Stop retconning movie sexuality
Representation only counts if you actually see it, argues Empire contributor Amy West
SMOOTH-TALKING SMUGGLER Lando Calrissian is pansexual — or so Solo: A Star Wars Story co-writer Jonathan Kasdan tells us anyway. There may not be any clear-cut evidence in the film to suggest that’s the case for Donald Glover’s character in the Star Wars prequel, but inclusion’s inclusion and we queer fans should be grateful, right? Well, no. Not really.
There comes a time when writers, directors and studio executives have to stop saying they would have loved to have included a more explicitly LGBTQ character in their movie (just like Kasdan did in his recent Huffington
Post interview) and actually put their money where their mouths are. It’s time. It was time yesterday. Yet characters are still being given retconned sexualities, rather than being given their own space to be who they are.
By including us in this lackadaisical way, it plays into the notion that it’s okay for LGBTQ people to be involved, so long as they keep their sexuality hidden; a notion that has no place in 2018. Worse, it adopts an even more insidious undertone when such characters’ constant omission from films aimed at younger audiences — such as Star Wars — subconsciously backs that idea that seeing nonstraight people simply existing is not something children should be subjected to. It provides the ammunition for intolerant people to suggest so, at least, because they’ve never had that outdated belief challenged by the very films they love.
The counter-argument (often to be found in online comment sections) seems to be that unless the film in question is about same-sex relationships, then there’s no place for queer characters. It’s not hard to find reactions from franchise fans along the lines of, “Who cares?” or, “Why does their sexuality matter in a film that’s about space battles?” But straight characters’ preferences are constantly being established through flirtatious moments or even full-blown romances.
Being LGBTQ isn’t someone’s story, it’s just a part of what makes them them. Much like teasing Han
Solo was Leia’s thing; Maz Kanata has a crush on Chewbacca, and BB-8 loves a tickle. It’s characterisation. It shouldn’t need a subplot to make it into the final edit.
Sadly, there have been recent instances where groundbreaking scenes that could have confirmed a character’s sexuality have been left on the cutting room floor; one involving bisexual
Thor: Ragnarok hero Valkyrie, and another involving two Dora Milaje members in Black Panther. And Dumbledore being gay off-screen doesn’t warrant the entire Harry
Potter franchise getting Brownie points if Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald glosses over that fact. Dumbledore was supposedly in love with Grindelwald; it can’t be argued it’s not relevant. It’s a cop-out, and it’s not good enough.
We deserve to be seen in these narratives and actions speak louder than words. No-one’s expecting every queer character to awkwardly come out while flying the Millennium Falcon through hyperspace; it could just be a few passing comments. But it should never be ‘nothing’, because to some, it could mean everything.
Top: Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Above: Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) in Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.