Disney's approach to Star Wars diversity tramples extended universe efforts

It’s that time of the year again. The day when countless people make the same joke about ‘May the 4th be with you’. Countless fans treat May 4th like a global holiday, honouring the Star Wars series in their own ways. Some may create art, others might watch through the films back to back. For us though, we wanted to use May 4th this year to look at Disney’s poor attempts at diversity inclusion in the modern Star Wars films and TV shows. 

Not that we have to explain why, but diversity is important. Attempting to include a wider range of people when writing not only makes the universe more believable, but it helps those in marginalised communities better relate to characters on screen. In a universe filled with advanced technologies, aliens and whatever that blue milk was that Luke drank, it feels weird that there is little LGTBQ+ representation on screen. 

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Disney has tried, but the attempt was lacklustre to say the least. There was a moment in Rise of the Skywalker when a gay couple kissed towards the end. Shared by minor characters Commander Larma D'Acy and Wrobie Tyce, the moment was insulting. It was an important moment, and seeing a married same-sex couple share a kiss on screen should have been a pivotal moment, but it felt hollow. The kiss was edited out by Disney in any regions where same-sex relationships are illegal. Disney was happy to support LGTBQ+ diversity until the point it affected profit margins. 

What made that half-assed attempt so frustrating was that the extended Star Wars universe has always done a far better job of including LGBTQ+ characters. Granted, it isn’t perfect, and certainly could have been better. However, there were gay and bisexual characters across the universe. Let’s look at that extended universe and how Star Wars has gotten it right in the past. 

An extension of real life

Featuring LGBTQ+ characters is an extension of real life, so it's disappointing that the best representation in the medium exists where only a small percentage of the fanbase will see it. Regardless, the fact there are Star Wars properties with representation is a step in the right direction. 

Way back in 2003, the earliest known openly gay character joined the Star Wars universe. Juhani was an openly-lesbian Cathar Jedi which players could meet and recruit in Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic. Interestingly, a programming error made her bisexual, but Bioware fixed this in a later update. Juhani wasn't just a passing character, she joined your team and was a romance option. Juhani was a driving force of LGBTQ+ inclusion, as one of the earliest examples of representation in video games.

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One of the earliest introductions of an openly bisexual man came in the form of Theron Shan, a human male. Sham originally appeared in the comics during the early 2010s. However, it wasn’t until his appearance in Star Wars: The Old Republic that people knew he was bisexual. Players can romantically woo Sham, regardless of their gender.  

Reess Kairn is the only known transgender character in the universe. Motivated to change their appearance through a need to disappear, Kairn’s motivations weren’t great. However, after being introduced as a male Twi'lek to readers, Kairn transitioned to a human woman. This shows there's the room to tell tales about gender dysphoria in Star Wars, and shows that transitioning is possible.

It seems like most Star Wars’ LGBTQ+ characters seem to emanate from one source - The Old Republic video games. While there are some who exist within the comics, Bioware has been a driving force behind inclusion in the Star Wars Universe. 

What can Disney do?

Considering Disney essentially wrote off all extended universe lore, it now has a completely open book to create new, interesting and relatable LGTBQ+ characters. The Mandalorian would have been a significant starting point. Goran Beviin and Medrit Vasuure are a gay Mandalorian couple which appeared in the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force comics. Homosexual relationships are canonnically shown as accepted within Mandalorian culture. Not only that, but Beviin was born less than ten years after the events of the first series, showing that it was also acceptable during that time period. 

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Wholesome Energy

There was a ray of light in 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. Disney announced prior to release that Lando Calrissian would be pansexual. Played by the ever-captivating Donald Glover, Calrissian’s pansexuality was clear as day in his love for custom pilot droid L3. The upcoming Lando Calrissian series could be perfect for Disney to explore pansexuality as a theme on a grand stage.

With so many new TV shows on the horizon, it would be really disappointing if Disney didn’t include at least one LGTBQ+ character. And no, we’re not accepting one throwaway kiss that can be removed with ease. LGBTQ+ Star Wars fans deserve a character that’s a vital part of the narrative, not just someone who is an afterthought. As much as I love the Star Wars universe, I find it hard to praise the series on May 4th when you consider how poor its diversity track record is. 

P.s. We still don’t forgive you for baiting us with Finn and Poe, Disney. 

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