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April 20, 2011

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George Takei: Nerd Icon, Champion of Equality

Posted by on Apr 20, 2011

When the name George Takei comes up, most people think of Star Trek (if they think of anything). As the first pilot of the Starship Enterprise, the man is a legend among nerds. I can still remember going on a speech and debate tournament in high school 10 years ago, and while in the hotel, passing by a ballroom hosting a small Con. We went by an open door, and my friend Matt looked in and exclaimed “Holy s*** it’s George Takei!”

Now, however, I hear George Takei, and I actually have a dual reaction: I think of Star Trek, but I also think of the issue of equality in America. The man has become a spokesman in the debate over Gay Marriage, and a rationally eloquent one at that. Now he’s speaking out about Hollywood’s tendency to pass over Asian-American actors for Asian roles in film – specifically the upcoming Akira adaptation – and doing it as smoothly and confidently as you’d expect from a former Starfleet pilot.

Takei’s interview with gay news source The Advocate has one issue as its focus: the proposed casting of Caucasian actors for lead roles in the upcoming Warner Brothers adaptation of the seminal Japanese manga/anime Akira. I’ve heard these rumors as well – Zac Efron has been mentioned as a possible Kaneda. The reactions I’ve heard have been fairly angry. In contrast, Mr. Takei’s response is calm, cool, and extremely intelligent. He points out how he doesn’t believe Hollywood to be evil or negligent, but rather unintelligent for ignoring the evidence that white-washing a story based on Asian characters alienates a fan-base. This evidence is the epic flop that was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender.  I honestly can’t do the interview justice, so I recommend you check out the full text over at advocate.com. What I will say is that George Takei continues to gain my respect for being exactly the kind of spokesperson issues like these require. There is no vitriol or rhetoric, simply a good-humored but honest and intelligent opinion. In the American political arena, this is incredibly refreshing.