The first time I saw the original Star Wars I didn’t consciously have a strong feeling about the apparent love triangle being set up between Luke, Leia, and Han. I was frankly a bit surprised when some of my friends started talking about it. I mean, yes, there was the cute scene when Han realized that Luke was developing a crush, and he asked, “Do you think a princess and a guy like me–?” But he was so obviously teasing Luke. Clearly he wasn’t actually interested in the princess, right? I mean, what other possible interpretation could you have to that indulgent, slightly condescending smile?
And Han, being a much more experienced man, also, to my mind, knew that there was never any chance that a guy like Luke could win the princess, either. That was the other meaning of that smile. And during the dozens of times I re-watched the movie over the next three years, I was still convinced that there wasn’t going to be a serious conflict between Luke and Han trying to win Leia’s heart.
I was definitely in the minority. Lots of people expected, if there was a sequel, that a love triangle would figure heavily in the next movie.
I would like to be able to argue that I had somehow perceived some hint of the revelation that was going to come along later that Leia was Luke’s twin sister. But that wasn’t it. It wasn’t until after I first saw The Empire Strikes Back, that I realized what had been going on in my subconscious. Empire remains my favorite movie of the series for a lot of reasons, but after the first showing I had very mixed feelings about one subplot.
I was still deeply closeted at that point, but I was quite aware that I had a crush on Harrison Ford (or at least all the characters he played), while I had also very strongly identified with Luke, but didn’t have the same kind of feelings for Mark Hamill. I realized that my subconscious had been rooting for a romance, all right, but one between Luke and Han. Which in 1980, when Empire was released, was absolutely impossible in a mainstream film. Heck, even the most radical art house films seldom portrayed mutual same sex romances. They might show a homo obsessed with another man, but it was unrequited and tragic and depressing.
But that was what my subconscious saw precisely because we never saw it on the screen. I’ve written before about why queer people read same sex attraction into all sorts of characters in movies, television, and books. Because if we didn’t imagine them, we never got them. The unrelenting message of culture and media is that queers don’t exist, queers don’t matter, queers don’t love, and if they dare to, they deserve whatever horrible things befall them.
That’s why it’s homophobic when straight people roll their eyes or demand to know why we “do that” to characters who aren’t explicitly identified as gay. It isn’t necessarily malicious or intentional, but being annoyed that we dare to imagine such relationships perpetuates our erasure and is condescending at best.
But to get back to Empire, the movie did such an excellent job of portraying the complex emotional relationship between Han and Leia, that by the time of Han’s famous, “I know” answer just before he was frozen in carbonite, I was cheering for them. Of course they were in love! They were perfect for each other! At least that’s what one part of my heart said. Meanwhile, another part was mourning the loss of the love between Han and Luke that I’d hoped for, even though I knew it wouldn’t happen in a mainstream movie.
But once I got over my disappointment, I was totally on the Han and Leia train, and was happy to see them decades later (“You still drive me crazy”) as a realistic older couple who have had their ups, downs, and a falling out but still caring for each other in The Force Awakens.
I don’t only ship same sex couples. The first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I was totally a Willow/Xander shipper. I so wanted Xander to pull his head out and realize that Willow loved him. At different times in the series, yeah, I was elsewhere. I’ve written Xander/Spike fic (and if I ever finish my WIP there’s also some steamy Graham/Riley action and hot Gunn/Buffy action in there). I adore well written Buffy/Spike fic. For a while I was a Xander/Scott shipper, but have often been completely onboard both the canon Xander/Anya and Willow/Tara relationships. I realize if you’re not familiar with the show that you won’t know that half of those are opposite sex couples. In another fictional universe, I remain an unapologetic Parker/Hardison/Spencer One-true-threesome shipper!
But yes, I saw the chemistry between Finn and Poe during my first viewing of The Force Awakens, and given how many millions of other fans saw it, it clearly isn’t an unreasonable inference. I get that other people see the Rey/Finn pairing, and I’m not saying I wouldn’t be able to enjoy that, but I would really, really like for a galaxy filled with aliens of all shapes and droids and so forth the acknowledge that queer people exist, too. (Also, hey! Why can’t we have a Finn/Poe/Rey triad? Polyamory is real, too!) That’s why I enjoyed reading Rian Johnson Gets It, where I first saw the cartoon I linked above.
As Chuck Wendig said in a post I’ve linked to before regarding people who were angry he put gay characters in an official Star Wars novel:
“…if you’re upset because I put gay characters and a gay protagonist in the book, I got nothing for you. Sorry, you squawking saurian — meteor’s coming. And it’s a fabulously gay Nyan Cat meteor with a rainbow trailing behind it and your mode of thought will be extinct. You’re not the Rebel Alliance. You’re not the good guys. You’re the fucking Empire, man. You’re the shitty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire. If you can imagine a world where Luke Skywalker would be irritated that there were gay people around him, you completely missed the point of Star Wars. It’s like trying to picture Jesus kicking lepers in the throat instead of curing them. Stop being the Empire. Join the Rebel Alliance. We have love and inclusion and great music and cute droids.
Also, I was really pleased with this: when a fan recently asked Mark Hamill on line if Luke was bisexual, Mark replied, “His sexuality is never addressed in the films. Luke is whatever the audience wants him to be, so you can decide for yourself.”