How queer is Star Wars?
Heads-up – there’s going to be spoilers ahead. If you’re cool with that, then read on.
How queer is Star Wars? Well, the short answer is – it’s really not very queer at all. However, if you’re vaguely interested in the cultural phenomenon represented by this latest instalment in the franchise, then this is still a movie worth watching.
Full disclosure – I’m not a massive Star Wars geek, but I have seen all of the Star Wars movies. I’ve even seen the origin stories and the ones with tangential storylines. I wouldn’t choose it as my specialist subject on Mastermind, but I know my way around the Star Wars universe.
This film is Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The basic synopsis is: The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.
If you’ve watched the previous movies, that story-line probably feels a bit familiar. From a narrative perspective, we’re pretty much just going around in circles.
While this is billed as the final chapter of the Skywalker saga, that doesn’t mean that there’s not more Star Wars movies – and money – to be made. The official line from the studio is that The Rise of Skywalker is the final chapter in the nine part series of films that form the core of the canon.
It’s worth remembering that the first Star Wars film was released in 1977. It’s quite a feat to have built a universe that’s generated an incredibly loyal and engaged fan-base. Here we are in 2019 and The Force is still as strong as ever – even if it does sometimes feel like a high-end version of Muppets from Space.
If you’re going to watch The Rise of Skywalker, try and see it in a cinema on a big screen. It’s a big screen kind of movie. It’s also really important that you don’t try and over-think this film. There’s lots about it that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. There’s lots of inconsistencies with what’s gone before. There’s whole chunks of stuff that just seems made up for the sake of convenience, or to helpfully get the action from Point A to Point B. Major plot developments are just sort of quickly stated with a screen graphic or in some clunky dialogue and we’re just expected to get it and be up-to-speed, even though it bears no relation to anything else in the context of these films. Even if you tell yourself to just go with it, to not over-think it, there’s still numerous times throughout the film where you just find yourself going – “Wait, What?” It’s that kind of film.
Having said all of that, it’s not a bad film. It’s all pretty watchable. The set-piece action scenes are spectacular. The special effects are beyond impressive. You can see that money has been spent. Maybe it hasn’t been spent on script development, but money has definitely been spent.
J.J. Abrams in the director’s chair deserves a lot of the credit for holding this film together. The action scenes are convincing, but the strength of Abrams storytelling is that he finds the human moments within this vast canvas and he makes them feel authentic.
The other strength of this film is the central performance by Daisy Ridley as Rey. She’s absolutely convincing as a determined young woman steadily unlocking her powers – growing in confidence but unsure how to navigate the challenges she’s faced with. Surrounded by lots of green-screen generated effects, Ridley delivers her dialogue like it means something, and demands your attention with everything that she’s doing on screen.
Finally, to return to the question of queerness. In practical terms, there’s one lesbian kiss right at the end – two minor characters celebrating the triumph of good over evil have a quick kiss on the lips. It’s queer visibility, to a degree – it’s probably enough for attention-seeking homophobes to cause a fuss.
The droid C-P30 – voiced by Anthony Daniels – is often cited as a queer character. It’s not a particularly flattering stereotype to try and claim, and the character is a robot with no indication that a sexuality has been programmed in, so I think we can discount that one.
If you’re into the fan-fiction of Star Wars, a lot of people project some sort of relationship onto the characters of Po (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega). If you really want to project your queer fantasies onto those characters, then this film enables you to do that. Equally, if you’d prefer to see those two characters as two straight dudes just bro-ing it out, then this film enables you to do that. Personally, I’m not bothered. I’ll look for my queer representation in films that actually want to include authentic queer characters and their stories.
Does it matter that Star Wars doesn’t really care about including LGBTQ people in its films? It obviously would be nice if they did, but let’s not pretend to be surprised. The Star Wars franchise is owned by Disney – we know their track-record on this kind of stuff.
Don’t over-think this movie. Grab the popcorn and just go with it.