When Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened this past winter, we were all given a great opportunity to find out which of our Facebook friends were racists and misogynists. A black man? In my Star Wars? The conversation regarding diversity in Hollywood raged on, and some wondered if there would ever be a queer character in Star Wars. In a universe of aliens, spaceships, and magic, it seems the only queer representation in sight was C-3PO, who isn’t even queer, just British (Starwars.com does include R2D2 and C-3PO on their list of couples that they love).
And then The Force Awakens introduced Poe Dameron and Finn. They hugged a lot, they shared clothing, and Finn just had one name like so many gay icons. . . the signs were all there. Was this bromance or romance? According to Tumblr, it’s definitely romance. But whether or not you’re rooting for Ponn (or is it Foe?), J. J. Abrams, who is now producing the Star Wars franchise, is at least open to the idea of queer characters. “It seems insanely narrow-minded and counterintuitive to say that there wouldn’t be a homosexual character in that world.”
Okay, but unless Abrams is going to follow through with some queer characters, this is just revisionism. Kind of like when J. K.!Rowling was all, yeah, some of those kids at Hogwarts were totally Jewish!
But last month, Mark Hamill was interviewed by The Sun about Abrams’ comments. Just as Obi-Wan Kenobi “felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced,” Mark Hamill destroyed an Alderaan full of homophobes with a single sound-bite.
“[Gay fans] say to me: ‘Could Luke be gay?’ I’d say it is meant to be interpreted by the viewer. If you think Luke is gay, of course he is. You should not be ashamed of it. Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves.”
Is Luke Skywalker the queer we’re looking for?
Luke’s story is mostly absent of romance. This isn’t a requirement, of course, but it does feel like an exception to the rule; this is a story where the guy doesn’t get the girl, unless the guy you’re talking about is Han Solo.
It’s true, Luke and Leia make out, but I would hardly call their physicality hormonal. Their famous lip-lock was meant to make Han Solo jealous and isn’t reciprocated by Luke. Their body language doesn’t suggest that Leia wants Luke to get her pregnant.
In the non-canon novels, Luke marries Mara Jade (a woman whose initial goal is to murder him) and has a kid, but that doesn’t rule out Luke being bisexual or pansexual.
But how the hell would Luke’s sexual identity have developed in the first place, as Tatooine maybe actually didn’t even have that many humans living there, outside of trading centers like Mos Eisley? Living his formative years fabulously strutting around the desert in a poncho and chukkas, did Luke even have any frame of reference for human women besides Aunt Beru? Does he understand that most men don’t look like Uncle Owen and the gruff miners in town?
And then there’s that deleted scene where Luke lies to Uncle Owen about going to Tosche Station, but is in reality going to meet up with his boyhood friend Biggs Darklighter, who looks suspiciously like Freddie Mercury. It’s just dripping with subtext.
Biggs: “I’ve missed you, kid.”
Luke: Yeah, well things haven’t been the same without you, Biggs. It’s been so quiet.”
Biggs: “I didn’t come back just to say goodbye. I shouldn’t tell you this, but you’re the only one I can trust. See, I may never come back and I just want someone to know.”
Was Luke sneaking off to say a last goodbye to a man he loved (possibly the only human his age he knew) before he flew off to his death? To have a few last moments with someone who’s leaving him behind, even though they spoke so long about going together? Isn’t that so plausible that you’ve already seen it in like twenty gay movies on Netflix? Haven’t we all lied about where we were going and with whom we were fooling around with in our closeted days?
Luke spends a lot of time in the company of other men, like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. We know that the Jedi Order discouraged romantic attachment, but the canon has multiple examples of it, anyway. But the fact is, the Jedi spent a lot of time together. And like, celibacy is pretty hard. It’s reasonable to imagine the conditions creating an atmosphere of sexual intimacy. We even see men fucking men in our great hero myths, like Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad or Hercules and his (multiple) companions.
I’m not necessarily suggesting that Luke was getting hot and heavy with Yoda in the hot and heavy humidity of Dagobah, but who's to say that sexual intimacy didn’t occur within the already intimate padawan/knight relationship?
The real evidence to support Luke’s queer identity may lie in how gender and sexuality are represented in Star Wars. With the exception of those main heteros cramming their relationships in our faces, characters are largely underdeveloped in this arena.
In last fall’s Star Wars: Aftermath novel, a regularly drunk Imperial turncoat
-turned-opportunistic-rebel named Sinjir Rath Velus became our first gay male character. I wondered how Sinjir would internalize his sexuality in light of his former employer being an evil, racist, narcissistic, and xenophobic regime started by Jar Jar Binks and a trade dispute.
Apparently, Sinjir doesn’t mind it that much, and once again proves that you can be a minority and still racist, once telling his bartender to “speak Basic.”
The gay thing doesn’t come up much. Sinjir mentions how beautiful a stormtrooper he had to torture was (we’ve all been there), and then Jaz Emari (a Lady Darth Maul-ish bounty hunter) says she’ll fuck Sinjir after they escape death, and he’s like “nah, not into that.” She thinks he means aliens, but he means women. They all have a good laugh and it’s a pretty disappointing sitcom moment. There’s nothing wrong or unrealistic about a queer character with some personality flaws, but Sinjir maybe isn’t the role model we’d hoped.
And then there’s the drug addict lesbian Moff Delian Mors in Lords of the Sith. And the gay Mandalorian couple from Legacy of the Force, but those dudes don’t exist in canon anymore.
Oh, and if the Star Wars Holiday Special is not the single gayest thing you’ve ever seen, I need to see the receipts. The drag queen chef definitely has some charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. Also, Bea Arthur sings. I rest my case.
I also think it’s worth considering whether or not the labels of sexuality would even apply as we understand them in this universe. Kit Fisto (Nautolan) hooked up with Aayla Secura (Twi’lek). Is that heterosexual? Is interspecial love queer? Jaz has attraction to Sinjir, and he only rebuffs because she’s a woman. Does that make Jaz queer? When Mon Mothma goes to bed at night with Admiral Ackbar and his bulbous, wet eyes, is that queer? Okay, that one’s just speculation. But bounty hunter Aurra Sing was the product of parents from two different species. Jabba the Hutt was clearly fetishizing alien women and doing whatever it is that he does with his Salacious Crumb. How could this stuff not happen everywhere all the time? Are they queer? Pansexual? Xenosexual?
In a universe where the Force can put a baby in Shmi Skywalker, maybe gender and sexuality is meaningless altogether. We live in a universe where people think God put a baby in Mary of Nazareth. What does that mean for us?
Could Luke be gay? Absolutely. He could also be bisexual, pansexual, or even asexual if you reject non-canon stories. There’s really no proof that he is or isn’t, and maybe that’s for the best. Luke is an everyman farm boy with daddy issues and big dreams, and can be whatever we imagine. Luke can be the hero we need, someone who can make us feel like we have a part to play, and that we matter. I think Mark is right; it’s all in the interpretation. And I think that’s actually pretty cool.
But that holiday special is still hella gay.
Steven Miller had ice cream with Ben Affleck once. Well, not with him, exactly. Steven stood in line at an ice cream shop in front of Ben Affleck. But that’s basically the same thing, right? I mean, how do you even define having something when you consider that our existence is a socially constructed illusion? Anyway, Ben is really tall and Steven lives in Savannah, GA.