Star Wars to feature gay love, hints director

Love at first flight: Finn and Poe take a break from their galactic quest. © PA

Scenes in the latest Star Wars film have set off gaydars. The cast and crew have hinted at gay characters in future films. Is it time the series came out and embraced homosexuality?

The rumours began on the day of the premiere. When Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens was released in December, viewers took to the internet to discuss the relationship between resistance fighter Finn (John Boyega) and pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). The hug, the sharing of clothes, the way Poe bites his lip while looking at Finn: could something be going on between them?

They did not have to wait long for a (sort of) answer. ‘I was playing romance,’ Isaac told a chat show host, referring to a scene between Poe and Finn. Soon after, Rian Johnson – who is directing Episode VIII – tweeted a fan’s drawing of the pair kissing. In February, Boyega added fuel to fire by uploading a video of himself working out as Isaac watches.

And now The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams has dropped the strongest hint yet. Asked if he saw a future for gay characters in the franchise, he replied, ‘Of course!’ Many fans are now convinced that the bromance between Poe and Finn will lose its ‘b’ in Episode VIII, and the characters will come out as gay.

The response has been mostly supportive. After giving starring roles to a woman and a black man, it is about time Star Wars featured homosexual leads, say some. They point out that promoting LGBT culture is in keeping with the films’ theme of a civilised Light Side vanquishing a repressive Dark Side.

Yet others doubt that the filmmakers will take the leap. When gay characters were included in a Star Wars novel and video game, some fans reacted with horror. Disney (the studio behind the films) is also wary of offending China, which tends to ban films that involve homosexuality. A lot of money stands to be made with Episode VIII – and a lot of money lost, if certain audiences are alienated.

In any case, this has become such a hot topic that Finn’s relationship with Poe will come under great scrutiny when Episode VIII is released next year. The people behind the world’s greatest franchise are under pressure to ‘get this right’. What should they do?

A new hope?

Simple, say some: just make Poe and Finn gay. Society now largely accepts homosexuality, and Hollywood is beginning to reflect this. If Star Wars fails to do so, it will disappoint legions of fans and look hopelessly old-fashioned. Isaac and Boyega have chemistry – it would be a waste not to use that.

This sounds good in principle, reply others. But Star Wars should not be about romance – remember how those endless love scenes ruined the prequels? On the other hand, if the filmmakers include a gay relationship but don’t bother to flesh it out, it will feel like lazy tokenism. So they should think twice before outing Poe and Finn.

You Decide

  1. Who is your favourite film character, and why?
  2. Does it matter whether Poe and Finn are gay?

Activities

  1. You have been asked to come up with the story for a Hollywood blockbuster. Write a one-page summary.
  2. Pick three films (or novels) that depict LGBT relations in three different ways. Write a 500-word essay in which you compare the three, and explain which you think is the most successful.

Some People Say...

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.”

Bertolt Brecht

What do you think?

Q & A

Big deal. I don’t even like Star Wars.
But many, many people do. The Force Awakens has taken $2bn in ticket sales – an all-time record. Phrases like ‘may the force be with you’ have entered everyday language. Several thousand British people identify themselves as Jedis. NASA has sent lightsabers into orbit. The films’ influence is huge, so the debate over gay characters matters.
Don’t we have enough movies about gay people?
Films about homosexuality are more popular than ever: look at the success of lesbian dramas Carol and Blue Is the Warmest Colour. Yet gay characters are still rare in action blockbusters. This is changing – take Independence Day 2 – but some say that until the proportion of gay characters reflects the proportion of gays in real life, there is room for improvement.

Word Watch

Fan’s drawing
Poe and Finn are the subject of a great deal of fan art, as well as thousands of stories on fan fiction website Archive of Our Own. Some argue that what happens in the films from now on is irrelevant: Star Wars belongs to its fans, and if they have decided that the couple is gay, then the couple is gay.
LGBT
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. A ‘Q’, for ‘queer’ (or ‘questioning’), is sometimes added.
Horror
Upon its release last September, Star Wars novel Aftermath drew heavy criticism for ‘pushing a gay agenda’. Author Chuck Wendig replied that his critics ‘missed the point of Star Wars’.
China
China is the second-largest film market in the world. It has a poor record in LGBT rights; until 2001, homosexuality was officially classed as a mental illness. Although the government has often banned or censored films perceived as ‘pro-LGBT’, its approval of a film featuring gay leads last year suggests that things may be changing.
Tokenism
A symbolic, insincere effort to include members of minority groups in order to create the appearance of equality.

Subjects

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