Disney need to start letting their gay characters be gay
Star Wars. Marvel. Pixar. Why is the big D so afraid to include LGBTQ?
Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) should have kissed.
That is it. There is no other way around it. Even in The Rise Of Skywalker, when Rey (Daisy Ridley) is asking Finn why Poe is in such a bad mood, Finn basically answers "Oh, he's always in a bad mood."
They are already a bickering couple, why not just let them have a smooch when they win that final star war?
Nope, instead Poe is given screentime to flirt with Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell), while Finn is giving some bonding time with Jannah (Naomi Ackie), just to hammer home the whole "No, they're not gay for each other, they like ladies, see?"
Some will say that folk were reading too much into the lip-biting scene from The Force Awakens, but really, that just shows that the LGBTQ community are looking for any kind of representation on the big screen. Even a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, sexual minorities are tough to be found, apparently.
In the run-up to the release of Episode IX, director and co-writer JJ Abrams did put to rest the potential of that romance, but told Variety the following:
"In the case of the LGBTQ community, it was important to me that people who go to see this movie feel that they’re being represented in the film. I will say I’m giving away nothing about what happens in the movie. But I did just say what I just said."
Well, enough time has passed now that everyone knows that representation was of two ladies kissing for maybe one second, practically out of focus, in the background of a celebratory scene. If you didn't know to look for it, you'd completely miss it.
And some audiences will completely miss it, as the tiny scene will be cut completely from its release in Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and most of the Middle East, where homosexuality is illegal. We're guessing all of the murder that happens throughout the movie is also considered illegal, but that can't be cut out without completely altering the movie. The fleeting, blink-and-you'll-miss-it gay kiss though, the first of its kind in 42 years of Star Wars history, can be cut and nobody will know the difference.
So, no, not representation. Almost literal lip service.
But Star Wars isn't the only huge franchise lacking in diversity under the Disney banner, as fans are still waiting for a similar arrival in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
22 movies (and counting), and still not one major LGBTQ+ character. Avengers: Endgame featured the first identifiable queer character, played by one of the movie's co-directors Joe Russo, who mentions in a group therapy session with Captain America (Chris Evans) that he recently went on his first post-Snapture date, and that date happened to be with a man.
Again, that scene could be cut or edited (and, in Russia, it was), and nobody would know any better. JOE spoke to the Russo Brothers at the time of the release of Endgame, and asked specifically about LGBTQ+ representation in the MCU:
"Yeah, but while we can't really speak to what Marvel is going to do in the future," Anthony Russo told us, "that is more for them to say, when they're ready. But we do know that diversity is a big part of how they're moving forward, and there are going to be some very, very exciting things coming on that front," before Joe Russo added, "Certainly, an LGBTQ+ character."
Elsewhere, there was a huge song-and-dance (pun intended) about Beauty And The Beast's LeFou (Josh Gad), who clearly spent the entire movie fawning over Gaston (Luke Evans), before getting to... dance with another man in the final song-and-dance number. Disney's first movie, Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, came out in 1937. 80 years and countless famous characters later, and this is their first "exclusively gay moment". Four years earlier, ParaNorman's lead male hero proudly announced "You're going to love my boyfriend".
And then there's Frozen.
Whether they like it or not, Elsa (Idina Menzel) has become a queer icon. How did she achieve this status? Simply by not being explicitly straight. While Anna (Kristen Bell) is off falling in love with boys, Elsa shows no sexual or romantic interest in anyone. Her parents also want her to suppress (i.e. closet) her powers that she was born with, for fear of how the public might react when they find out about her.
When the bar of representation in movies is set this low, when simply not assigning any sexual identification is enough for the LGBTQ+ community to grab on this tightly, then you know something is amiss.
Disney has broken every box office record going, pushed the envelope in special effects and the medium of storytelling as we know it, so why is this particular hurdle so difficult for them to overcome? Well, realistically, money. Depictions of homosexuality will limit your audience, both geographically (China, one of the biggest cinema markets in the world, will ban or severely edit any LGBTQ+ content), and socially (One Million Moms boycotted Toy Story 4 due to a background scene involving two mothers dropping off their child at school).
However, looking forward, there is some hope.
It would appear to be Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) like be the first out-and-proud LGBTQ+ superhero at Marvel, as she said the following at Comic-Con about her character in 2021's Thor: Love And Thunder: "First of all, as new King [of Asgard], she needs to find her queen, so that will be her first order of business. She has some ideas. Keep you posted."
This was followed up by Kevin Feige, head honcho of Marvel telling io9: "The answer is yes. How that impacts the story remains to be seen with that level of representation you’ll see across our films, not in just Thor 4."
Here is hoping that Valkyrie actually gets to celebrate that love on-screen, in the foreground, and for long enough that it can't simply be snipped out. Come on Disney, we believe in you!