In a deeply odd interview (HT: The Mary Sue) with AfterElton, J.J. Abrams sets new standards in equivocating when he discusses whether he’d have an openly gay character in a subsequent Star Trek movie:
I would say that it is, you know, something that I would love to do, but just the way I would be careful doing a story that would involve any of the characters and their personal lives. The balance is always, what how does that story relate to sort of the bad guy, which by the way is always going to be that critical thing, what are they up against? The question how do you get into literally these are personal sexual lives of these characters?
I just wouldn’t want the agenda to be … whether it’s a heterosexual relationship or a homosexual relationship, to tell a story that was, that felt distracting from part of the purpose of the story is. So I’m in complete open-minded, you know, I’m interested in finding a way to do that but it’s almost like, it’s a tricky thing, because it’s the right thing to do and sometimes so is a story about something that also has some kind of meaning but do it and if it in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re doing it in order to make that point because then it’s almost a disservice. Because then it feels like “oh that stupid distracting subplot about you know, you know, that minority. Or those people… ” The thing that really matters to you as a writer. So the question is how do you do it where it doesn’t feel like why am I getting into that kind of detail about the character’s life if not just to make a point of it? So the answer is, I think it should be done and I’ve love to be able to do it. And the question is once we get through the bigger issues of certain structural things that are really the key to the show or the movie being done well.
I guess I must have missed something where Uhura and Spock’s relationship is integral to embodying the fight against Nero because dude came through a black hole to ban interracial relationships in the Federation. And Abrams, who says here that “I don’t know who’s assuming characters aren’t gay or are gay” in expressing concern about how fans picture the characters, doesn’t seem to have been so vastly concerned about the original conception of Spock and Uhura — in which Uhura hits on Spock and he blows her off — that he resisted pairing them up in his alternate continuity.
What worked about that pairing, in fact, was that Abrams and Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci did something that movies rarely do, but that is, in fact, totally natural: showed two characters in a relationship using sexual contact as a means of expressing tenderness rather than desire. The fact that Spock needed comfort in the wake of extreme trauma was specific to the plot, but there was no reason the person he got comfort from also needed to illuminate the Romulan threat. The same could easily, and comfortably, be true of a gay character. Someone should tell Abrams that it’s not a victory over tokenism to keep gay people invisible, especially when that invisibility is increasingly obviously at odds with the Star Trek vision of a progressive future.