By Laura Davis
George Takei may have come to our attention in the role of Mr. Sulu, but he continues on in our affection by being just plain awesome. Today marks Takei’s 76th birthday, and we’d like to take this opportunity to wish him a happy birthday and many more years to come.
You’d think at age 76, George Takei would be slowing down some, but in truth, he’s got so many irons in the fire, it’s hard to keep track of them all. At a time in life when many of his contemporaries can’t even figure out social media, Takei not only figured it out, but took the Internet by storm. In his recent book, Oh, Myyy!, he explains in great detail (and with great humor) how he came to host a Facebook page that boasts nearly four million followers and an extremely popular Twitter account, as well. Part of the equation is PR skills, but the bottom line is Takei himself. His wonderfully warped sense of humor, passion for the causes he embraces, and eloquent way of addressing more serious matters add up to a man whom people appreciate as more than just a pop culture icon.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, young Takei was interned by the U.S. government, along with his family and so many other Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants. Despite the disgraceful treatment his family received at the hands of their own government, Takei shows no sign of holding a grudge. In Oh, Myyy!, he writes, “When I was a teenager I wanted to understand our incarceration. And I had long discussions with my father on the internment, and despite the fact that my father lost everything — his businesses, his home, his freedom — he maintained his belief in the basic principle of the democratic system. He sort of very gently guided me into being an activist.”
Takei explains, “My life mission has been to raise the awareness in America of a World War II chapter of our history when innocent American citizens, simply because they looked like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor, were incarcerated.” Talking about the musical production, Allegiance, which he produced and acted in, he asks, “How do you sell a musical on a very dark and shameful chapter that people know little about and understand even less? … the way to do it is the communication medium of the 21st century, social media.”
In 2005, Takei came out publicly, and in 2008, he and Brad Altman became one of the few gay couples to be legally married during California’s brief window of opportunity. Takei has been a beacon for gay rights, including marriage equality, for many years and in many ways. In 2011, when the state of Tennessee was considering legislation which would have banned the use of the word “gay” in public schools, Takei offered the use of his name as a replacement: it’s ok to be Takei.
For all the weighty issues Takei takes on with gusto, he keeps a positive attitude and an ability to laugh: at trolls, at himself, at corny memes, and at pictures of cats with goofy captions. When you’ve lived 76 years and seen hard times, you probably start to realize that you may as well laugh, because stressing out doesn’t keep life from happening. Takei credits some of his youthful attitude to husband Brad, and some to his Buddhist faith. Whatever the formula, it’s obviously working well. Thanks for all that you do, Mr. Takei, and here’s wishing you many more years of laughter!
Bonus: If you’re interested in watching as much of George Takei as possible on his birthday, then check out this!
George Takei image licensed under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license. | hulu | YouTube | Schedule information via Direct2TV