OPINION: Hollywood and Queerbaiting

By Tristan Sherlock

Thanks to the Star Wars tie-in novel Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray, it has been revealed that one of the characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo –being played by Laura Dern – may in fact be Pansexual.

Despite this hint being quite easily looked over, there is great potential for this to provide exceptional queer representation.

Except, I’m sceptical.

This year has not exactly been the best with its LGBTQ+ representation. Queer fans of multiple shows and genres have been queerbaited (definition: the hinting of queer characters or relationships within a medium with no actual depiction of said character or relationship)  and subjected to disappointing, if not slightly traumatising, representation throughout the entirety of this year; in multiple blockbuster films.

While the director of the latest Star Wars trilogy, J.J. Abrams, announced last year that he is more than willing to included queer characters within his exploration of the Star Wars universe, I wouldn’t put it pass Hollywood to announce this representation exclusively through a Young Adult novel. With Abrams’ comment and the slight nod towards Holdo’s sexuality in Gray’s novel I’m in all honestly expecting a repeat of Beauty and the Beast.

Earlier this year, Disney provide fans with some infamous queer representation in the form of Gaston’s sidekick/henchman, LeFou. Now while Josh Gad, who starred as LeFou did exceptionally in his role, it was quite a disappointment for the queer community.

We’ve been begging for some positive LGBTQ+ representation from Disney and what we were subjected to was a queercoded villain trope.

Because yes, despite LeFou learning that he was on the wrong side he was still a villain. His entire queer arch consisted of a “gurl you to good for him,” and a blink-and-you-miss-it dance.

It’s also important to note that during the climax of the film viewers were subjected to a trans-misogynistic, ‘men embarrassed to be in dresses’ joke. It’s no surprise really that Beauty and the Beast left queer viewers feeling that they are truly never going to be seen positively in Hollywood films.

More poor representation, with heavy queerbaiting involved, came in the form of the latest Power Rangers.

Prior to its release, Lionsgate Films announced that Power Rangers’ already super diverse cast (props to this film for that and only that) would become even more diverse with the introduction of the first LGBTQ hero in a blockbuster film.

The problem with this, and this was also the issue in Beauty and the Beast, was that the representation relied on people already knowing the character was gay.  It was something that easily went over viewers’ heads, and didn’t account for heteronormativity.

At least with Power Rangers we can slightly excuse its sugar-coating of LGBTQ+ representation. Not only is the representation, in general, far less problematic, but also it makes up for it in other areas of diversity, such as four-out-of-five of the main cast being people of colour and granting cinema its first autistic hero in a blockbuster film.

The only real problem with Power Rangers is that we’re just not in a place where such subtle representation really shows change is happening.

Hopefully Star Wars: The Last Jedi doesn’t let us down on that front.

Another trope Star Wars could subject us to is the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope.

In 2016, this trope saw a lot of criticism hurled towards multiple TV shows. Those shows including Game of Thrones, Pretty Little Liars, The 100, Orange is the New Black, The Walking Dead, and many more. Many fans claimed that the large amount of LGBT+ deaths, especially that of LGBTQ+ women, was problematic, considering out of 900 characters across networks such as ABC (now Freeform), CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW only 4.8% (43) were LGBTQ+.

In 2016 alone 27 LGBT+ characters died, most being female characters. This trope was revisited in Atomic Blonde when a prominent LGBTQ person of colour is brutally murdered onscreen.

And with that comes the fear that the one LGBTQ+ character we might get from Star Wars could be killed off.

Although don’t get me wrong, we could get a happy story. Holdo could in fact be pansexual, Finn and Poe could become canon, Luke Skywalker might finally come to terms with his own sexuality but, like I said before, I’m sceptical.

Really sceptical.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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