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Strange but brilliant things have been happening in Hollywood recently. Last weekend saw an R-rated Deadpool movie featuring a version of the pansexual “Merc with a Mouth” barnstorm the box office, keeping mainstream audiences, hardcore comic book acolytes and plain old Ryan Reynolds fans happy. The biggest movie of 2015 at the global box office featured a black male and white female as its all-action, galaxy-straddling leads. And the new Mad Max film saw the title character playing second fiddle to a disabled female desert warrior with a hatred for post-apocalyptic systemic misogyny.
And yet none of the above would be half so revolutionary as Star Wars delivering the long-running space saga’s first ever interracial gay couple.
This rumour has been in the ether ever since fans noticed the bromantic chemistry between Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron and John Boyega’s Finn in JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens. Rian Johnson, the director of new instalment Star Wars: Episode VIII, has fanned the flames by retweeting fan art depicting the rogue stormtrooper and Resistance pilot locking lips. And speaking after the Bafta awards on 14 February, Boyega himself hinted he was more than open to the idea of shifting the Finn-Dameron relationship to the gay side. “What’s so funny, I posted a video the other day of myself working out, skipping, and in the background Oscar is just like, ‘Yeah baby go on!’ and people just went crazy,” he told Radio Times. “But as far as I’m concerned, when JJ [Abrams] sat us down to go through the script, it was a bromance.”
“But now I’m learning what Mark Hamill said before, when he didn’t know that Darth Vader was Luke’s father: you never know what they’re going to pull. I’m looking at the director Rian [Johnson] closely so he can get me involved early, so I can prepare myself. So who knows?”
Some commentators have speculated that the studio Disney, once a bastion of conservative values but these days a pretty liberal-minded place, might baulk at the prospect of losing out on box-office revenue in China and Russia. However, Abrams’ movie made just $125m out of a current total of $2.029bn in China, the world’s second-largest box office, while pansexual, pegging-curious Deadpool broke The Force Awakens’ all-time box office opening record in the land of Vladimir Putin. Perhaps Russian filmgoers aren’t as bothered about homosexuality as we might think, and perhaps China isn’t all that important when you’re smashing records everywhere else.
I have to admit, I assumed Finn and Daisy Ridley’s Rey were intended to end up as lovers by the end of the new Star Wars trilogy. But the heroes’ relationship is more about looking out for each other than gazing, starry-eyed into each other’s eyes.
Disney certainly shouldn’t avoid developing a gay plot out of fear. That way lies the dark side. But neither should Johnson worry himself overly about how to present Star Wars’ first same-sex relationship. Because romance has never been all that important in this (at its best) most kinetic of space sagas.
It took Han Solo and Princess Leia almost two movies to declare their love for each other, at the denouement of The Empire Strikes Back. And George Lucas and his team never spent long dwelling on the details. In fact, the only Star Wars movies to delve deeply into romantic territory are the appalling prequels, with all those excruciating love scenes between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala set against epic, sweeping, totally ersatz CGI planetary-vista backdrops. The most successful Star Wars films, 1977’s saga opener and The Force Awakens, are pretty blasé about affairs of the heart.
So let’s hope Finn and Poe continue their really-shouldn’t-be-so-groundbreaking-in-2016 space romance in the currently filming Episode VIII – provided they do so without undermining the breakneck pacing and planet-jumping joi-de-vivre of The Force Awakens. Then we can all move on to the really important Star Wars sex questions, such as whether R2-D2 or C-3PO goes on top, and how on earth Hutts procreate.