Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was released worldwide this week, and the finale to the Skywalker saga included a franchise first: a lesbian kiss. However, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nature of the kiss made the moment feel less like a triumphant landmark and more like cheap tokenism.
Since 2016, director J.J. Abrams has said that he firmly believed that LGBTQ+ would be introduced in Star Wars films in the future, going so far as to say in a Daily Beast that “it seems insanely narrow-minded and counterintuitive to say that there wouldn’t be a homosexual character in that world.” As viewers of The Rise of Skywalker can attest, Abrams has made good on his promise… but just barely. The kiss in question was shared between two nameless Resistance fighters celebrating after the events of the film. It’s a fleeting moment amid a rush of chaos and celebration that could easily be missed by any moviegoer who turns to reach for a handful of popcorn. More importantly, it’s a moment that can be easily edited out of the movie for countries where depictions of homosexuality are not permitted.
To make matters worse, neither woman played a significant role in the film in any capacity – one of the pair didn’t even have a line. For a franchise with such a significant impact on pop culture, many fans expected that Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker‘s gay kiss would be a significant moment that would stand as a moment of triumph for a group that has never, until this point, been represented in the Star Wars movies (though gay characters have been featured elsewhere in canon).
When all is said and done, The Rise of Skywalker might have been better off not featuring an LGBTQ+ moment at all. The kiss was so meaningless that no matter how positive the filmmaker’s intentions were, it comes off as little more than token representation. Additionally, J.J. Abrams’ insistence that not including a gay character is “shameful” gave fans the expectation of an LGBTQ+ character in the first place, so for the culmination of more than three year’s worth of anticipation to be an extremely brief kiss between extras feels downright insulting to fans hoping to finally see themselves represented onscreen.
Not only that, but perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the entire ordeal is the notion that Oscar Isaac and John Boyega were both outspoken proponents for a romantic relationship between Poe and Finn. Isaac, in particular, voiced his support numerous times during The Rise of Skywalker‘s press tour, indicating that at some point there was a genuine possibility for a canon relationship between to major characters.
In the end, J.J. Abrams made the decision to follow through on his promise of including a gay Star Wars character not by using major characters with preexisting chemistry, but instead by using throwaway background characters. While the lesbian kiss may have technically been the Star Wars movies’ first LGBTQ+ moment, the utter lack of importance makes it difficult to celebrate such a “big” moment, when the possibility for a much more significant relationship was presented but passed over.
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