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Canonically non-canonical same-sex pairings in “Star Wars,” ranked

The Last Jedi is testing the patience of some Stormpilot uberfans, who are debating if this new chapter in the new Star Wars saga advances or hinders the fandom-supported Stormpilot romance. I’ve got my opinions on it, which I’ll divulge later on once we’re out of spoiler fever.

But discussing Stormpilot brings up the very insurmountable fact that Star Wars has yet to truly bring LGBT representation to the forefront in a meaningful way. Rian Johnson, who co-wrote and directed The Last Jedi, has been intensely aware of Stormpilot, so much so that he’s actually retweeted fanart and fandom conversation about Finn and Poe’s speculated relationship. He’s also made sure to say he’s in support of LGBT characters in Star Wars. In fact, both Johnson and J.J. Abrams, the producer behind the new Star Wars films as well as the directors of both The Force Awakens and the upcoming Episode 9, have championed introducing LGBT characters into the films. But will that happen in the current Star Wars storyline or will it be more apparent in the next trilogy Johnson’s supposed to helm?

Until we know the absolute answer, one thing’s for sure–same-sex pairings and fandom-made representation have been a huge part of Star Wars since the beginning. With fans getting more and more restless, it’s only a matter of time before pairings move out of the realm of fandom and into the realm of canon. In fact, the pairings featured below are so well known by many that they might as well have their own movies devoted to them.

Here’s how I’m ranking them in terms of how canonical they are in the Star Wars franchise (with their rank affected by cast and crew interviews, actors’ intentions behind the characters, and fandom acceptance). Some issues to discuss first–it would have been fun to be able to include some female same-sex pairings in this list, but Star Wars is still a male-dominated story, unfortunately. There still isn’t enough focus on women, even though that’s growing thanks to this new crop of movies. Second, this list is only focusing on pairings that are in the movies. I’ve heard about Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) possibility being a queer character in the Star Wars books. But we don’t see that in The Last Jedi. I’m only going by what I’ve seen in the films.

4. Han Solo and Lando Calrissian

I haven’t seen much chatter about this slash pairing ever, but I know it exists. How can it not? Han and Lando are frenemies who go way back, have had tons of adventures together, and definitely have a past we don’t know about at all. Also, as this Dreamwidth user wrote in 2003, Lando trusts Han enough to give him his Millennium Falcon.

Personally, I don’t see it, but that doesn’t mean others can’t. And it also doesn’t mean I can’t be swayed–with Solo: A Star Wars Story coming out next year, I’m sure there’s going to be enough slashable content for those who love this pairing. In any event, the film will allow Lando’s characterization to get fleshed out beyond “that cool black guy who sold Han and Leia out to Darth Vader.” He can still be cool, but I hope he gets more of a solid backstory this go-round.

3. Finn and Poe Dameron

It might seem ludicrous that I’m ranking Stormpilot at number three, when big chunks of both this website and my Twitter account have been devoted to Finn and Poe’s relationship. Here’s my reasoning; it’s not that I don’t think Stormpilot can’t happen. It’s also not even that I think the cast doesn’t support it; with the way Oscar Isaac is always talking up Stormpilot in interviews, I think he’d be down. Even John Boyega, who hasn’t really drunken the Stormpilot Kool-Aid, seems to have at least partially come around to the idea of anything being possible, conceding to Radio Times in 2016 “you never know what they [the writers] are going to pull.” The reason I’m ranking Stormpilot so low is that it’s tough to see which way the wind is blowing on Stormpilot in relation to what the Lucasfilm brass think.

Regardless of what writers and directors might want to do with Stormpilot’s potential, the buck stops with Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy. As of last year, Kennedy gave a longwinded answer to Ecartelera that simply amounts to “I’m undecided.”

We’ve talked about it, but I think you’re not going to see it in The Last Jedi,” she said. “In the next six or eight months we will have some meetings about the stories that we will develop next… After 40 years of adventures, people have a lot of information and a lot of theories about the path these stories can take, and sometimes those theories that come up are new ideas for us to listen to, read and pay attention to.

What can be gleaned is that right now, folks at Lucasfilm and Disney are hashing out whether they want to invest in the Stormpilot idea. With fan pressure mounting, plus directors already giving their blessing to LGBT characters and, in a way, forcing Disney’s hand on the matter of LGBT representation, the answer as to whether to include queer characters in Star Wars has already been decided for the joint company; it’s just a matter of deciding if Finn and Poe are who they want to spearhead that initiative.

From my perspective, there’s one moment in The Last Jedi that shows that Johnson did give a small nod to Stormpilot, despite romance not featuring heavily in this installment. Will other fans pick up on that moment? I don’t know. But regardless, Stormpilot is still firmly in fanon territory right now.

2. Han Solo and Luke Skywalker

The fandom for the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker pairing is only comparable to the other OG slash pairing in the stars, Star Trek‘s Spock and Kirk.

Fanlore is a great resource for learning about the history of the Han/Luke (or “Skysolo”) pairing, but just to quickly sum it up, Skysolo has been around since the 1970s and 1980s, even though the majority of the fan projects were published in the 1990s (due to Lucasfilm classifying slash pairing fanworks as “adult” and prohibited the adult content in their official fanzines). Whether passed around privately or published publicly, the allure of Skysolo has been a part of the Star Wars culture, and, like the Kirk/Spock slash pairing, it’s also been a part of fan skirmishes.

One fan in the 1980s complained about Skysolo slash fiction being “a sub-genre without a home.”

“Is the influence of the infamous Lucasfilm brouhaha still so widespread? It certainly suppressed “straight” sexually-explicit SW fanfic; only now are we beginning to see that come out of the closet (“‘groan! ‘” bad pun!). I’m not saying I want to see SW fandom go through the kind of schism and upheaval that K/S [Kirk/Spock fanfiction] wrought on ST fandom; but I’m curious why SW slash, even though it’s being written–and written by some extremely good writers–isn’t finding a publisher. Are we still looking over our shoulder for The Men From Lucasfilm? Or do we think no one out there will buy and read it…heh – heh- heh- you know they they’ll buy and read it!”

Nowadays, it’s found its place in the open world of slash fandom, and speculation over Luke’s sexuality prompted Hamill himself to speak out in favor of Luke being gay or bisexual.

“…[F]ans are writing and ask all these questions, ‘I’m bullied in school… I’m afraid to come out’. They say to me, ‘Could Luke be gay?'” said Hamill to The Sun in 2016, according to Vanity Fair. I’d say it is meant to be interpreted by the viewer… If you think Luke is gay, of course he is. You should not be ashamed of it. Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves.”

So, in one way, Luke’s queerness could be considered canon. But frustratingly, it still keeps characters in a gray area; they are whatever the fans want them to be. This strategy has been employed with Poe as well, with Oscar Isaac saying how he’s happy Poe can act as representation to so many different people and different sexual spectrums. Even so, Hamill allowing Luke to be representative of LGBT fans gives more credence to the theory that Luke developed a crush on Han during their time together. Han might be a scoundrel, but who wouldn’t develop a crush on him?

1. Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus

Chirrut and Baze get the top spot because their relationship is, to me, the one that was the most apparently “married” in the canon of Rogue One. Yes, if you’re so inclined, you can choose to see their relationship as that of brothers, but from where I’m sitting, their level of comfort with each other was that of two people who are friends and also happen to be more than friends. I mean, a good romantic relationship does start from friendship, does it not?

Their comfort with each other has been supported by fans, who deem them the old married couple of Star Wars. And once again, the people behind the characters chimed in to say that the fans’ theories aren’t necessarily wrong.

As Rogue One director Gareth Edwards told Buzzfeed, while the Chirrut and Baze being a couple wasn’t the original intention, if fans want to see that as canon, they’re more than welcome to. Much of Edwards’ opinion comes from Donnie Yen’s own perception of Chirrut and Baze’s relationship.

Yen, who portrayed Chirrut in Rogue One, reportedly felt like there was more to his and Baze’s relationship than the script initially let on. As Edwards said:

“After a while, it was something that became interesting. Donnie asked, ‘What do you think these guys are? What do you think their relationship really is?’ And he asked if that was the case. I felt like, ‘You know what? If these were real people and I was filming them, I wouldn’t know. It’s not something we would see; they would keep it to themselves.’ For all I know, a little bit of that might be going on under the surface…Genuinely, if the audience wants to take that away from it, I’m very happy. I’d be very proud to have brought something like that to Star Wars.”

For me, this makes Chirrut and Baze the most canonical same-sex pairing Star Wars has right now. Their relationship is one that wasn’t solely defended after the film’s release; it was also one that was developed as the actors were fleshing out their characters. That means that much of their interactions were–or at least Yen’s–were calculated to read as “married.” That’s what makes Chirrut and Baze one of the most compelling parts of Rogue One. 

Honorable mention: C3PO and R2D2

R2D2 and C3PO are here as honorable mention because…they’re robots. But if you even have a passing knowledge of Star Wars, then you’ll know the running joke is that C3PO and R2D2 are the “first gay characters” in Star Wars. Or, at least, C3PO is the “first gay character” in Star Wars. But with the advent of actual queer humans in Star Wars, this running joke can be put to rest, since 1) I don’t know if R2D2 really likes C3PO like that anyways (seems like he merely tolerates him and is merely comfortable with C3PO’s nagging) and 2) robots in Star Wars don’t exhibit the capability of having romantic love anyways. If we cross the streams and invoke Philip K. Dick’s Voight-Kampff test, the robots of Star Wars recognize that they are in service of their human masters and are comfortable with that reality. Even though exhibit have wit, sarcasm, fear, pride, happiness, and even anger, Star Wars robots never go beyond their programming to advocate for robot rights and free will.

What do you think about this ranking? What pairings would you add to this list? Give your opinions below!

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Why Salim and The Jinn’s story is the heart of “American Gods”

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I’ll say up front that I am an American Gods virgin. I’ve never read the book, so I went into this entire season blind. Heck, I still don’t know exactly what I witnessed in my three-episode binge-watch, but I do know these three things:

1. Shadow Moon might be foine, but he’s annoying. He’s a character whose characterization is both inconsistent and nonexistent. How much magic has to happen around you before you believe in these gods, Shadow? You’ve got the freaking moon as a coin your pocket for goodness’ sake!

2. I’m liking all of the “Somewhere in America” scenes better than the actual storyline. If the show was just a meditation on the old gods and how they are trying to both fit in the new world order and keep their dignity (plus gain some worshippers in the process), that’d be fine by me. The less I have to see Shadow Moon dismiss the clear reality of gods, the better.

3. Salim and the Jinn’s “Somewhere in America” vignette might be the best one so far. 

I was heavily spoiled by Twitter before watching these episodes (not complaining about it), so I already knew about Bliquis swallowing people with her vagina and Mr. Nancy/Anansi telling his worshippers–now captive slaves on a surprisingly clean-looking slave ship–how the African people will be royally screwed in America. With all of the hype, I’m not exactly sure what I expected, but I probably would have been more “OMG!” about it all if I hadn’t known anything about those scenes. At the same time, there’s a lot of fodder to discuss, from the arguments that could be made for and against using a black woman’s body (Bliquis, the fertility and love goddess) to discuss sex and/or sexual objectification, to the haunting nature of Anansi telling his people the horrors they were in store for. No doubt I will write some articles on these very topics. But for right now, I’m voicing my opinion that for me, the Jinn and Salim are the heartbeat of American Gods. Here’s why.

• The Jinn, like all the gods, is seeking his former glory. But unlike other gods, he isn’t stealing worship. What I loved about the Jinn is that, compared to gods like Bliquis, Odin/Mr. Wednesday, Czernobog and even Mad Sweeney, the Jinn doesn’t demand tribute in the form of war, sexual conquests, fighting, or killing. Instead, it seems like the Jinn just demands respect. Sure, all the gods want respect, but the way the Jinn complains about his lot in life is more earnest and relatable than any of the gods so far. He seems to yearn for human connections in a much more intimate way than his fellow gods. Furthermore, his humiliation at having to taxi people around in New York City, hearing Americans believe the Jinn are just wish-fulfillment dieties, and cleaning up “wet shit” from the back seat rings much closer to real life issues people of color have had to historically deal with in America, such as cleaning white people’s homes to being thought of as stereotypes, to just feeling anonymous, with not many understanding your real power and worth. On several levels, the Jinn is just more relatable than some of the other gods as a whole.

The Jinn’s happiness comes from finding someone who finally understands what he’s going through. To be even more specific, the Jinn and Salim’s taxi ride was a scene all about code-switching. To be with someone from Oman seemed to take him back to a time when he was at home and was powerful, but most importantly, at peace. Again, that resonates with the very real feeling of being the only person of color in a white space and finally catching the eye of another person of color who gets exactly what you’re feeling through your shared history. You feel like you don’t have to navigate the space by yourself; you can voice your real self to that other person, and more than likely, they’ll understand.  Talking with Salim and having that human connection made the Jinn feel home, and he was able to be himself, which was more valuable to The Jinn than stealing someone’s worship.

• The Jinn and Salim are linked together as equals. Out of all of the gods, the Jinn and Salim’s story had the most calming and most normal resolution. With the rest of the gods, something has to be given to the gods, but the gods don’t give back anything in return. Instead, the Jinn and Salim’s story showcases a give-and-take that makes their relationship a lot more realistic and makes the entire scene a standout in the midst of the “Somewhere in America” scenes we’ve had so far. Salim worships the Jinn by showing him respect, compassion, and care; the Jinn worships Salim by empowering him through making love and leaving Salim with his identity as a taxi driver. The Jinn continues to thank Salim for his kindness by taking on his job as a tchotchke salesman.

Let me expound some more on the term “making love.” Usually, that’s a term I hate. I’ve never even uttered it in real life before, I hate it that much. Perhaps it’s because we as a human race sometimes interchange the phrase with “having sex,” even though the two are completely different acts. Anyone can have sex; it takes a special moment and a special person to actually say you’ve “made love” to someone, I think. I’m also a person who believes there is a such thing as a cosmic sexual experience (i.e. expanding your consciousness via tantra and tantric sex, etc.), and that’s what Salim experienced with the Jinn. The Jinn truly did worship Salim through this act, which is huge, since it’s not like Salim’s a god. But Salim’s interaction with The Jinn meant so much to him that, in the Jinn’s mind, Salim is on a high enough pedestal to be worshipped like a god.

At the same time, the Jinn gave Salim permission to be himself. As has been said in various articles, Salim is used to having intercourse quickly, cleanly, and in secretive places. I’m sure that for Salim, there’s a certain amount of shame associated with sex as well. To quote showrunner Bryan Fuller from The Hollywood Reporter:

“To portray Salim and the Jinn in a way that’s sex positive for a gay man who comes from a country where homosexuality is punishable by death and you can be thrown off of a rooftop. It was very important to us to look at Salim’s story as a gay man from the Middle East whose sexual experience was probably relegated to back alley blowjobs and didn’t have an intimate personal sexual experience. In the book, Salim blows the Jinn in the hotel, and then he’s gone. It was important for us in this depiction to have Salim drop to his knees and prepare to achieve sex the way he’d been accustomed to, and the Jinn lifts him off of his knees and kisses him and treats him much more soulfully and spiritually to change this perception of who is is and what his sexual identity has become. That felt like it was empowering in a different way, showing a protagonist as the one who is being penetrated. That comes with all sorts of preconceptions of gender roles and what it is to be a gay man at the same time.”

I’d go so far as to say that Salim is the only one so far who has encountered a god and came away with a positive experience. If anyone has faith in any of these gods, it’d seem like Salim has the most reason to have faith in his Jinn.

• The Jinn is one of the few gods that actually feel like characters you can identify with. Perhaps I should speak for myself–the Jinn is one of the few god characters feel like I can identify with. Maybe it’s how Mousa Kraish speaks while in character–the accent he gives the Jinn and the timbre of his voice sounds rich and musical–but I get where the Jinn is coming from. I don’t get that with Wednesday, Czernobog, or, heck, most of the gods we’ve met so far. Too many of these gods are opportunistic, and that’s not a criticism; I think that’s part of what the show is exploring. But Kraish’s Jinn looks and sounds like an earthy, warm protector. He wants what all us human want, which is to be understood, respected, and seen for who he is–he also requires no frills, unlike the other gods. I get that.

I’ll say again that I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if any of my current feelings towards the Jinn with change (I hope they don’t). But as for right now, I’m all about the Jinn and Salim and I can’t wait to spend more time with them.

For more on Salim, the Jinn, and American Gods, check out this Ars Technica podcast featuring award-winning fantasy author and critic Amal El-Mohtar, who gives her insights on the treatment of Arabic and Middle Eastern identity in American Gods so far. 

 

“RuPaul’s Drag Race”/”Untucked” Season 9 recap: Mother Monster has arrived

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 | Episode 1, “Oh. My. Gaga!” | Aired March 24, 2017

First, I’m SO GLAD RuPaul’s Drag Race is back! This is one of my favorite shows of all time, and even though I’ve never really recapped it because, frankly, I was selfish. I wanted to keep the magic and the glamour of the show to myself and just have something fun for me to enjoy. BUT, I also feel it remiss to not recap it when Season 9 looks to be the most polished season yet.

By now, most hardcore fans have seen the first 18-20 minutes of the first episode, so we already know that Lady Gaga walked into the workroom with the rest of the queens as one of them until she took off her mask. She’s inspiring to the queens, yada yada yada. I’m not trying to sound flippant about it; it’s just that I’ve seen the first 18 minutes about three to five times before the episode aired so that part of the episode is already passé for me.

Instead, let me show you the video of how Eureka was moved to tears by how Gaga helped her in her darkest times.

Since we’re talking about Eureka, why is she living out all of her insecurities through mild bitchery? If there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s when a big queen inadvertently plays into the “bitter big woman” stereotype. I think Eureka is funny and I’m sure she’s a lovely, witty person, but come on, girl, stop cutting people down right out of the gate. Also: stop with the “I’m a big girl” jokes. Again, another thing that annoys me is when a big queen makes all of their comedy based around their insecurities about their fatness. It makes me sad and, frankly, uncomfortable, if I’m being honest. Speaking from a personal place, I know what it’s like to have body insecurities. I think a lot of us get that. But for me, if you’re a big queen, you’ve got to show that you’ve got more up your sleeve than self-deprecating jokes. Rant over.

So the theme of the episode is a Gaga-centric Miss Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent Pageant Competition! The queens had to give two looks: one repping their home town, and the other one being their favorite Gaga look. Also: No queen is getting eliminated this episode! Hooray! We get to know the queens more!

So let’s get into my favorite looks.

Hometown

Shea Couleé–Chicago

I like how, even though she’s a beauty/makeup queen, she still gives you humor. Her reference to Mystique Summers’ “Bitch, I’m from Chicago!” line and her sexual hot dog jokes, coupled with that headpiece and the commitment to the Chicago-style hot dog theme really set her apart for me.

Aja–New York City

I know several reviewers hated this look, particularly since she and Peppermint both dressed literally as Lady Liberty and Alexis Michelle had the Statue of Liberty on her peacock fan-thing. But I just like this look. Maybe I’m just being biased, but it just looks cool to me, and I like the idea of seeing an edgy Lady Liberty wearing an orange wig.

Valentina–Los Angeles

The sombrero, the hair, the makeup, the flowers, the thigh-high garter-belt boots that are also tights??? I don’t need to say much more about this, do I? The look speaks for itself. It’s all so expensive, and that’s what I love about Valentina’s aesthetic; it’s rich and luxurious and I want to live that life.

Nina Bonina Brown–Atlanta

Again, do I really need to explain why this is amazing? JUST LOOK AT THIS PEACH HEAD! IT’S MADE OUT OF CARDBOARD! It’s simultaneously the freakiest and most creative, artistic thing I’ve seen on this show. I like the way Nina’s mind works.

Lady Gaga

Nina Bonina Brown

What I love about this look isn’t just that it’s clearly Gaga; it’s also the winning look. Eureka thought this wasn’t going to win Nina the pageant crown, and lo and behold, it did. I think what Gaga identified with was the originality that still came through Nina’s looks despite having to adhere to a theme, especially one as limiting as dressing as someone else. However, Eureka’s look was also one of my favorites.

Eureka

It’s very clearly Telephone, and it’s very well made. What Eureka does best is give body queen looks, showing you don’t have to be skinny to wear skin-tight or form-fitting clothes. I do like Eureka’s aesthetic and what she’s trying to do with her drag.

Aja

Kimora Blac was saying that picking Gaga’s red carpet looks were boring, and that she wanted to do one of Gaga’s everyday looks. Well, this is how you do one of Gaga’s everyday looks. While Kimora picked yet another black strappy number, Aja chose one of Gaga’s more daring silhouettes. For me, the Commes de Garcons look played very well into the Aja brand, which is simultaneously about pushing the boundaries and just being fun and accessible.

Valentina

I’m used to seeing Valentina in elaborate wigs, so this wig was kind of a letdown for me. But, the look is still one of my favorites because everything is so put together and fashion modely. Her walk was catwalk-ready.

Sasha Velour

It’s funny that Sasha Velour is already being clocked for being the artsy queen, as in that perhaps she’s probably relying too much on artsy-ness. Perhaps it’s the Brooklyn in her; I only visited New York for about a week, but for the time I was in Brooklyn, I definitely got the sense that it was an enclave all about art and expression. Also, having been in the art world for most of my teenage life, I know this type of artist all too well. I’m not saying she’s not great; she’s one of my favorites of the season. But I can already tell that her biggest challenge will be if she can switch from niche artsy-ness to clsasic drag camp. Versatility, if you will.

Having said all of that, I think the ARTPOP look suited Sasha to a T and she sold it expertly. However, ARTPOP itself also suffered from being too artsy, so it’s kinda ironic that Sasha would pick a look that shows both the strength and flaw of being the Artist Queen.

Final notes:

• Poor Jaymes Mansfield. I’ve seen her on YouTube and she’s great on her channel. But she’s coming off as shellshocked on this show, and it’s understandable. But I hope she’s able to get herself together through the season. I really don’t want her to go home early. She’s got tons of talent, and I think she has the potential to go far. But if I can get into my Untucked review, the biggest part I hated about the first Untucked episode is that Eureka decided to come for Jaymes just because she’s quiet. Unlike the other queens, who seemed actually genuine in their concern about Jaymes’ emotional state, Eureka just seemed like she wanted to cut at the person she felt was the weakest. Again, I feel a little personal about this because I’ve been cut at for being quiet or shellshocked in some situations. Not everyone’s got a loud personality and it seems like Charlie was among the queens who understood this. In fact, it was Charlie who inquired about Jaymes in the first place. Perhaps its because he’s acquired tons of wisdom, since he is, in fact, the oldest queen. But Eureka needs to chillax on this and let Jaymes gather herself.

• Gaga needs to become the Tim Gunn of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I feel like she has a deep respect for the art of drag as well as for the lives of drag queens themselves, and I like that she put herself on the mat when it came to discussing the line between appropriation versus appreciation. I know she gets a ton of flack for what she does for the gay community because to some, it comes off as weaseling her way into the a life she doesn’t understand. I admire that she discussed her own hesitancy to appear that way and her sincere desire to uplift the community, not try to selfishly insert herself as one of its members. I think that bit of self-awareness is refreshing, since I’ve also wondered about Gaga’s intentions on that front. I don’t think we see a lot of music celebrities exhibit that kind of self-awareness, and I responded well to it. I also came to admire how she told the queens how she felt about their looks to their faces during Untucked and not just keep it all nice on the runway, then kill them behind their backs. She kept it 100, but she also kept it encouraging. I like that. Good show, Gaga.

• I’ve listened to several reviews as I wrote this recap, and I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one not getting Kimora Blac. Do I think she’s snatched and beat? Yes, of course. But do I think she’s got a limited range as of right now? Completely. As other reviewers have said, she hasn’t varied her look much, if at all, and I feel like she could give us a lot more. I think she’s got the potential to do that; she’s just stuck in a rut.

• I know Peppermint is a seasoned performer, so it’s kinda astonishing to me how she let herself go out there on the runway with her lacefront visible like that. Sure, they don’t have a lot of time backstage, but everyone else had their wigs together! As Gaga said, it’s the details that Peppermint has to focus on, and her lack of focusing on the details seems to be consistent, from what I’ve seen of her in the “Meet the Queens” segment, her RuPaul’s Drag Race premiere red carpet look, and the looks she’s given us in this episode.

• My mom doesn’t watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, but if she did, her clear favorite would be Valentina. When I showed her Valentina’s entrance into the workroom, she said, “She’s gorgeous! And her body looks good, too! That’s amazing!” I completely agree. For your consideration, Exhibits A-D:

• I’m also going to just say this now: I’m a huge Valentina stan, so there might be some favoritism in this recaps, but who isn’t biased when they’re writing recaps of shows? I just love Valentina so much. Can they make a Valentina Barbie? I’d buy that right now.

• I’m also an Aja stan, and I can’t wait for a challenge that will allow her to dance her competition into the ground. As I showed in my predictions article, Aja can dance to literally any music you put before her, and she said as much in this episode. There’s a reason she’s the number one name in Brooklyn; she’s so exciting to me. And the fact that she gives big ups to John Leguizamo is awesome too. It must be true that sexuality is a construct since I’m attracted to Leguizamo both in and out of drag. (Heck, the only reason I liked the terrible Super Mario Brothers movie was because of how cute Leguizamo is in it.)

• I’m also a big Nina Bonina Brown stan as well. I love her originality, and I really identified with her statement in Untucked, in which she revealed that she was at her lowest point when she auditioned for what was going to be her last time. Everything she said about doubting if your dream is something that is actually meant for you hit home, so it encourages me to see that if Nina can make it and achieve her dream after crippling doubt, then I can, too.

The mystery queen!

The internet is saying it’s Cynthia Lee Fontaine, which would be major if that were true, because I, like tons of people, love the Queen of Cucu. Also, the hair, the covered-ness of the outfit, and the closeup on the queen’s butt seem to point in Cynthia’s direction. But some other guesses floating out there include Lynesha Sparx, Coco Montrese, and Jasmine Masters. All we know is that the queen is either Latino or black, has a big booty, and loves short hair, which means it could be any one of these queens since they all fit the bill. Who do you think it is? Vote here:

 

Who is the mystery queen?

Lynesha Sparx
Coco Montrese
Cynthia Lee Fontaine
Jasmine Masters

Poll Maker

What did you think of the inaugural Season 9 episode? Who gave you your favorite looks? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

“Beauty and the Beast”: Let’s talk about LeFou – positive representation or token gay stereotype?

Is LeFou breaking new ground or is he just more of the same? (Disney/screengrab)

The big news coming out about Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast is that the Gaston’s sidekick character is gay. Not “coded as gay“–he’s actually, up and down, openly gay. We’re finally in the future, everyone!

Or are we? The character being officially out is something we have been hoping a mainstream family project would actually do. Also, it seems like Disney is also going to give us, as director Bill Condon has been saying, “an exclusively gay moment” at the end of LeFou’s journey in the film, which I can only assume that he ends up with a loving guy to call his own (if Gaston actually still dies in this live-action version, which I’m assuming he will). According to Attitude Magazine, Condon says:

“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

Attitude’s Editor-in-Chief Matt Cain praised the film’s scene, calling it a “landmark moment for LGBT representation”:

“It may have been a long time coming but this is a watershed moment for Disney. By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural – and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay. It’s only a first step towards creating a cinematic world that reflects the one in which many of us are now proud to live. But it’s a step in the right direction and I applaud Disney for being brave enough to make it – and in doing so hopefully helping to change attitudes and bring about real social progress.”

HOWEVER, the clip from the film featuring LeFou singing the classic Beauty and the Beast song “Gaston,” seems a little…stereotypical? Check it out for yourself.

Josh Gad, who portrays LeFou, plays the role a little too stereotypically “fabulous,” at least from my point of view. He could have toned it down a little bit–I mean, it’s a broad role, to be sure, but come on! It doesn’t have to be that broad. But I could be wrong; LeFou might be less stereotypical than I’m thinking it is.

Marissa Martinelli seems to share my sentiment about the stereotypical aspects of LeFou in the live-action film in her Slate article “The ‘Exclusively Gay’ Character in the Beauty and the Beast Remake Is Not As Revolutionary As Disney Thinks It Is.” Martinelli discusses Disney’s huge queer-coding past with its villain (because remember: LeFou is still a villain) and how LeFou is still not a shining light of gay positivity:

But since the film has chosen to do that by including a character who is literally gay, it’s worth examining their choice. LeFou is a sidekick and a relatively minor character who spends most of the original film groveling at the feet of Gaston, a living embodiment of toxic masculinity if ever there was one, and receiving only abuse in return. That “falling for a straight boy” narrative is not exactly a shining example of LGBT positivity—though it’s possible, of course, that in Condon’s version, LeFou will finally stand up for himself. (Is that the “payoff” Condon is referring to?)

As Martinelli said, LeFou as openly gay is a milestone, but it’s still not as if Disney is bringing us the first gay Disney princess or even the Star Wars Finn/Poe relationship folks have been clamoring for. Also, Josh Gad is pulling the same basic BS others have done when discussing LeFou’s sexuality, which, from a cynical point of view, could be taken to mean Disney’s trying to backtrack from the small Alabama town (that I’ve never heard of and I’m from Alabama) that decided they didn’t want to show the movie, as well as Russia debating as to whether they’ll ban the film or not.

As he said to ABC during the film’s premiere:

“Is he the first gay Disney character? I’ll leave that audiences to decide.”

Now, someone could read this statement as him baiting Disney about their own checkered history with using gay themes and tropes in their characters (such as The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula the Sea Witch, who’s based on drag queen legend Divine, or Pocahontas‘ Governor Ratcliffe and Wiggins, who are not only voiced by David Ogden Stiers, who came out in 2009, but are also clearly in some kind of relationship, whether that be a surprisingly loving one, given Ratcliffe’s self-centeredness, or some kind of kinky 50 Shades of Grey thing). But that’s being optimistic. He’s using the same tactic Paul Feig used for Ghostbusters when discussing Kate McKinnon’s Ghostbusters character Holtmann. SIGH.

So…there we have it. Everything’s changed, but everything’s still the same.

What do you think about LeFou? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

 

“Moonlight” Shines a Light on Black Masculinity and Sexual Identity

"Moonlight" poster. A24
“Moonlight” poster. (A24)

The buzz right now is for a film named Moonlight. The film, the second for writer-director Barry Jenkins, tells a haunting tale of a boy named Chiron whose battle throughout life is coming to terms with his identity as a gay black man. That identity is complicated by merciless taunts at school and a home life surrounded by drugs and hard drug dealers.

The film looks like it’ll become one of the most important films of the latter half of 2016 and into 2017, and rightfully so. When popular culture thinks of black men, they often think of them as how they are presented in Moonlight; as gangbangers and drug dealers. But in Moonlight, even those characters—including the main character, who later becomes a drug dealer himself in Atlanta because that’s all he’s known and that’s probably how he feels he can best hide himself and fit in—have a tenderness and humanity that is often denied them by society and, consequently, by other forms of media.

Collider’s Brian Formo touches on this topic in his review, writing in part:

Yes, Moonlight is important for its message of not just acceptance of homosexuality within black communities, but also an embracing of boys and who exist outside of that hardened world, and how masculinity has many different expressions, sexually and otherwise. But Jenkins’ script casually drops many lines about how a character’s time in juvenile detention or jail—or even a funeral—to show how constant incarceration is in their community. ‘When I was in jail’ is said as casually as ‘when I was in middle school’ like it’s just a natural progression of growing up. This is not something that is hammered home but it’s an important and sad portrait that runs parallel to our race conversations today of the over-imprisonment of black Americans and a lack of inroads to leave communities through better opportunities.

The constant denial of black male homosexuality is constantly regurgitated in TV, movies, music, and even magazines; OUT Magazine is featuring the film’s lead, Trevante Rhodes, in its feature spread about Moonlight, but this also is one of the few times OUT Magazine has even featured a black man as a feature story. Just taking a look at their main page, you won’t find much intersectionality; Frank Ocean and Pres. Barack Obama are the only black men that has been prominently featured recently on the site; the rest are articles about black women and white gay men. Even then, one has to wonder if the black women being touted are being celebrated for their catchphrases and antics and for some readers to pull “YAAS QUEEN”-esque appropriation tactics, and not for the sake of true intersectionality.

However, black American culture as a whole has a lot of work to do when it comes to accepting our LGBTQ men. Individually, we all have our different ideas about accepting the sexual spectrum. But on the whole, there is still the stigma that black LGBTQ men face when it comes to being accepted by certain members of the family or by society itself. The idea that the black man is only supposed to be a “workhorse,” a racialized Übermensch and hypersexual fetish, is something that Americans have got to exorcise from their thinking.

From where I’m sitting, black Americans seem to carry that fetishized idea of the black man as a deep wound that we’ve now grown attached to without realizing it. In many ways, black Americans have held onto things we shouldn’t because we know that the things we hate are something the only ways we’ll be accepted by society. Colorism, for example, is wrong, but many still hold onto colorism because of the leverage they can gain from it. Masculinity, something that had been both denied from black men and exaggerated in others’ perceptions of black men, is a thorny subject, and the ability to finally live in masculinity as freely as they possibly can is something many black men take very seriously. But for some, they believe that freedom is at risk due to other types of masculinity, including the masculinity of gay black men. The gay black man is thought of as a threat, as being something that will once again deny other men their right to be men in their own image. That’s completely illogical thinking, though. Moonlight is showing us the loss, confusion, and lack of identity many gay black men feel, and the film wants to ask if the cost of invisibility is too high (answer: it is).

It is comforting to see that Rhodes felt this part was his to play. Rhodes, being a straight man, never hesitated from the role and, in fact, found a lot of his past self in it. As he told The Hollywood Reporter:

“…[W]hat resonated with me is that at a younger age I struggled with identity because I didn’t know myself. I knew who I wanted to be, and I knew what I wanted the world to think I was, but I didn’t know who I was. I think everybody at some point goes through that…The fact that [Chiron] was homosexual just added to the beauty of the story for me.”

And, as he said to OUT:

“Our country is shit right now. Being a black person in America right now is shit, being a homosexual in America right now is shit, and being a black homosexual is the bottom for certain people. That’s why I’m so excited for people to see Moonlight. I don’t feel like there’s a solution for our problems, but this movie might change people. That’s why you do it–because you feel like you’re doing something that matters. This is someone’s story.”

He also told OUT about how he saw how much trouble his friend, who is gay, had when he was trying to find himself.

Rhodes certainly stands as a man other men, particularly some black men, should pay attention to and learn from.

In closing, here’s Rhodes in his own words as well as Moonlight’s trailer:

What do you think about Moonlight? Give your opinions in the comments section below.

Other reviews:

Moonlight is a Heartbreaking Portrait of Often Overlooked Lives | Vanity Fair

‘Moonlight’ Review: Barry Jenkins Delivers a Mesmerizing Look at Black Life in America | IndieWire

3 Points Sulu’s Sexuality Raises for “Star Trek” & Mainstream LGBT Representation

Star Trek Beyond is in theaters now, so the fervor of the movie might have made some people forget this bit of news that came out just before the film came out, but even though writer Simon Pegg (who also plays Scotty in the Star Trek reboot series) and director Justin Lin decided to make Sulu gay, married, and a father in this newest film, the original Sulu—George Takei—is against it.

Takei told The Hollywood Reporter that he felt making Sulu gay went against what Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, wanted for Sulu. “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character…Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.” As Takei states, Roddenberry had always imagined Sulu as straight. When Takei was told of Sulu’s homosexuality by John Cho (who plays Sulu in the films), Takei said he hoped the cast and crew would create an entirely new character instead of meddle with the original characters.

“I told him, ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as closeted,” he said.

However, Takei did tell The Hollywood Reporter that he had a conversation with Roddenberry during the show’s run, stating that he asked if gay equality could become a part of the show’s storyline. But Roddenberry felt like he was skirting the line as it was. “He was a strong supporter of LGBT equality…But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope–and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air,” Takei said. What Takei didn’t ask for, though, was for his character to be the one the show focus on in case the show did tackle gay equality.

Pegg and Lin’s decision to make Sulu gay was supposed to be in honor of Takei, who has been a staunch LGBT activist. Pegg released a statement to The Guardian defending his decision to reveal (or change) Sulu’s sexuality, stating:

“I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humour are an inspiration…However with regards to his thoughts on our Sulu, I must respectfully disagree with him. …He’s right, it is unfortunate, it’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character,’ rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?

…Justin Lin, Doug Jung [Star Trek Beyond co-screenwriter who also plays Sulu’s husband in the film] and I loved the idea of it being someone we already knew because the audience have a pre-existing opinion of that character as a human being, unaffected by any prejudice. Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic. Also, the audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek Universe from the beginning (at least in the Kelvin timeline), that a gay hero isn’t something new or strange. It’s also important to note that at no point do we suggest that our Sulu was ever closeted, why would he need to be? It’s just hasn’t come up before.”

The last part of that statement is a direct response to Takei’s feeling that revealing Sulu as gay would mean that Sulu was closeted the whole time. As Takei told The Hollywood Reporter, someone living in the 23rd century would have never had to be in the closet.

Cho also had reservations about the idea of Sulu’s homosexuality, but for different reasons than Takei. As he told Vulture, Cho was worried that Sulu’s homosexuality would assert that sexuality was something that could be controlled or changed, specifically since the current Star Trek series is in an alternate timeline from the original.

“…[W]we’re in an alternate universe but I’m assuming that Sulu is the same genetic Sulu in both timelines, and I thought we might be implying that sexual orientation was a choice,” he said. He also worried about how Takei would feel about their Sulu borrowing from his life. “My primary concern was that I was wondering how George [Takei] would feel, because he’s a gay actor that played a straight part ad crafted a straight character. I didn’t want him to feel that we had reduced him to his sexuality by sort of borrowing this bit, if you will, from his life.”

Ultimately, Cho came around to the idea of Sulu being gay and felt that the decision humanized Sulu beyond just being a bridge crew member. Cho even fought to have his on-screen husband be of Asian heritage (hence Jung’s role in the film), as a nod to some of his childhood friends who were gay. “…I always felt the Asian gay men that I knew had much heavier cultural-shame issues…I felt like those guys didn’t date Asian men because of that cultural shame,” he said. “So I wanted it to seem really normal in the future…that there was zero shame in the future.”

But what makes the whole “Sulu’s sexuality” issue the most convoluted for me is that, despite the insistence on creating an inclusive world in Star Trek Beyond, the film still has an important, defining scene on the cutting room floor; a kissing scene between Sulu and his husband.

“It wasn’t like a make-out session,” Cho told Vulture. “We’re at the airport with our daughter. It was a welcome-home kiss,” he said.

The decision to cut the scene is a strange and antithetical to the desire to make Sulu gay in the first place. In fact, this decision raises several issues at the same time:

1. Having a gay character in Star Trek makes sense. I think everyone involved agrees that a Star Trek that doesn’t acknowledge LGBT characters is a Star Trek that isn’t complete. With the franchise’s promise of inclusivity, it makes sense as to why the screenwriters felt this would be a prime moment to right a wrong.

2. Sulu as gay actually breaks sci-fi ground; Sulu is, at least for me, the first gay character in a mainstream blockbuster movie franchise. Whether all involved like it or not, Sulu and Paramount have set a precedent for other studios to live up to. There has now been a gay character in a blockbuster film and the world didn’t end and international movie markets didn’t collapse; it’s now time for other studios to step their game up and represent an unrepresented part of their demographic.

3. The editing room’s decision to cut Sulu’s kissing scene flies in the face of the progress Sulu represents. By cutting Sulu’s kiss, it once again gives shadows of other portrayals of gay men as being asexual. Even though Sulu has a family, by not allowing audiences to see Sulu as a sexual creature, the same way we see Spock and Uhura, true humanization is being robbed from the character. It leaves audiences, particularly those starved to see positive images of themselves on the big screen, between a rock and a hard place; there’s representation of a gay man of color, but the full scope of his relationship is still closeted to the world. In that aspect, Takei’s fears of a closeted gay man in the 23rd century have come true after all.

What do you feel about Sulu in Star Trek Beyond? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Looking for Love in Invisible Spaces: Meta & the Gap in LGBT Representation

(L-R) Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the Jan. 1, 2016 MASTERPIECE special Sherlock: The Abominable Bride. Courtesy of (C) BBC/Hartswood Films for MASTERPIECE

As featured in COLORBLOCK Magazine, February 2016

The patchiness of LGBT representation occurred due to several factors, such as cultural reticence, religious arguments, and entertainment companies worried about their bottom line domestically and internationally. The voids in representation have led to fans coming to their own rescue and creating alternate (and sometimes more accurate) readings of characters and their love lives.

The process of finding alternate interpretations of the characters not only provides fans who feel neglected by the entertainment world–such as LGBT fans and fans who are LGBT allies– the ability to participate in their favorite film or TV fandom, but also eases the anxiety created when an LGBT metatextual reading of a character, especially characters who already have a foothold in discussions surrounding LGBT media, doesn’t get the fair play it should in canonical tellings or retellings of a story. Basically, meta readings, and the subsequent fan creations that result from them, give fans the chance to tell the story from their point of view. They get to create a world that includes them in all of their complexity by allowing the canonical characters to have complexity not originally given to them by their original creators.

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series of mysteries are two great examples of when the canonical and meta worlds collide.

Want to read more about diverse entertainment? Read the February issue of COLOR BLOCK Magazine!
 

 

Canonically, Sherlock and John are friends, the most classic example of platonic love and partnership. However, the two characters have also been one of the many touchstones of LGBT media theory, especially where it concerns audience interpretation.

“Fans use these parallel worlds to explore what could have been or might be, especially as regards sexualities that have not found mainstream representation,” wrote Ashley O’Mara in her article, “Queering LGBT History: The Case of Sherlock Holmes Fanfic” for the site, Metathesis (metaistheblog.com). “There is no conclusive literary evidence that [Doyle] conceived of his Sherlock and John as ‘homosexual;’ their relationship presents as a romantic friendship although those were going out of fashion when he was writing. Likewise, despite queerbaiting, [BBC’s Sherlock co-writer Steven Moffat] insists that his Sherlock is not gay, let alone [asexual]. In [fanfiction] however, literally any interpretation goes.”

Those interpretations, which explore asexuality, aromanticism, bisexuality, and/or being gay, stem from said queerbaiting, which include suggestive moments in the BBC show, one of the biggest moments being during Irene Adler’s introduction in Series 2, Episode 1, in which Irene basically makes a case as to why John was actually falling in love with Sherlock without realizing it by comparing John to herself. Both John and Irene have considered themselves people who weren’t interested in men, yet, as Irene points out, both of them are very interested in Sherlock. There could also be a level of retroactive queerbating, as it were, happening within the original text itself; as O’Mara noted, Doyle was writing of romantic friendship when it was going out of style, with romantic same-sex friendship being replaced with a higher level of homophobia (at least among men; with women, romantic friendship and full blown same-sex romance was often overlooked by male society). The level of reticence around romantic friendships comes around the same time the term “homosexuality” was coined, which begs the question as to why Doyle would still consider writing Sherlock and John as a romantic friendships comes around the same time the term “homosexuality” was coined, which begs the question as to why Doyle would still consider writing Sherlock and John as a romantic friendship during such a societal change.

Meta readings have also occurred with many of today’s popular characters, such as characters in Marvel’s cinematic and TV universe. There are tons of  fan creations centering around the close relationship between Captain America and Bucky (aka the Winter Soldier), Captain America’s other close relationship with the Falcon, Iron Man and The Hulk’s friendship (as shown in the Avengers movies), and the friendship between Peggy Carter and waitress/aspiring actress Angie Martinelli in Agent Carter, just to name a few.

MARVEL'S AGENT CARTER - "A View in the Dark" - Peggy discovers her murder investigation has huge ramifications that can destroy her career, as well as everyone near and dear to her, on "Marvel's Agent Carter," TUESDAY, JANUARY 19 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal) HAYLEY ATWELL
MARVEL’S AGENT CARTER – “A View in the Dark” – Peggy discovers her murder investigation has huge ramifications that can destroy her career, as well as everyone near and dear to her, on “Marvel’s Agent Carter,” TUESDAY, JANUARY 19 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal)
HAYLEY ATWELL

Despite canon interpretations falling short of fandom expectation, it’s beginning to be par for the course for actors who are affiliated with the fandom to speak out on behalf of their fans’ want for more inclusive entertainment. For instance, to address the Peggy/Angie fans, Peggy herself, Hayley Atwell, told fans at last year’s Fan Expo Canada what Peggy and Angie’s relationship meant to her. “The thing that stands out for me about Peggy and Angie is it’s seldom that you see on television friendship between two women that isn’t founded on the interest of a man,” she said. “There’s a genuine affection that they have for each other; whether or not you want to project the idea that it’s romantic or sexual is entirely up to you and how you want to view it. I think there’s a mutual respect that’s quite rare that I want to see more of in film and stories.”

As you’ll read in the next article (about the meta pairing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens characters Finn and Poe Dameron), Captain America co-director Joe Russo also states that he welcomes all interpretations of Bucky and Cap’s relationship. Also worth noting about the Star Wars pairing is that John Boyega recently confirmed to ShortList writer Chris Mandle that while the Poe/Finn pairing isn’t canonical, it was definitely something that existed in the mind of Oscar Isaac, who played Poe in the film.

With more and more actors co-signing fandom imagination, the day when there will be a mainstream LGBT couple in genre films and television could be coming soon. Maybe not soon enough, to be honest, but still sooner than originally thought possible.

Related articles/sources:

The Breakout Fandom Couple of 2015: Stormpilot (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) (JUST ADD COLOR)

History of Homosexuality-19th Century (Wikipedia)

Meta Masterlist (http://loudest-subtext-in-television.tumblr.com/)

Meta: The Case of John Watson’s Sexuality (sherlockforum.com)

Hayley Atwell Discusses Agent Carter Season Two: Workplace Obstacles, Relationships, and “Cartinelli” (The Mary Sue)

Fan Expo 15: Atwell Declassifies “Agent Carter” Season 2 And Chris Evans’ Abs (Comic Book Resources)

The Breakout Fandom Couple of 2015: Stormpilot (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has indeed awakened the slumbering mass that is the Star Wars fandom, which has been waiting for the franchise’s return to greatness. The film, starring and John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac (as well as the members of the original cast), has already reached $1.23B at the time of this article, and surely, the film will reach even greater heights the longer it stays in the theaters. (This is also not taking into account the millions or billions of dollars spent on The Force Awakens merchandise.)

While the film is being touted as a tour-de-force of nostalgia and a refreshed look at a “galaxy far, far away,” the film has also been an achievement in diversity due to having well-rounded and powerful female characters (with the exception of Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma, who—while cool—will hopefully be fleshed out in upcoming films) and two leads of color, Boyega and Isaac, who open the film. (The fact that their faces are the first faces we see in the movie immediately cemented the film as a break away from Hollywood’s normal modus operandi.) Boyega and Isaac’s characters, disillusioned ex-Stormtrooper Finn and Resistance fighter pilot Poe Dameron, have also acted as ambassadors to another type of diversity not usually found in films; characters who might not only be on the LGBT spectrum, but might also be in a same-sex relationship.

The fandom who propose Finn and Poe’s relationship (named “Stormpilot” or “FinnPoe”) to the masses provide several clues as to why they thing Stormpilot is possible. First, Poe gave Finn his name; instead of continuing to call Finn “FN-2187” during their escape from Stormkiller Base, Poe immediately decides to call him Finn, thus giving Finn a new identity and a new lease on life. Second, Finn keeps Poe’s jacket when, after the crash-land on Jakku, Finn assumes Poe’s died in the crash. Third, Finn completes Poe’s mission to get BB-8’s message to the resistance base. Fourth, Finn and Poe passionately embrace after realizing the other is alive and kicking after all.

All bets are off when Poe lets Finn keep his jacket, saying “It suits you.” Poe, biting his own lip before speaking, then says with bedroom eyes, “You’re a good man, Finn.” The playful punch to Finn’s shoulder simply looks like a feeble attempt to cover up what could be construed as obvious flirting. Finn’s focused stare back (as well as another focused stare he gives Poe after Poe slaps his shoulder again in a pseudo-camaraderie fashion before taking to the skies in his X-Wing) seems to suggest that Finn can feel something brewing between them as well.

The clues start coming together after Isaac revealed, albeit with a little dry humor thrown in, that he was, in fact, playing up a romantic angle with his character. John Boyega seems to concur.

Normally, fandom character pairings, or “ships” (short for “relationships”) don’t make headline news. But Stormpilot not only lit up fan spaces like Tumblr and Twitter, but also mainstream sites like E! Online, Buzzfeed, Hypable, Vanity Fair, USA Today, Metro, Pink News, Comic Book Resources, The Mary Sue, Bleeding Cool, MoviePilot and certainly many more.

Star Wars fan Stephanie wrote one of the many pieces on Stormpilot for The Geekiary. The post, called “Everyone is Talking About Our ‘Star Wars’ Slash Ship'” (with “slash” fandom slang for same-sex pairings) focuses on Stephanie’s cautious optimism when it comes to how those outside of the fandom ship world will accept Stormpilot’s existence. “The best thing about mainstream coverage…is that it normalizes queer romances,” she wrote in her article. “…When all these outlets are reporting on our fan activities as something worth noting, it sends a powerful message to studios that there’s an audience out there that wants these narratives.” However, Stephanie notes in her article, the usage of some outlets using the term “bromance” when describing a ship that much more than just friendship can be problematic and awkward. “The main issue with mainstream media’s coverage of slash shipping is that, since we’re so obscure and don’t often leave our isolated communities, they don’t quite know how to talk about it,” she wrote. “Even worse, this can be an indicator that mainstream press just doesn’t know how to talk about queer romance in general, even in regard to non-fandom inspired pairings.”

Stephanie stated in an email interview about her feelings behind her article. “I wrote my article because I was feeling so heavily conflicted about the fact that this ship was getting such a large amount of mainstream coverage so quickly. On the one hand, I’m elated that a slash ship is getting generally positive coverage. It helps legitimize LGBTQ+ relationships in general, and makes it possible for more visibility going forward. On the other hand, we don’t exactly have the best track record with mainstream press understanding fandom culture. It often feels like we are being gawked at, made fun of, or just outright misrepresented,” she wrote. “I’m really grateful that, so far, we haven’t had any coverage that’s treated us poorly. With any luck, we won’t and all of my worrying will be for naught. We definitely need to lose the term ‘bromance,’ though. Please. Romance is romance and we don’t need to ‘bro’ it up to soften it. But that’s been my only issue so far and it’s relatively small compared to what’s been done to us in the past.”

Stephanie didn’t immediately latch onto Stormpilot after her first viewing of The Force Awakens, but now sees the developing relationship as playing on classic romantic beats. “Unlike a lot of my friends, I didn’t walk out of the theater shipping them right away. I did, however, come out of the film immediately drawn to Poe Dameron. When I got home and discussed it with friends I was introduced to the idea of shipping him with Finn within 24 hours of my first viewing and it didn’t take me very long to get on board with that idea completely,” she wrote. “There are a lot of romantic tropes that code them as being in the early stages of a romance such as clothing sharing, nicknames (or in Finn’s case, a name that isn’t a Stormtrooper number), and even that long dramatic run into each others arms when they realize the other isn’t dead. I’ve seen the film two additional times since my first viewing with my slash goggles on and everything just falls perfectly into place.”

Stephanie attributes Star Wars large fanbase for the reason Stormpilot became the phenomenon it is.  “I think a lot of what has drawn people to Stormpilot is what draws people to slash pairings in general, but on a much larger scale since the Star Wars fandom is so huge. Many LGBTQ+ people like myself enjoy queer pairings because we just don’t get them that often in mainstream media. It feels good to see characters that reflect our own sexuality off on adventures,” she wrote. “Many heterosexual women are drawn to slash ships either because they like the idea of two men together in general, or because these specific characters in this specific story happens to speak to them regardless of gender. The interesting thing is that I’ve seen many straight men also shipping Stormpilot, which seems to be rare in a lot of my other slash pairings (though not unheard of). There might be more visibility here because of how huge the fandom is. Or maybe straight men are just getting comfortable enough to admit that these guys are kind of perfect for each other. I’m not sure why there’s a higher visibility of heterosexual men shipping Finn and Poe, but it’s definitely unique.”

Geek Girl Diva, another Star Wars fan onboard with Stormpilot, wrote a similar response in an email interview to the fandom’s love for the pairing. “I think people connect with both the characters and how they are with each other. Poe and Finn already have a friendship that’s romantic in a sense,” she wrote. “They fell into immediate like with one another. You get the sense that both Boyega & Isaac would be totally down with playing gay characters and Isaac has a very open faced admiration. I think people connect to the deep liking these two have for one another, and it’s not a stretch to take it to the next level.”

Geek Girl Diva was immediately a part of the Stormpilot fanbase thanks to the ever-present chronicler of fandom things, Tumblr. “It was all Tumblr, bless its shipping heart,” she wrote. “Once I saw the meme, I fell in love with the ‘ship.”

The fact that so many people, men and women alike, have latched onto Stormpilot could have implications for how Disney and the Star Wars movie team goes forward, right? Or could stuff stay at the status quo? With so many billions at stake, and with such a wide intersection of people in the Star Wars fandom (some of whom aren’t as open towards LGBT representation), it’s difficult to say if Disney and Lucasfilm will take the promise of diversity to the next level.

“I think [the mainstream press is] great, wrote Geek Girl Diva, adding, “As much as I love the ship (and I love it like a house on fire), I don’t think Stormpilot is in the cards on the big screen. But I do think Poe could very well be gay and he’d be a perfect way to bring an LGBT character into the Star Wars Universe.”

LONDON, UK - DECEMBER 16: Actors John Boyega and Oscar Isaac attend the European Premiere of the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens in London on December 16, 2015.
LONDON, UK – DECEMBER 16: Actors John Boyega and Oscar Isaac attend the European Premiere of the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens in London on December 16, 2015.

There has been a Change.org petition asking Lucasfilm’s president Kathleen Kennedy to include LGBT characters in the new Star Wars films. When it comes to whether the petition could cause a rush of LGBT characters to enter the Star Wars film franchise is difficult to say. But both Stephanie and Geek Girl Diva point out that LGBT characters are already a part of the franchise, if just in books and games.

“Lucasfilm has already made the jump into showing LGBT characters, first in [Star Wars: The Old Republic] and then in a couple of the new canon books (Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath & Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars),” wrote Geek Girl Diva. “I don’t know 100% that Poe isn’t already the lead into an LGBT presence in the films. I think he might be, but it’s a guess and nothing more. That said, I do think that the Stormpilot love could make it easier for [Lucasfilm] to flip that switch. But I’m not in a position to make a decision on that.”

“Thanks to Chuck Wendig, there are LGBTQ+ characters in the novels, but we are still lacking big screen representation. I have a feeling that if they were planning for Poe and Finn to be in an onscreen romance, that’s already been decided and a petition wouldn’t sway that,” wrote Stephanie. “However, something like Poe’s sexuality may still be negotiable and we could have an affect on that. Poe’s sexuality hasn’t been touched on and Oscar Isaac has been incredibly supportive in interviews. He’s treated the idea of two men in a romantic relationship with respect and even said he’d go for a rainbow colored lightsaber. This could all be joking, of course, but I get a strong vibe from him that he’s supportive of our community. It’s hard to explain why, exactly, but these tidbits from his interviews don’t feel like they [Lucasfilm] are ‘making fun’ of us at all.”

“Finn’s sexuality may be more difficult to sway. Unfortunately we operate in a ‘straight until proven otherwise’ mindset with the majority of mainstream media, and the idea of bisexuality seems particularly difficult for a lot of writers to grasp,” Stephanie added. “With Finn expressing even a moderate interest in Rey, this could be the writers coding him as heterosexual. But hey, it’s possible that the people who are writing the next couple of scripts could have a good grasp on the idea that you can be attracted to more than one gender at a time and we may get bisexual Finn after all.”

Some news that’s made the social media rounds is that Captain Phasma will have an extended role in future films due to fan support. With the amount of fan support Stormpilot has, it’s in the realm of possibility that Disney and Lucasfilm could think twice about the extent of Poe and Finn’s relationship. But again, it’s tough to say since there’s so much money and investment on the line.

“It’s possible. Adding a few extra interactions without rewriting an entire script isn’t too huge, but if the characters are written, say, on completely different planets for most of the film it may be hard,” wrote Stephanie when asked if she thought there was a possibility for Disney and Lucasfilm to make fanon canon. “But if we don’t cause enough enthusiasm for Episode VIII, there’s always Episode IX. This is a trilogy and I’m sticking with Stormpilot for the long haul. Just have to keep my fingers crossed that neither of them die in the next film. That’s pretty much the only thing that’d put a nail in the coffin for future interaction.”

Geek Girl Diva differs slightly on the issue. “On [Phasma returning to the series], I think that was a bit different. Phasma caught fire for a few reasons and it’s a lot easier to beef up her story than it is to add in a relationship between two lead characters,” she wrote. “In the end, I think that’s entirely up to [Episode VIII director and Episode IX writer/director] Rian Johnson and the [Lucasfilm] Story Group. It all depends on what the arc is for the trio in the larger story. I don’t think Disney & [Lucasfilm] will shy away from any interaction, but I don’t think they’ll play it up just for fans. I think, in the end, the filmmakers will do what they feel is the best fit for the trilogy and the story.”

“If I have a personal hope, it’s not for Stormpilot (even though I love the ship),” Geek Girl Diva added. “In a perfect world, where we get diversity of all kinds, we get a female lead, a hetero interracial couple and a gay character (maybe in a relationship with a male alien? Let’s think big!), all of whom are great friends and join together to defeat the Darkness. I can work with that just fine.”

If Poe and Finn do become canon, what will Disney do about LGBT representation for women? Of course, the franchise will add characters to subsequent films, but if fans want someone from the main Big Three characters, there seems to be a lot of support for Rey being asexual and/or aromantic. Much of the support for Rey as being along the LGBT spectrum seems to stem from the fact that even though there’s ample time (and many open invitations from Finn) for Rey to take their friendship to the next level, Rey seems to be more enamored with the idea of what Finn leads her to think he is; she’s more fascinated by the idea of him being a part of the Resistance and belonging to something great rather than him being an available guy. Also, she’s more concerned with the mission at hand, getting BB-8 back to the base, rather than hooking up. The final scenes find Rey not cementing a romance with Finn, but with her kissing his forehead while he’s in a comatose state, a goodbye before she heads to the island Luke Skywalker is hiding on in the hopes of being trained by him. Her new mission is to focus on her handling of the Force, not being someone’s girlfriend.

The call for making Rey along the LGBT spectrum would naturally add to the film franchise’ commitment to diversity, but there’s also a smaller contingent of the fandom who want Rey to be lesbian, bi, or asexual/aromantic simply at the expense of removing her characterization and forcing her into the box of a spectator or as a voyeuristic avatar for the fan him/herself. Several fans on Tumblr seem to imply that they want Rey to be asexual and aromantic not for reasons concerning diversity, but just so she won’t interfere with Poe and Finn’s possible relationship. Asexuality and aromantic individuals deserve to be showcased on the big and small screens, which is what happened on USA’s Sirens, which featured asexual paramedic Valentina aka “Voodoo”, who dated non-asexual fellow paramedic Brian. But asexuality and aromanticism—two orientations that don’t describe a lack of a person’s desire for basic human affection, but just the levels to which a person might desire affection—shouldn’t be used as a way to box a character in at the expense of two other characters’ possible romantic relationship.

Such fear of Rey being a wedge between Poe and Finn should be left by the wayside, since directors are beginning to, at the very least, not write fans off for their non-canonical opinions. One example is Captain America co-director Joe Russo stating in an interview (via Vanity Fair) that while he has always personally viewed Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes’ relationship as brotherly, he doesn’t begrudge or limit anyone else from their own points of view. “People can interpret the relationship however they want to interpret it…People have interpreted that relationship all kinds of ways, and it’s great to see people argue about…what that relationship means to them,” he said. “We will never define it as filmmakers, explicitly, but however people want to interpret it they can interpret it.”

This movement towards fan inclusivity, as well as actors like Isaac suggesting he was playing at romance with another male character, means a lot when it comes to the struggle to get proper LGBT representation. But, as the Vanity Fair article linked above points out, the road towards true inclusivity might be even longer than fans are prepared for. However, something can be said for progress happening in leaps and bounds after years of stuttering steps. Take a look at marriage equality; it has taken over a decade to get marriage equality in a majority of the states, and then, one day, marriage equality was nationwide with the swift smack of the Supreme Court’s gavel. So who knows as to what kind of romantic future Finn and Poe (or Rey) have. While we could be going to the theaters in 2017 with Finn in a relationship with a girl, we could find Finn and Poe in same-sex relationships (if not with each other) and Rey exploring the universe of sexual identity while she hones her Jedi skills. The ball is in Disney and Lucasfilm’s court; let’s see what play they make.

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The Stonewall Inn Is Now an Official Landmark

The Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village has been in the news recently, and unfortunately, it’s because of the critically-panned Roland Emmerich film, Stonewall. Mostly everyone who’s seen it has hated it, either for its poor story, its whitewashing of actual LGBT history (which includes people of color at its center) or both. But now, The Stonewall Inn is in the news for a great reason: it’s now an official landmark.