Disney has seemingly heard the complaints of the masses and has doubled down in arguably the worse way possible. It should be no surprise that at this point, Disney with it's record breaking year, has not always been the most progressive studio when it has come to LGBT representation. Marvel was hinting at the inclusion of a gay character in Endgame only to give the audience a scene in which one of the two directors plays an unnamed character that mentions his husband was lost in the snap of Thanos. Needless to say, this is was more than a let down for many fans of the long running series. To imagine a film series with over twenty films introducing an openly gay character this late in the game felt less than a bold move but more of meeting fan demands. Even so, why do so little? That's where Finn and Poe, and their departure from any intimacy in the latest Star Wars film, come into play. The hysteria came quickly following the release of The Force Awakens. Actors John Boyega and Oscar Isaac had a natural chemistry that made every interview a re-watchable treat. Before you knew it, the corner of the internet that dives so deeply to project story lines on fictional characters, began to find reasons to do so on the latest big pop culture "ship." What really had no clear indication of being remotely LGBT oriented seemed to become a massive focal point of what fans wanted to see fleshed out in the franchise.
This misreading is probably nothing more than a lack of on screen male intimacy. We are so foreign to the idea of two hetero sexual men being this close without the possibility of their being a queer undertone that we begin to believe that the only logical step is to develop a romantic relationship. This leap seems to have backfired and from some of the choices from the latest Star Wars film, it seems like Disney was sending a clear example for these two characters while offering a treat they had behind their back. Poe, much more so than Finn, finds his machismo in this film. He's overtly heterosexual, even making several passes at Keri Russel's (although one wouldn't know it) masked Zorii in the film. The "lets get out of here," head nod at the end and even requesting a kiss, added an expected comedic element that fit Poe well but, Disney was clearly putting their foot down. Not only was that gay moment happening but, Poe Dameron is most certainly heterosexual. Finn's character leans heavily on the least interesting aspect of his story, his endless worrying about and following of Daisey Ridley's Rey. There ends up being two memorable moments for Finn in the final installment of this nine film sage. What he does not tell Rey, leaving the audience to wonder whether he will confess his love for her or if it will be force related, and Naomi Ackie's Jannah, another rebellious former stormtrooper who meets and quickly befriends Finn. Finn and Jannah go off one on of the films more dangerous quest, seemingly placing themselves in imminent doom to save the resistance. This of course, does not flesh out, as she ends up meeting Lando (who had a larger role than needed) after which it is implied that he will help her discover who she is? Both characters spend their final journey in such a hetero-centric parallel path, it begs to wonder if Disney's explicit message was that these characters simply are not now nor will they ever be, romantically linked. Not in this galaxy or a Galaxy far, far away.
That leads to what was easily the worst "blink and you miss it," moment of the entire film. The actual "gay kiss." The gay kiss being heralded as the franchises first. The inclusion of a singular LGBT moment can signify where the franchise is heading. If you had heard about the kiss before watching the film, you were looking for it. When would it arrive? Who would it be between? After two hours, anyone who had paid attention would have noticed that the chances of Poe and Finn's confirming their long sought after romance was more than unlikely. It occurs between the returning character, Commander D'Arcy, played by Amanda Lawrence, and another unnamed fighter pilot. In a busy scene full of movement, not prominently featured but tucked a bit further away from the screen, the two join in a celebratory kiss towards the very end of the film. And it doesn't matter at all. I won't go on to discuss the casting issues between heterosexual men playing gay men and how rare it is to be seen the other way around. I won't go into the problematic past with queer and lesbian roles in Hollywood films either. What I will say is this, cowardice has give us nothing, and we are expected to applaud far below the bare minimum. These, "historic," moments for Disney came for two of their biggest films (and what will no doubt be in the top five list of biggest films in 2019) in the cheaper way imaginable. Disney created a moment that feels like another in a long list of fan service-y nonsense stuffed in a winter Blockbuster, short enough to be removed for any international markets that will disapprove and there's no doubt in my mind that it will happen. So what do we hope for? More LGBT inserts between minor and unnamed heterosexual characters? More characters that we wish to see make it only to be pulled apart in the end (not that giving into the Poe/Finn narrative would have been the right choice anway)? Are our demands too high? Is it too much for this massive studio to gamble? Can we demand, not only LGBT representation, but representation that is played by actors who live it?
To be fair, I don't mind J.J. Abrams directing style nor do I credit him solely with this disspointment. I never finished Lost and I enjoyed the first Star Trek film and some of his other works, so I'm not anti-Abrams for the reasons most seem to be. My issue is that like The Force Awakens, Abram's played it extraordinary safe and that's why he was brought back for the final film. Rian Johnson created a firestorm around The Last Jedi after it's release. It went so far, that it garnered responses from Luke Skywalker's Mark Hamill as well as the returning Ridley and Boyega. Johnson himself even seemed to shade some of the early reviews around the latest Star Wars film, stating that he wants to be "challenged as a fan," and giving too much to fan demands is a mistake. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker currently sits at 58% on Rottentomatoes while Johnson's other film release, Knives Out (2019), was met with wide critical acclaim and great audience reception. Despite fan outcry towards Johnson's controversial TLJ, he will be back for more with Lucasfilm in the future. One can only hope that part of his challenges comes with the continuing trend of diversity and inclusion in the new iteration of Star Wars films.