J.J. Abrams, Don’t Forget: “Of Course” There Are Gays in Space

12/19/2017 12:41 pm ET Updated Jan 02, 2018
Vanity Fair

The Last Jedi debuted on December 15, and though it feels way too early to be talking about the next film, on the very same day J.J. Abrams pitched his script for Episode IX to Lucasfilm executives. Shooting is set to begin in June, so now, while the creative iron is still hot as the molten wreckage of the Death Star, is the perfect time to remind Abrams of one thing he said should be included in these films: Gay people.

Abrams, who gave us amazing new characters like Finn and Poe Dameron and their glittering on-screen chemistry and is returning to direct Episode IX, told audiences at a pre-Oscars event last year that “of course” future films should include gay characters.

"To me, the fun of Star Wars is the glory of possibility," Abrams said, according to the Daily Beast. "So it seems insanely narrow-minded and counterintuitive to say that there wouldn't be a homosexual character in that world."

It is insanely counterintuitive to say there are no LGBTQ people in the entire Star Wars galaxy — and yet, we’ve seen absolutely zero evidence in the films that they exist. Force-wielding space monks and little teddy bear aliens (hell, even Jar Jar Binks) are easier to believe in than a world populated entirely by heterosexual, cisgender people.

And we deserve better.

As I’ve argued before, stories matter. Representation matters. It changes minds, saves lives, and evolves our stories. It humanizes those unlike ourselves and is a powerful celebration of the diversity of the real world, which are both time-honored components of science fiction.

Stories give us hope, and no story is more about hope than Star Wars. Representation lets us see ourselves reflected there, and we all deserve to know we can be heroes.

This act of conscious inclusion is even more important in the current political climate, but Hollywood hasn’t been doing its part. Only 18.4% of films released by major studies in 2016 included characters who were explicitly LGBTQ, according to GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index . Disney in particular is dropping the ball, with no films with LGBTQ characters in 2015 and only one last year. That film was Zootopia, with a pair of non-human background characters who weren’t even acknowledged as gay in the film itself.

Data from GLAAD’s 2017 <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.glaad.org/files/2017_SRI.pdf" target="_blank">Studio Responsibility
GLAAD
Data from GLAAD’s 2017 Studio Responsibility Index

Disney, as the shepards of both the Star Wars franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is perfectly situated to provide the most powerful, impactful, and farthest-reaching representation. Yet both of those major franchises still feature zero LGBTQ characters.

It’s time that Disney and Lucasfilm acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ people by backing Abrams and allowing him to include the representation he values. In his own words, “I would love it.”

The Star Wars universe already missed an opportunity in The Last Jedi with Admiral Holdo, who is described as pansexual in the books but not confirmed as queer in the film. Another missed opportunity came from Baze and Chirrut in Rogue One, though it’s already a lost cause convincing me and many other fans they weren’t a couple. They should not let another opportunity pass with Finn and Poe — who already have fans whispering, hoping, and seeing themselves in the two daring, diverse rebels.

A relationship between these two would be especially important. The racial diversity of LGBTQ characters has been dramatically dropping over the past three years. Of the 70 LGBTQ characters GLAAD counted in 2016, only 20 percent were people of color. That includes only 13 percent black characters and only one Latinx character. The force is clearly not one with these numbers: We can, and must, do better.

This is not about “SJW” pandering. The impact of Star Wars on U.S. and global culture is powerful and wide-reaching. Its continued erasure of LGBTQ lives, when there is such clear potential for meaningful connection and representation, helps maintain a dangerous environment for queer people on a global scale. Placing women and non-white characters into more important, even leading, roles has already had a huge positive impact. A gay relationship between a black leading man and an important Latino character could have an equally powerful impact.

It’s not like it would come as a shock. Rumors and theories have been swirling about Finn and Poe since the first film. Everyone from casual fans to professional media outlets to devout fanatics have noticed the potential. We know it’s been actively discussed by the creative team.

Rian Johnson has teased it. The head of Lucasfilm has teased it. The cast has hinted at it many, many times. Oscar Isaac, who plays Poe, has said he would be “very open” to exploring such a storyline and that it would be important that “people can see themselves in a hero like this, in a movie like this.” Not to mention the many fans holding their breath and crossing their fingers and excruciatingly yearning for the very possibility.

It’s great that the Powers That Be are at least giving lip service to seriously discussing fans’ hopes, but we’re ready for more than subtext and hints. We’re ready to see ourselves reflected in our favorite stories. We’re ready to tell the stories of those who have been erased, in a universe full of wonder and possibilities and hope.

So, Abrams, we want to believe you when you say: “It’s in private meetings, it’s in private phone calls, it’s in interviews. I know that this will happen. I know it will.” Please, we’re begging you, fight like hell for us.

And Disney, Lucasfilm, anyone involved in the creative direction of the franchise, please don’t stand in his way. Consider your fans. Consider the impact. Consider your responsibilities as storytellers and the empowerment of a future generation of frightened children (and, frankly, adults) who want to believe they can be heroes.

The time is now. Put your money where your mouth is. Give us the space gays.

Screenshot from The Force Awakens
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