Stop ret­con­ning movie sex­u­al­ity

Rep­re­sen­ta­tion only counts if you ac­tu­ally see it, ar­gues Em­pire con­trib­u­tor Amy West

Empire (Australasia) - - Preview -

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.

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