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Hollywood’s Failure of Queer Representation is Also a Failure of Storytelling

Make it gay, you cowards!

Finnpoe Finn and Poe

There are a lot of things that would have made The Rise of Skywalker better: More Rose Tico. Higher stakes. Fewer weirds slug aliens. More Babu Frick (there can never be enough). But we agree with Oscar Isaac that something that would have made the film not just better, but revolutionary is if Finn and Poe had actually gotten together.

This problem is epidemic to big blockbusters: the queer love story wouldn’t just have meant representation, it would have meant a better movie.

“I think there could’ve been a very interesting, forward-thinking – not even forward-thinking, just, like, current-thinking – love story there, something that hadn’t quite been explored yet; particularly the dynamic between these two men in war that could’ve fallen in love with each other,” Isaac told IGN in a recent interview on the Rise of Skywalker junket. “I would try to push it a bit in that direction, but the Disney overlords were not ready to do that.”

And this is a giant bummer, not just because seeing queer people with an actual storyline would have been great, but because that kind of love story would have been better than what we got. Finn had a disappointing story that was unfocused … it would have been a lot better of he was fighting alongside his space husband.

Star Wars isn’t the only place where a queer love story would have made the property a better story. I’ll happily die on the hill that the entire MCU would have been better of they’d just acknowledged that Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes were in love. Think how much more impactful it would have been to have Captain America fighting for someone he loved (from a time when that love would have had to be hidden) rather than his best friend.

Love stories are fundamental elements of storytelling. That’s just a fact, whether you like it or not. They raise the stakes and drama of movies which is why we almost always have some sort of heterosexual love story every action movie – it makes it more interesting. Queer love stories could do that too and even do it better. And in these cases where all the pieces are there, it’s a waste not to put them together.

Stucky

This is something that’s foundational to fandom and fanfic. Fans see not just the story that they want, but stories that are ultimately more interesting than many of the very straight and straightforward plots we get in mainstream cinema. Fans are creative and awesome and go where the story sometimes should go, if the creators weren’t … what’s the word? Cowards? (That was Oscar Isaac’s word.) Or just too dumb to see the logical end of this potential?

It honestly becomes a failure of the writing when these films consciously don’t follow the natural course of these stories. It not only denies the audience a good or better story, the resulting absence of that story becomes a glaring omission. We can’t concentrate on the milquetoast plot that Finn and Poe got because we’re spending all our time thinking “well, why aren’t they married?” At the same time the story is also adding more women in an attempt to “no homo” them?

And please, spare me your comments about letting friendship be important and platonic love getting its due. The point here is that’s what we always get in movies. We’re tired of it, or at least I am. And don’t complain about the lack of female ships in this discussion – that would require these major tentpole movies to have more than one woman on screen at a time and allow them to interact.

There are endless excuses for why Disney and other major studios don’t go all the way with queer representation: international markets, conservative backlash, and all that typical nonsense. Those reasons don’t do it for those of us for whom the representation is important, but that’s about marketing and money and politics.

What I’m on about here is purely the artistic side and the fact that the creators’ heteronormative blinders are keeping them from telling the best, or at least more interesting and dramatic, versions of these stories. And yes, it would also be nice to have real queer stories in these massive movies that can’t be conveniently cut out in certain markets.

Oscar Isaacs gets it. He knows that Poe’s story certainly would have been more dynamic if we’d seen him truly in love with Finn rather than having him randomly flirt with a sexy hood ornament Zorii Bliss. That would have made this messy movie a bit less messy, but alas, that’s not the story we got. I guess that’s just another way of saying that fanfic continues to be the best version of everything.

(image: Lucasfilm)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.