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George Takei reacts to gay Sulu news: “I think it’s really unfortunate…”

George Takei on Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry: “He was a strong supporter of LGBT equality,” recalls Takei, now 79. “But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope — and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air.” 

The Hollwyood Reporter (by Seth Abramovitch):

Star Trek has lived long and prospered for studio home Paramount, spawning six TV series and 13 feature films. True to its title, the latest big-screen outing, Star Trek Beyond, has gone where none have gone before: Star John Cho — who assumes the Sulu mantle for the third time in the reboots — has told Australia’s Herald Sun that the character is revealed to be gay.

The idea came from Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the new films and penned the Beyond screenplay, and director Justin Lin, both of whom wanted to pay homage to Takei’s legacy as both a sci-fi icon and beloved LGBT activist.

And so a scene was written into the new film, very matter-of-fact, in which Sulu is pictured with a male spouse raising their infant child. Pegg and Lin assumed, reasonably, that Takei would be overjoyed at the development — a manifestation of that conversation with Roddenberry in his swimming pool so many years ago.

Except Takei wasn’t overjoyed. He had never asked for Sulu to be gay. In fact, he’d much prefer that he stay straight. “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”

Takei explains that Roddenberry was exhaustive in conceiving his Star Trek characters. (The name Sulu, for example, was based on the Sulu Sea off the coast of the Philippines, so as to render his Asian nationality indeterminate.) And Roddenberry had always envisioned Sulu as heterosexual.

Proving that is not so simple a matter, however. Sulu never had an onscreen love interest duringStar Trek‘s initial three-season run. He did mention a daughter, Demora, who appeared in 1994’s Star Trek Generations, the seventh film in the series (she was played by Jacqueline Kim).

But the only reference to how Demora was conceived appears in a secondary canonical source: the 1995 Star Trek novel The Captain’s Daughter. “It was, to put it crudely, a one-night stand with a glamazon,” Takei explains. “A very athletic, powerful and stunningly gorgeous woman. That’s Demora’s mother.”

Takei first learned of Sulu’s recent same-sex leanings last year, when Cho called him to reveal the big news. Takei tried to convince him to make a new character gay instead. “I told him, ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.’” (Takei had enough negative experiences inside the Hollywood closet, he says, and strongly feels a character who came of age in the 23rd century would never find his way inside one.)

His timeline logic, however, is enough to befuddle even the most diehard of Trek enthusiasts, as the rebooted trilogy takes place before the action of the original series. In other words, assuming canon orthodoxy, this storyline suggest Sulu would have had to have first been gay and married, only to then go into the closet years later.

Not long after Cho’s bombshell call came another, this one from Lin, again informing him that Sulu was indeed to be gay in Star Trek Beyond. Takei remained steadfastly opposed to the decision.

I said, ‘This movie is going to be coming out on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the 50th anniversary of paying tribute to Gene Roddenberry, the man whose vision it was carried us through half a century. Honor him and create a new character. I urged them. He left me feeling that that was going to happen,” Takei says.

After that, all was quiet from Beyond until a few months ago, when Takei received an email from Pegg “praising me for my advocacy for the LGBT movement and for my pride in Star Trek,” he says. “And I thought to myself, ‘How wonderful! It’s a fan letter from Simon Pegg. Justin had talked to him!’” Takei was certain the creative team had rethought their decision to make Sulu gay.

That is until one month ago, when he received an email from Cho informing him that the actor was about to embark on an international media tour for Beyond. Cho said it was bound to come out that his character was gay, and “what should he do?” A disappointed Takei told Cho to go about his promotional duties, but that he was “not going to change” his mind on the matter.

I really tried to work with these people when at long last the issue of gay equality was going to be addressed,” Takei says. “I thought after that conversation with Justin that was going to happen. Months later, when I got that email from Simon Pegg, I was kind of confused. He thinks I’m a great guy? Wonderful. But what was the point of that letter? I interpreted that as my words having been heard.”

Takei for his part is hoping to take Sulu in new directions as well, potentially on CBS’ upcomingStar Trek series, slated to premiere in January and co-run by Alex Kurtzman and Bryan Fuller, who is openly gay.

 

Sulu will be married and gay in ‘Star Trek Beyond’

NBC News:

Star Trek Beyond,” the latest of the “Star Trek” movies, will show Hikaru Sulu with a husband and a daughter, according to a report by Australia-based Herald Sun newspaper.

John Cho, who plays Sulu in the rebooted “Star Trek” movies, told the newspaper that that the decision to reveal Sulu as gay was made by film writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin.

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,” he told the newspaper.

He also told the Herald Sun that the decision was a nod to George Takei, who played Sulu in the original 1966 “Star Trek” television series. Takei and his now-husband, Brad Altman, have been together for 29 years.

Sulu will be the first LGBTQ main character in the franchise, which is known for breaking boundaries. The original TV series famously featured American television’s first interracial on-screen kiss in 1968, only a year after anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Ali Ewoldt takes stage as first Asian-American female lead in Broadway’s ‘Phantom’

NBC News:

Broadway‘s “The Phantom of the Opera” will get its first Asian-American Christine when its new principle cast takes stage on June 13.

Ali Ewoldt, whose mother is from the Philippines, will play the female lead in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Ewoldt previously starred in Broadway’s “Les Miserables,” and in national tours of “The King And I” and “West Side Story.”

Phantom,” the longest-running musical on Broadway, will also see its first African-American Raoul: actor Jordan Donica, who will also begin performing on the 13.

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President Obama signs bill eliminating ‘Oriental’ from Federal Law

U.S. President Barack Obama signed a bill Friday that modernizes the terms used for minorities.

NBC News (by Stephany Bai):

President Barack Obama has signed a bill eliminating all known uses of the term “oriental” from federal law.

The bill, which was sponsored by Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY), was passed by the House of Representatives unanimously on Feb. 29 and again by the Senate on May 9. It was co-sponsored by 76 members of Congress, including all 51 members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said in a statement that she was “proud to have seen this effort through.”

After months of advocacy in both chambers of Congress, derogatory terms in federal law will finally be updated to reflect our country’s diversity,” she said. “Mahalo to President Obama for his quick action.

Oriental” had still existed in Title 42 of the U.S. Code, which was written in the 1970s. It will be replaced with “Asian Americans.”

In a statement, Congresswoman Meng expressed relief that “at long last this insulting and outdated term will be gone for good.”

Many Americans may not be aware that the word ‘Oriental’ is derogatory,” she said. “But it is an insulting term that needed to be removed from the books, and I am extremely pleased that my legislation to do that is now the law of the land.

LA Times: Japanese-American newspaper Rafu Shimpo must get 10,000 subscribers by year’s end, or close its doors

Little Tokyo's Rafu Shimpo, voice of the Japanese American community, faces closureNao Nakanishi, left, staff writer, and Kenji Tokunaga, right, Japanese typesetter, at the Rafu Shimpo newspaper in Los Angeles on April 28

LA Times (by Samantha Masunaga):

For 113 years, the Rafu Shimpo newspaper has chronicled the story of the Japanese American community in Southern California.

It survived World War II, when writers and editors were shipped off to internment camps. Before leaving, they hid the paper’s Japanese type under office floorboards.

But if the money-losing paper doesn’t raise about $500,000 in revenue — by more than doubling its subscribers — it could close in December, marking the end of one of the last English-Japanese dailies in the U.S., and the oldest.

Some of the things we cover you can’t get anywhere else,” said Michael Komai, 64, the paper’s publisher, whose family has run the Little Tokyo-based publication for three generations. “Some people aren’t going to know they’ll miss us until we’re gone.”

Like many papers, the Rafu has struggled to adjust to the changing media landscape. However, those issues have been amplified by its small community, aging readership and the greater assimilation of younger Japanese Americans compared with other Asian American communities.

The Rafu currently has a print circulation of about 7,800, down from a peak of 23,000 subscribers in the late 1980s. Its online subscriptions total about 800.

It became more of a challenge for the Rafu Shimpo to be the hyperlocal community voice because the community dispersed, grew older, and unlike most of the other major Asian news media, was not replenished by increased immigration,” said Sandy Close, executive director of New America Media, a nationwide organization for ethnic media.

The digital revolution, combined with the recession, has, of course, been tremendously challenging for the ethnic media sector overall,” she said.

The Rafu Shimpo — which means, literally, Los Angeles newspaper — got its start in 1903 as a mimeographed sheet put together by three USC students.

In the early 1920s, H.T. Komai, the current publisher’s grandfather, took over the paper. He ushered in several changes, including the development of a new English-language section to appeal to a younger generation after immigration laws stymied the flow of new arrivals from Japan.

As tensions built between Japan and the U.S., the paper ran editorials urging the Nisei — the second generation of Japanese in the United States — to show they were patriotic American citizens. The paper also proclaimed it was “100%” loyal to the U.S.

But on Dec. 7, 1941, hours after Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, Komai was arrested by the FBI along with other leaders from the community who were labeled “enemy aliens.” That left his eldest son, Akira, in charge of the paper’s welfare.

Before Akira Komai was forced into a camp with other Japanese Americans along the West Coast, he hid the newspaper’s Japanese lead type in hopes that the Rafu could one day restart.

The last issue published before the staff was sent to the camps came out on April 4, 1942, and contains a letter from the newsroom with the headline, “We’ll meet again.” At the bottom of the page is a single-line advertisement in bold: “Buy your defense stamps at the Rafu Shimpo.

On Jan. 1, 1946, the paper resumed publishing.

In the postwar era, Japanese Americans returned to L.A., especially Little Tokyo, and the neighborhood became a vibrant community, according to Lane Hirabayashi, a professor in the Asian American studies department at UCLA. In the late 1960s, legislation opened up further immigration from Japan.

The community also began to spread throughout Southern California. Japanese Americans with higher incomes moved out, toward Gardena and the Westside, after civil rights legislation was passed outlawing housing discrimination.

During this period, the Rafu battled for dominance in L.A. against another Japanese American daily, the Kashu Mainichi, and a few other publications. Nearly all have since vanished, and several of their writers, editors and columnists were absorbed into the Rafu’s staff.

That included George “Horse” Yoshinaga, who penned the popular “Horse’s Mouth” column until his death this year at the age of 90.

Horse and I, we got along very well together,” said Maggie Ishino, 90, a part-time typist at the Rafu who transcribed Yoshinaga’s columns for 16 years. “He really had a great sense of humor.”

Ishino began writing her own column, “Maggie’s Meow,” in 2012. She continues to work at the Rafu and takes three buses to reach the office from her home in West Los Angeles.

Today, there are only a few Japanese American publications left in the country. The Hawaii Hochi, founded in 1912, is believed to be the only other English-Japanese daily in the nation.

The shrinking list of Japanese American publications contrasts with the dozens of publications geared toward the Chinese and Korean communities in L.A. and beyond. The disparity reflects shifting levels of immigration among those groups.

In 2014, there were 274,000 ethnic Japanese in California, all but 103,000 of whom were native-born, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This contrasts with the higher number of immigrants in the Chinese and Korean communities. There are 947,000 Chinese immigrants and 334,000 Korean immigrants statewide.

Like many print publications, the Rafu’s subscriber base is composed mostly of older readers. And like larger newspapers, the Rafu has been unable to make up for falling ad revenue.

Last year, the Rafu pulled in $549,502 from advertising, an 8% dip from just two years ago. The paper has lost $750,000 over the last three years, and is expected to lose $350,000 this year.

Editors said they plan to shift their coverage to appeal to younger readers and continue homing in on what makes their stories distinct from those of larger publications.

Only the Rafu covers every single summer Obon festival, the annual Nisei Week celebration in Little Tokyo, and numerous community events from awards dinners to bazaars. When someone in the Japanese American community dies, the obituary will probably appear first — if not only — in the Rafu.

 

Some community members have called for the paper’s management to look for new sources of revenue.

To reach a wider audience, the paper could include stories that appeal to readers interested in Japanese culture, or it could increase the Rafu’s digital presence, said Ellen Endo, former Rafu editor.

The paper recently got an Instagram account and is getting increasingly active on Twitter and Facebook.

The Rafu has also initiated the subscription drive, with a goal of 10,000 new online subscribers for $50 each annually. “This isn’t a one-year fix,” Komai said. “We need an immediate boost, but we also … need steady growth, steady progress.”

Community members have started to respond. About 550 people have signed up for an online subscription since March, when Komai published a letter about the paper’s finances on the front page titled, “The State of the Rafu Shimpo.”