I Was Promised Queer “Star Wars” And I Got Queer “Star Wars”

by Anna Greer

Spoilers ahead.

No matter what you think of Solo: A Star Wars Story, you have to know that this movie is important. I think it deserves better than the 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, but maybe that’s because I’ve watched Attack of the Clones recently. This movie is important because we finally got queer Star Wars on the big screen.

In the weeks leading up to this prequel film to the original series, co-screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan told the Huffington Post that Lando Calrissian­­­­—the swaggering, cape-sporting mayor of Cloud City from Empire Strikes Back turned rebel soldier in Return of the Jedi—is pansexual. Donald Glover, the creative genius who is winning 2018 and plays the young Lando, agreed. In an interview with Sirius XM, the actor said, “How can you not be pansexual in space…There are so many things to have sex with.”

I was excited, then worried, to say the least. It’s easy to give lip service to queer representation. J.K. Rowling did it with Dumbledore in Harry Potter and is still doing it in the Fantastic Beasts film series. Or would it be like in the remake of Beauty and the Beast, where we get half a second of Lefou dancing with another man who wore drag earlier in the movie?

I have previously encountered queerbaiting (hinting that characters were queer, but never confirming it) within the Star Wars universe. The book Ahsoka tells the story of Anakin Skywalker’s padawan Ahsoka Tano after the fall of the Republic and how she becomes involved in the rebellion. In her original appearance in the television series The Clone Wars, the young Togruta girl falls for a boy and they kiss. In the book, Ahsoka becomes very close with a girl named Kaedeen. The author hints at the intimacy of them sitting on a bed, they both have tumultuously strong feelings of connection with each other, a villain holding Kaedeen hostage tells Ahsoka she’ll never know what love is, and Kaedeen even says at one point “I could kiss you.” Ahsoka is bi, y’all. I will die on this hill.

Would this iteration of Star Wars actually deliver onscreen representation? Spoiler: It did.

We got it in a scene between Lando, Han, and this movie’s sassy droid L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Lando and Han banter back in forth in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, while L3 looks on. She—yes, we also get a femme droid in this movie—interrupts them with a line that ends with “stop flirting.” Lando gives a coy smile to Han and says, “You might want to buckle up, baby.”

We’re not done there. L3 has a conversation later where she tells Qi’ra—the badass love interest of Han played by the formidable Emilia Clarke—that she thinks Lando has feelings for her, but she does not reciprocate them. Qi’ra’s reaction is to laugh and ask how that would work. L3 says, “It just does”—a sentiment echoed by queer people with vaginas when asked how they have sex with each other. 

l3 01dc3L3-37, via Disney

Romantic feelings with a sentient droid exist purely in the realm of sci-fi. The animated series Futurama has an episode dedicated to “robosexuals” entitled “Proposition Infinity.” Ender Wiggin of Ender’s Game has a quasi-romantic relationship with a sentient being named Jane who exists in the connections between all the computers in the universe. In the old Expanded Universe, Luke Skywalker even loved Callista Ming, a woman who existed in a ship’s computer. Relationships with robots are part of the genre. 

Some viewers may think that Lando’s feelings for L3 are included purely for comedic effect, which would problematize labelling him as pansexual. However, Glover delivers a powerful performance upon the death of L3 that dispels any notion of comedy. Lando’s reaction is of a grief-stricken lover and the crew matches his solemnity, offering their condolences. Audiences who may have laughed cannot help feeling moved by such a raw performance. Lando’s love for L3 isn’t for an inanimate object. She is very animated, demanding equal rights, removing restraining bolts, and starting robot rebellions. His love for her is for a fiery co-pilot. I don’t think the gender politics of droids have been addressed within the Star Wars canon. We don’t even know if she has a gender. He loves her regardless. It would be hard not to. 

He also represents a group marginalized within queer spaces and left out of queer representation: queer people of color. I cannot speak to that experience, so you’ll need to go read what QPOC have to say about SoloJason Johnson argues in a piece for The Root that Lando is pan because Hollywood has historically sexualized and exploited black bodies in ways that they haven’t with white bodies. He writes that the sexualities of white protagonists are not up for debate in the way that characters of color are, which is a good point. This is one of the times I’m going to say you should read the comment section, because it includes some insightful discussions about wanting QPOC representation and the context that it comes in. 

Lando Calrissian isn’t a stereotype. He is perhaps the smoothest character in the Star Wars universe. Portrayed by one of the best people on the planet right now, audiences see Lando fly the most iconic spaceship in cinematic history, shoot blasters, express a range of emotions, and feel those emotions deeply. Solo may not be the best Star Wars movie (it’s definitely not the worst), but it’s an important one that should provoke conversations. Hopefully, we’ll see more queer representation in that galaxy far, far away, and cast queer actors in those roles. The takeaway from Solo is that there is diverse love to match the vast diversity of life forms in the galaxy.

Top image via Disney 

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