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An Interracial Kiss Nearly Sank 'Star Trek.' Then George Takei Brought Up Homosexuality.
Also: Hear the powerful story behind how Mister Sulu got his name.
George Takei is best known for his portrayal of Mr. Sulu in the acclaimed television and film series Star Trek. He’s an actor, social justice activist, social media mega-power, star of the upcoming Broadway musical Allegiance, and subject of To Be Takei, a documentary on his life and career. Takei’s acting career has spanned five decades, with more than 40 feature films and hundreds of television guest-starring roles to his credit. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Actors’ Equity Association, and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
With the outbreak of World War II, Los Angeles, California-born Takei and his family were placed behind the barbed-wire enclosures of United States internment camps along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans. He spent most of his childhood at Camp Rohwer in the swamps of Arkansas and at wind-swept Camp Tule Lake in northern California. At the end of the war, Takei’s family returned to their native Los Angeles. Inspired by this difficult chapter of American history, Takei developed the Broadway-bound musical Allegiance, an epic story of love, family and heroism in which he stars alongside Tony Award winner Lea Salonga.
He is also a member of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender political organization. Takei is Chairman Emeritus of the Japanese American National Museum’s Board of Trustees; a member of the US-Japan Bridging Foundation Board of Directors; and served on the Board of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission under President Bill Clinton. In recognition of his contribution to the Japan-United States relationship, in 2004, Takei was conferred with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, by His Majesty, the Emperor of Japan.
With Takei’s expansion into social media, interest in his personal life expanded. In January 2014, To Be Takei, a Jennifer M. Kroot documentary on the life and career of Takei, premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January, and was later released in select theaters across North America. Among his many accomplishments are a Grammy nomination Takei shared with Leonard Nimoy, in 1987, in the Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording category. He has received a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame in 1986. And in 1991, Takei left his signature and hand print, in cement, in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
As an author, Takei’s first book, his autobiography, To the Stars, was published in 1994; and in 2012 and 2013 he published his second and third books, Oh Myyy! There Goes The Internet, and its sequel, Lions And Tigers And Bears: The Internet Strikes Back. The latter two books explored his forays on social media and the Internet, earning placement on the Amazon ebook and paperback best-seller lists in 2012 and 2013.
Takei’s social media dominance is best denoted by his numerous awards. Mashable.com named Takei the most-influential person on Facebook in 2012, where he currently has over 8.8 million “likes.” In 2013, Takei won the Shorty Award for Distinguished Achievement in Internet Culture. He has 1.7 million followers on Twitter, and posts on various social media platforms, expanding his reach now with the 2015 debut of the YouTube series, “It Takeis Two,” starring with husband, Brad Takei. The “reality” series shares the couple’s daily navigation of their world, with George’s vibrant sense of humor and Brad’s less-than-optimistic pragmatism. In 2015, Cosmopolitan Magazine named Takei “One of the Internet’s 50 Most Fascinating People.” In early 2016, he has plans to relaunch his personal site, GeorgeTakei.com.
George Takei: The creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, was a true visionary. The starship Enterprise was supposed to be soaring through space in the 23rd century. By that time the crew of Enterprise reflected the philosophy that Gene Roddenberry had.
Gene Roddenberry felt that the Enterprise was a metaphor for starship Earth and the strength of this starship lay in its diversity. People of many different backgrounds, many different cultures, many different experiences, many different ethnicities coming together and working in concert as a team boldly going where no one had gone before. And that was depicted in the makeup of the crew. African-American woman as the communications chief; the captain was a North American. The engineer was a European and my character, Sulu, was to represent Asia.
The problem he had was to find a name for this Asian character from the 23rd century because every Asian surname is nationally specific. Tanaka is Japanese. Wong is Chinese. Kim is Korea. And 20th century Asia was turbulent with warfare, colonization, rebellion and he didn't want to suggest that. He wanted to depict and suggest a much more enlightened society. And he wanted to find a name that suggested all of Asia, Pan Asia and that was a real dilemma for him. He had a map of Asia pinned on the wall and he was staring at it trying to get some inspiration for the Asian character. And he found off the coast of the Philippines the Sulu Sea. And he thought ah, the waters of a sea touch all shores, embracing all of Asia. And that's how my character came to have the name Sulu. And so that's the kind of vision he had projecting into the 23rd century.
However, I did very privately bring up the issue of gays and lesbians. And he was certainly, as a sophisticated man, mindful of that, but he said — in one episode we had a biracial kiss; Captain Kirk and Uhura had a kiss. That show was literally blacked out in the south. Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia didn't air that; our ratings plummeted. It was the lowest-rated episode that we had. And he said, "I'm treading a fine tight wire here. I'm dealing with issues of the time. I'm dealing with the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and I need to be able to make that statement by staying on the air." He said, "If I dealt with that issue, I wouldn't be able to deal with any issue because I would be canceled." And I understood that because I was still closeted at that time. I talked to him as a liberal rather than as a gay man and I understood his position on that.
So that's the way Star Trek envisioned our future in the 23rd century, but I think we're getting closer to that utopian society that Gene Roddenberry visualized, much more rapidly than even the technology. We had this amazing technology on Star Trek. We had this device on our hip; walked all over the ship and whenever we wanted to talk to someone we would rip it off and start talking. Back in the '60s that was an astounding device. No wires attached to it? And now in the 21st century, early part of the 21st century, we not only talk to people, but all the things that we do there, send text messages, watch movies, listen to music; it's amazing the kind of progress that we're making, both technologically and societally.
Actor, activist, prolific meme-generator, and cultural icon George Takei graces Big Think with his presence today in this powerful five-minute clip. Takei explores Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's ambitious and progressive vision for the future: "Roddenberry felt that the Enterprise was a metaphor for starship Earth and the strength of this starship lay in its diversity."
We also learn that Takei's character, Sulu, represented a united Asia free of the many strifes Roddenberry witnessed during the 20th century. Takei tells us how the name "Sulu" came about; it's an incredibly inspirational story.
Finally, Takei explains the now-glaring omission of gay and lesbian characters from Roddenberry's progressive Enterprise. In short, it was the 1960s and the biracial kiss between Uhura and Kirk nearly sank the show. Roddenberry knew there were limits to what the public would tolerate and he couldn't risk losing his platform for social commentary by testing them. Thankfully, as Takei notes, times have changed quite a bit since then in so many ways. And Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry are partly responsible.
Join The Daily Show comedian Jordan Klepper and elite improviser Bob Kulhan live at 1 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14!
Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".