congrats though goes to Edward Norton whose Woody Allen vocal impression combined with a reference to another famous Jewish actor (and bagels), created one of the most stereotyped walking food items to join animated history.

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Nitrogen Studios, “Sausage Party Characters,” screen shot from Sausage Party Trailer, 2016.

The humour was…well…. imagine every popular ethnic, racial, cultural, gender, and sexuality stereotype in entertainment of the past decade or more and then merge them with the animated musical snipe “Let’s all go to the lobby” from 1953, filtered through the brain of an ignorant pre-teen who plays “hot dog pants” day after watching Toy Story and you would have the humour, and this movie, in a nutshell.

Normally that would be somewhat worth dismissal on paper, and was likely a big part of the reluctance to Rogen’s proposal from the various other studios for so long, and any sane cinephile would agree with them and not give the film more then a raised eyebrow or two.

But…*sigh* how to put this?

It’s still weirdly funny. Yes, you heard it. This raunchy walking food pun was so all-inclusive in its stereotypes and crudeness, combined with some actual smart humorous moments without the stereotypes, and wrapped it in an engaging premise and narrative, that you can’t help being sucked in.

That leads us finally to the best part of the film, which is the story.

The allegory of Atheism clunks you upside the head like a bedpan to the noggin certainly, coming more as an anti-Veggie Tales. But the plot ran with an evenly balanced main Journey (Frank), and secondary journey (Barry) which engrossed you completely into this world of the Food’s perceptions. Its shock scenes in all the right places right along with its humour, destabilized any sort of standard predictability. The pace worked, and the truly great jokes outside of the aforementioned fare were carried throughout the film surprisingly well, and topped off by some really good antagonist sources in Douche and the entirety of Humanity. Finished with a very…satisfying climax.

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Nitrogen Studios, “Hot Dog Sausages,” screen shot from Sausage Party Trailer, 2016.

 

Overall, the movie in and of itself is definitely worth a watch. There isn’t a moment where something doesn’t horrify you and make you laugh at equal measures, and sometimes at the same.  Combining this with great animation, voice acting, and engaging premise- it boggles the mind to say it, but- it’s smart at being stupid, and stupidly smart at telling an engrossing story, despite going out of its way to purposefully promote an equality of offending everyone.

I highly recommend this film for anyone over the age of 18.

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Screen Squinty Announcement.

Greetings all!

For those who may be interested, I have started a few new things on the net as of late.

Queer Characters Wikia

Queer Television characters is concerned with creating a sort of basic database for reference on Queer characters from television and online media.

I have included a page on this site connected to the wikia characters mentioned so far under Queer Television Characters Wikia

It can be found here.

 

Queerflect

I also started another Facebook page alongside this site’s page dedicated to the sharing and discussion of queer representations in movies, TV, online media primarily and occasionally books, graphic novels, video games, and art.

It can be found here

tit.

High Hoof

For those who are familiar with me, its no secret that i am a fan of the show My LIttle Pony, so I decided a nice blog in which links to various things MLP related will be shared is just the ticket.

If your curious, check it out here.

hi

 

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Screen Squinty’s “The Boy” Review.

Film: The Boy.
Directed by: William Brent Bell.
Released: 2016.
Running Time: 97 min.

This is an American Chinese horror/psychological film directed by William Brent Bell and written by Stacey Delay and staring Lauren Cohan as Greta, a young pretty something who takes a job as a nanny to a creepy doll named Brahms in a creepy house, and gets sucked into the mystery of it all while being haunted by said doll.

The technical aspect of the film was perhaps the strongest part of it, utilizing some clever little transitions between shots here and there such as the transition from the close up of the photo of the little boy then morphing in transition to the doll in the next shot. The utilizing light and shadow was also smartly used in closeups of the doll’s face from time to time, providing this sort of eerie almost organic other-worldliness to the doll.

The film had some decent acting from the lead of Lauren Cohan as Greta, who did a good job in developing something of a believable dynamic with the Brahms doll (at least with what she had to work with) and a decent effort with the leads depiction all together.

Unfortunately though, whatever good qualities can be found in the film it is still hampered by the most important aspect for the film, the story.

Needless to say, there is nothing original about the rather old cliche of a doll as the focal point creep factor, but that in itself isn’t necessarily whats wrong with the film. Any movie can use cliches and still be a good movie as long as how you use them is original as possible, interesting, and clever.

You can tell that this film thought it was doing so, or at least trying to think it was, but it fell through in so many ways.

Certainly the premise can seem a little ridiculous at first glance (which rather appropriately matches peoples reaction to Brahms in the movie) but if the story is given enough time to be properly nurtured, to develop progressively overtime, whittling down Greta’s sense of what is real and what isn’t, then it could have worked. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t take the time to do so.

There is nothing overly internal that is properly developed in the character from the beginning to set her up, and the later revelation of her losing her baby was sort of rushed and just blurted out in a bit of exposition. The character rather readily accepts that Brahms is no ordinary doll, and doesn’t really try to investigate Brahms overmuch other then asking a few questions and looking at some pictures.There is no properly developed mystery, no hook that could keep spectators invested.

Because the story wasn’t properly developed by the time the twist ending happens, there really isn’t anything to support the believably of said twist. It just exists for the sake of it. Had the Greta questioned her own faculties a bit more, or the story took greater advantage of the psychological effects of her own isolation, and given her just a bit more believable skepticism, the twist wouldn’t have been so…there.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad film visually, with some decent cinematography and the doll was reasonably creepy within the cannon of the story and the acting was good (with what they had to work with). But the story is riddled with underdevelopment and rush jobs here and there which made the conclusion weak and dissatisfying and overall…meh.

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