One of the most surprising things to come out of the resurgence of Star Wars thanks to The Force Awakens is a new discussion about LGBT representation in the films. This was mostly due to Poe Dameron's undeniable chemistry with Finn, leading many to believe the relationship between the two characters had romantic subtext.
The question of whether Poe Dameron is gay (or bisexual) is something that has been discussed at length by fans, the media and even the cast and crew. But lately another character has been pinpointed as potentially queer: Luke Skywalker himself.
Mark Hamill Supports Fan Interpretation
Mark Hamill has always had a good relationship with his fans, encouraging them to appreciate Star Wars in any way they want to.
In recent weeks, he's become something of an advocate for queer interpretations of Star Wars, purely because he wants to support the fans. In his Q&A at the Oxford Student Union, Hamill explained why this matter is of personal importance to him:
"Fans will say, 'I'm getting bullied at school. I'm afraid to come out because my parents are religious and they'll hate me.' It just breaks your heart. And they would say to me, 'Could Luke be gay?' And I would say it's meant to be interpreted by you. If you think he's gay, of course he's gay!"
Hamill really hits the nail on the head as far as the discussion of LGBT characters in Star Wars goes.
Gay Characters In Star Wars' Future?
Ultimately, it's not about an alternate interpretation or some fandom trend. People just want to see themselves represented in media — not just as occasional supporting characters or canon fodder, but as heroes.
Hamill is not the only one to chime in on this issue. Before the film was released, Oscar Isaac teased that he was "playing romance" in the cockpit with Finn, a statement which has now become infamous. More recently, John Boyega spoke about the possibility of a romance between Finn and Poe Dameron, and J.J. Abrams told attendees at the Oscar Wilde Awards that he sees LGBT characters in Star Wars' future:
"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."
Of course, there's quite a large distinction between a potentially LGBT character in a Star Wars comic, or the TV show Rebels, and a main character in the movies being queer. And even better than the discussion about this would be real representation within the Star Wars films.
But even the discussion alone is of crucial importance to the future of LGBT representation in Star Wars, and Hollywood itself.
Why The Conversation Is Important
One of the reasons it's so good to see this talked about openly is in the context of Star Wars fandom history. Back in the mists of fandom past, many a fan fiction was written about Luke Skywalker and Han Solo enjoying a romantic relationship. This was before the Internet, so the fics in question were usually typed out or handwritten, and passed around at Star Wars conventions.
This was when the copyright issues of fan fiction and fanzines was still being sorted out with the production companies, and there were more than a few stern letters sent by Lucasfilm, demanding that the authors "keep it clean" in regards to sexual, and homosexual, content. But now we seem to be moving into a new era of acceptance.
Fan interpretations of Star Wars are no longer restricted to craftily created fanzines, but are discussed on public forums and examined by the wider media. The more we talk about it, and the more the possibility of LGBT characters in Star Wars is legitimized, the less stigma there will be.
This conversation has lead to people considering LGBT representation in wider Hollywood: Abrams gave his own thoughts on this when talking to The Daily Beast:
"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. We all need to do better to represent this world. It’s crazy that it’s taken so long. To imagine being someone who would see mainstream media and see themselves be underrepresented would be an incredibly hurtful thing."
With any luck, the more we talk about this, the more likely it will be that LGBT characters will appear in Star Wars. Rian Johnson is already teasing this possibility on Twitter:
For the moment, though, it seems somewhat unlikely that Luke Skywalker himself will be confirmed to be gay (or bisexual), but the matter could definitely be left ambiguous. And if that's the case, as Hamill says, we really are free to decide what each character means to us personally, whether that means they're gay or straight or something else entirely.