Although Star Wars: The Force Awakens made great stides in diversity, with two of the new younger leads being a black and a Hispanic actor, and the principal lead being a young woman, there is still one type of diversity that Star Wars hasn't touched yet -- the inclusion of any LGBT characters (in canon anyway; the novels are a different story).
But could all that be changing soon? The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams was asked this past Thursday at the annual Oscar Wilde: Honoring the Irish in Film pre-Academy Awards event about the possibility of including LGBT characters in future Star Wars installments. His response: "Of course! When I talk about inclusivity it’s not excluding gay characters. It’s about inclusivity. So of course." He added "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."
As a gay Star Wars fan myself, the idea of people who were like me being respresented in the stories I loved was a total impossibility as a kid. Growing up immersed in the worlds of Star Wars and Star Trek, Marvel and DC Comics, there was no one who was "like me." Slowly over the decades, that's changed somewhat, but Star Wars is one of the last major genre properties where queerness just doesn't seem to exist, at least on screen. So hearing J.J. Abrams say this was music to my ears. I wish I could go back in time and tell 13-year-old me that one day, he might see a gay character holding a lightsaber.
Unfortunately, I have to also be the rain on this rainbow parade a little bit, as much as I don't want to be. Why? Because even though J.J.'s a producer on future Star Wars installments, at the end of the day, Disney has final say on whether or not Star Wars includes any LGBT characters in the future, and that is going to be a tougher road to travel. More than almost any other entertainment property, most of the money coming from Star Wars comes from toys and other merchandise, things that could be boycotted by more conservative elements, and which could affect sales.
Besides the merch issue, there's the fact that Star Wars is now a truly global brand, and with significant box office dollars coming from countries like China, Russia, and India -- countries were LGBT rights and visibility are decades behind us -- Disney might not want to risk offending them. Especially if offending those countries results in losing box office revenue. This is a corporation at the end of the day, where profit beats good intentions. It's all about the bottom line.
So I think J.J. Abrams means it when he says he wants to include LGBT characters in future Star Wars, although I think at first they're going to probably be minor characters. But any character is better than no character, which is what we have right now. Just don't be expecting to thow rice at Finn and Poe's wedding just yet -- we still have a long way to go. But at least there's finally a glimmer of hope.
What do you think of Star Wars finally including LGBT characters? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.