J.J. Abrams: George Takei’s gay Sulu critique was ‘preposterous’

George Takei was famously perturbed to learn that Sulu (John Cho) would be identified as a gay man in Star Trek Beyond (after advising the film's creative team not to go in that direction with the character), and while the actor has since kinda-sort backpedaled on his initial comments, producer J.J. Abrams — who directed the first two films in the rebooted series — is speaking out on what he views as a “preposterous” stance by the openly-gay actor, who originated Sulu on Gene Rodenberry”s original Star Trek TV series.

“It is done, as you saw, in a way that is not in the story of the movie, which is one of my favorite things about it. It”s beside the point. I feel that George Takei”s reaction — I”m sure has more to do with George Takei, and the baggage he brings to the proceedings,” Abrams told The Huffington Post. “I think it may be his perception of having played a character a certain way. It might mean something personally to him. I have nothing but respect for the man, but I think it”s a preposterous thing for, of all people, a Star Trek actor – who”s come out himself – to say that Gene Roddenberry wouldn”t have wanted this.” 

In his original comments, Takei expressed disappointment that the filmmakers, including screenwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung and director Justin Lin, took liberties with a character that was not depicted as gay in his original incarnation, citing his respect for Rodenberry”s original vision: “I”m delighted that there”s a gay character,” he told 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.” 

In a later Facebook post, Takei clarified his comments by stating that while he was “delighted” that the franchise had “addressed the issue” of diversity, he believed Sulu was the wrong vehicle for it:

“On the specific question of Sulu being gay, when I was first approached with the concept, I responded that I hoped instead that Gene Roddenberry”s original characters and their backgrounds would be respected. How exciting it would be instead if a new hero might be created, whose story could be fleshed out from scratch, rather than reinvented. To me, this would have been even more impactful. While I understand that we are in an alternate timeline with the new Trek movies, for me it seemed less than necessary to tinker with an existing character in order to fulfill Gene”s hope of a truly diverse Trek universe. And while I am flattered that the character of Sulu apparently was selected as an homage to me, this was never about me or what I wanted. It was about being true to Gene”s vision and storytelling.”

In his interview with The Huffington Post, Abrams counters that Roddenberry absolutely would have written one of the original Star Trek characters as gay “if he had been allowed,” and again expresses puzzlement over Takei”s position:

“One of the many things I admire about [Roddenberry] was … how he was so about inclusivity, and I can”t imagine that he would not have wanted one of these characters, if he had been allowed — which, of course, he would never have been allowed to in that era — [to] have them be gay.”

Abrams continued, “It feels like that is classic Roddenberry, so I don”t know what or why George Takei would take issue with it. I understand he”s backtracked a little bit. But I love the way [writers] Simon Pegg, Doug Jung and [director] Justin Lin did it. Doug Jung, who”s the co-writer, actually plays the husband of Sulu. I think it”s something I”m really proud of.”

You can read the full context of Abrams' comments over at The Huffington Post.