If you’re white, straight and male you’ve probably never stopped to think about diversity in genre entertainment; but if you don’t fit into that very specific box it can be a very important subject indeed. Peter MacKenzie examines representation and depiction of alternative cultures in geek entertainment, highlighting when it goes right and explaining why it’s a problem when it goes wrong…
I wasn’t going to touch this one with the proverbial ten foot pole. After all the boycotting and name-calling of Episode VII because of the completely unforgivable sin of including a major black character, I just knew where all the speculation and fanfic regarding the bromance between Finn and Poe was heading.
And I actually, for once, decided that I didn’t like the idea of introducing a same sex relationship into the main films in the Skywalker Saga.
I decided it would just seem shoe-horned in. At best it would be unnecessary, at worst it would piss off all the Rey/Finn shippers. In the latter case, it could even play right into the hands of the marriage traditionalists who seem to think that every gay coupling is a serious threat to their own relationship.
“Look,” they’d say. “Poe is ruining Rey and Finn’s romance.”
Which must be hugely confusing to those same troglodytes who were calling for Finn’s head on a platter a mere three months ago.
Would the inclusion of a gay subplot be worth the hassle and insults? Most definitely not. In the spin off novels? Yes. In the so-called anthology films, which may, hopefully, actually be aimed at a more mature audience? Most definitely. But in the main saga? Where even straight relationships can be cringeworthy, badly acted, poorly executed, sand-filled, cliché-ridden, unbelievable script atrocities? No.
On a side note, I’m quite looking forward to the “Anthology” stories. It seems to me that they’re a great opportunity to tell the slightly darker side of the Star Wars universe away from the Skywalker dynasty. Darker, grittier, more mature tales (mass genocide, infanticide and immolation notwithstanding) that owe more to The Clone Wars seasons five and six than the 80s Ewoks cartoon. I can’t be the only person in the post-Deadpool world who thinks that an R-rated Star Wars movie could work really well, especially for the older fans. I’d happily see the lives and loves of whatever characters we meet there in this new Expanded Universe.
And let’s not forget that the main Star Wars saga hasn’t got the best track record when it comes to any onscreen relationship. There aren’t that many, it must be said. Let’s run down the top five…
First up, we have Owen and Beru, who matured from a slightly shy, awkward couple into stereotyped grumpy frontier farmers with a huge resentment towards their adopted nephew, who may or may not be the saviour of the galaxy.
There’s Luke and Leia, but let’s not judge… she was the only woman Luke had met since he lost out on Camie to Prince Andrew.
Then there’s Han and Leia who managed to overcome her predilection for incest to have a couple of sweet scenes before spawning a bad-tempered emo kid whose main issue is that he doesn’t yet register in the Galaxy’s Bumper Book Of Really Evil People.
And there’s Shmi Skywalker and her mystery man who may or may not have been Darth Plagueis and who may or may not have been a suspiciously persuasive one night stand she met at the Mos Espa Roxy.
And finally, most infamously, we have the 14 year old Padmé falling for the charms of an eight year old brat and nearly destroying the galaxy in the process, following one of the cheesiest romances in cinematic history.
Based on all the evidence, I thought I’d prefer that Rian Johnson left the potentially earth shattering inclusion of a gay romance in the minds of the slashfic specialists.
But the rumours wouldn’t go away. They progressed from Twitter tittle-tattle to BuzzFeed clickbait to Pink News gossip to genuine news stories in the mainstream press in the space of just a few weeks.
Johnson himself fuelled rumours by tweeting fan art, Oscar Isaac hinted at possible subtext on everyone’s favourite chat show hosted by a lesbian and, finally, JJ Abrams has now openly said he wants to see gay characters in the Star Wars universe.
I still wasn’t sure it was a great idea. And then I made the mistake of reading some internet comments.
For the record, “reading some internet comments” is never a good idea. It is never the answer to anything unless that question is “Do you want to get stressed and start banging your head against the nearest flat surface?”
As with the racism displayed in last year’s #BoycottStarWarsVII, the ignorance, the vitriol, the downright stupidity of these internet trolls is truly staggering to the mind of any rational person.
And suddenly I felt that this was needed, for the education of these idiots if nothing else. That it may stop some of them watching Star Wars would be a bonus. The fandom doesn’t want them, thank you very much.
As I read on, against all logic and reasonable thinking, I went a bit further in my apoplexy. As I got angrier and angrier, I didn’t just want Poe to be outed as having a little crush on Finn. I wanted full on animalistic sexuality. I wanted him taken roughly from behind by Snap Wexley. I wanted… a little lie down frankly.
I think what annoyed me most is that these people aren’t living in the real world. They have some difficulty understanding alternative sexualities, whatever the underlying excuse. Maybe it’s time we stopped pussyfooting around and figuratively shoved it in their faces. The cinematic equivalent of the old chant “We’re here, we’re queer…” or the “Get over it” Stonewall campaign.
Sometimes societal change has to be forced, and there’s no “nice” way to do it. Like it or not, the in-your-face brashness of the original Queer as Folk was as much an influence in British attitudes towards homosexuality as the repeal of Section 28. We went from not even being able to discuss the issue in schools to marriage equality in a little less than 20 years. That didn’t happen by meekly hiding our light under a bushel.
Nor should it be any different now. As long as there are people whose worldview is so narrow, then the fight for acceptance continues. Let’s not be afraid to offend. Let’s not give in to some vocal minority.
Let’s be there at midnight, in December 2017, when the professionally outraged get what’s coming to them…