opinion

QUEERBAITING

‘Star Wars’: Lando Calrissian’s ‘Pansexuality’ Means Nothing if It’s Not in the Films

Keepers of the ‘Star Wars’ universe keep teasing the possibility of established characters being queer—without ever actually depicting queerness onscreen. Enough.

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LucasFilm

Is Donald Glover playing a queer character in Solo: A Star Wars Story? Of course not.

According to screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan, who co-wrote the film with his father, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi scribe Lawrence Kasdan, he might be pansexual. Based on banter between Glover’s Lando Calrissian and Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo in Solo that read as “flirting,” Huffington Post reporter Bill Bradley asked Kasdan if Lando is pansexual. Not bisexual mind you, but pansexual—probably because most Americans just learned the word after Janelle Monáe came out as pansexual in Rolling Stone.

“I would say yes,” Kasdan said in response to whether Lando is sexually fluid. “There’s a fluidity to Donald and Billy Dee’s (Lando in the Star Wars trilogy) sexuality. I mean, I would have loved to have gotten a more explicitly LGBT character into this movie. I think it’s time, certainly, for that, and I love the fluidity—sort of the spectrum of sexuality that Donald appeals to and that droids are a part of. He doesn’t make any hard and fast rules. I think it’s fun. I don’t know where it will go.”

Upon hearing this I rolled my eyes very hard. It reminded me of back when J.J. Abrams teased gay characters to The Daily Beast ahead of The Force Awakens competing in the Oscars in 2015. When asked about inclusivity in the Star Wars universe, Abrams said, “When I talk about inclusivity it’s not excluding gay characters. It’s about inclusivity. So of course. I would love it. To me, the fun of Star Wars is the glory of possibility. So it seems insanely narrow-minded and counterintuitive to say that there wouldn’t be a homosexual character in that world.”

Since then we've come pretty far in the extended Star Wars cinematic universe, with The Last Jedi, Rogue One, and Solo, and there’s yet to be an LGTBQ character. This queerbaiting is the best they can do? It is condescending, somehow even more so than the vague insistence that two male characters in the new trilogy, Finn and Poe, might possibly have a relationship. The chemistry between the two, much like Han and Lando's, inspired fans to create fan fiction and fan art shipping a supposed relationship between them. It's part of why everyone continues asking Star Wars writers and directors if anything is going to happen on the queer front. But it's also a lot of pandering on the studio's part.

Abrams has since gone on to say the sprawling Star Wars universe couldn’t possibly exist without a gay populace—even if we haven’t seen a single character identified as gay thus far. “I think we all have a hell of a lot to do, and I think it is insane to me that we still have to have a conversation about inclusivity. It’s shameful,” he told The Daily Beast last year. “We all need to do better to represent this world. It’s something that is important to me, and is something that we’re focusing on at [production company] Bad Robot."

No one will admit that there aren't any queer people writing and directing Star Wars films.

Teasing the possibility of characters being gay in the media, however well-meaning, isn't useful. Particularly if it's not actually in the text. This is reminiscent of JK Rowling's claims that Dumbledore is gay after the conclusion of her Harry Potter franchise. An LGBTQ audience does not benefit from interviews wherein the creators retroactively attach specific sexualities to their characters. It's not representation, it's queerbaiting and playing both sides of the fence. No one will actually admit that they're worried what including a queer character might mean to fans or international sales. No one will admit that there aren't any queer people writing and directing Star Wars films either, so maybe those creators are reticent to write something they don't know.

Furthermore, it's exhausting for reporters to continue to ask creators about LGTBQ characters popping up in franchises like this. Creators are simply going to continue the dance of teasing characters to an audience and then not fulfilling that promise. It results in the same headline hysteria as the one that purports Lando to be pansexual, without any proof of that in the films. It may be time to stop looking to writers and directors and instead place focus on the producers and studios that time and time again, refuse to represent the world as it is.