Star Wars Has Always Been a Little Gay. It Just Needs to Come Out of the Closet.
The Star Wars is universe vast—encompassing 42 years of movies, TV shows, comics, books, toys, video games, and so much more. These stories are only limited by the imagination—the tales of magical beings, of aliens of all types, of distant worlds, languages, and relationships. But, in four decades, the franchise has never managed to depict a single queer romance on screen. And though it's long overdue, that might be about to change.
In an interview with Variety this week about the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker, writer and director J.J. Abrams suggested that the decades-spanning franchise's omission of gay characters could be coming to an end, saying, “In the case of the LGBTQ community, it was important to me that people who go to see this movie feel that they’re being represented in the film.”
That representation is long overdue—not because it’s the “woke” thing to do or because it’s necessary, but because it’s borderline comical that across nine movies, no one has managed to bump into one outright LGBTQ character. There have been friendships between humans and giant dogs, a mildly incestuous kiss, a droid-human romance. But nary a homosexual to be found. For a series as progressive and iconic as Star Wars, not addressing that oversight feels regressive. There are thousands of named characters in the Star Wars universe that comprise every imaginable type of sentient being. At this point, including LGBTQ representation is not just a cultural step forward—it’s the statistically logical thing to do.
The Star Wars franchise has always felt like a natural place to feature LGBTQ characters. As it turns out, there have always been quietly queer characters in the galaxy far, far away. Donald Glover explained that Lando was pansexual during the promotion of Solo, and in an interview with Esquire, Billy Dee Williams discussed his character's, gender fluidity. Disney producers also retroactively confirmed that a couple from the animated series Star Wars Resistance was gay. But, so far, none of this has appeared on the screen in any Star Wars film. And that feels a little bit like a J.K. Rowling style-addendum than an actual plot point.
Before anyone starts tossing out their Finn and Poe fan fiction, Abrams's comment came on the heels of an Oscar Isaac quote confirming that the long-speculated romance between Finn and Poe would not be the LGBTQ romance in the upcoming film. “Personally, I kind of hoped and wished that maybe that would’ve been taken further in the other films, but I don’t have control,” Isaac told Variety. “It seemed like a natural progression, but sadly enough it’s a time when people are too afraid, I think, of… I don’t know what.”
Disney, which purchased Lucasfilm before the new trilogy, has never had a great reputation when it comes to on-screen representation. Even in the company’s Pixar division, a lesbian couple merely featured in the periphery of Toy Story 4 seemed like an accomplishment. Throughout the 20-plus Marvel Cinematic Universe movies the first openly gay character didn't appear until 2019's Endgame. That character was on screen for all of 30 seconds and didn't have a name. And who could forget the big progressive reveal when Disney announced that LeFou was to have a crush on Gaston in the Beauty and the Beast remake? The concept of having a gay man crush on a hulking straight dude isn't progress. It's my seventh grade journal on public display. Hoping for a front and center LGBTQ narrative still feels like a stretch for anything tangentially-Disney. The massive company caters to all, and by all, that means the majority. Gay representation in Disney, at this point, is likely going to look as "inoffensive" as possible.
Fans have long petitioned for Star Wars to better represent the LGBTQ community. In the mid-2010s, Joshua Yehl's petition to include an LGBTQ character in Star Wars amassed thousands of signatures, along with Mark Hamill's support. In response, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy said she would consider putting an LGBTQ character in Star Wars if the story was right.
And going back well before the premiere of the new trilogy, Kennedy has long promised better representation in Star Wars.
“The demographics within our business don’t reflect society, and they certainly don’t reflect the audience,” she said in a 2013 interview. “There should be many, many more faces of color, many more women, many more gay people.”
Yet, here we are, nearing the end of the decade and still no LGBTQ character has appeared in a Star Wars film. And that's heartbreaking, considering Star Wars has always been the place you can come to be weird, to be yourself. It's also, unfortunately, a place that has become synonymous with a great deal of resistance to diversity and change. But LGBTQ communities aren't looking for Star Wars to morph out of space drama territory and into the gay romance genre; queer people just wants to feel like they're not being purposefully cut from the narrative. The one thing Star Wars fans should be able to agree on is that the series has always represented something greater than film. It's an ideology, and excluding the character unlike yourself feels very anti-Star Wars in itself.
In my mind, Star Wars is the frontier for everything could be in the universe. (Also, I'm just tired of keeping Jar Jar Binks as a placeholder for a gay Star Wars icon.) The Star Wars universe is overdue for the LGBTQ representation coming its way—let's just hope the move to include the community is more substantial than lip service.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.