I am not usually one to discuss memes and internet stuff that has ‘gone viral’ because, when I do, I feel like I just sound like what I am, a ‘Rapidly-Aging Geek Icon.’
However, over the course of the last month, there has been a movement that has particularly sparked my interest and I would like to address it; not because I feel it is particularly fun or original, but because I feel that it is extremely relevant.
I grew up in the 1980s in a situation that was notably unstable. Many of those events that people take for granted one has experienced, I did not. I suffered from crippling shyness as a child and was, in all likelihood, severely depressed. I had a hard time reading, due to undiagnosed dyslexia, and had a home life in which one simply DID NOT discuss any of the things that were going on with me. In my youth, I was convinced; no matter how unwarranted; that any legitimate acknowledgement of any of those issues that were ongoing for me; depression, learning disability, social awkwardness, etc.; would lead to my removal from the only person I had ever known as family or even my death.
In short: fear led me to adapt to my surroundings in ways that others, I feel, may not have had to.
When one experiences such levels of instability, one begins to question the stability of others. Acutely aware of how much I was manipulating my social environment to survive, I instinctively began to question how much others did the same thing. Through introspection, I developed the skill to read beneath the surface with people and, through doing so, received the only education I have ever needed.
I feel as though these experiences enabled me to be remarkably open-minded in regards to others and, from the time I was in middle school, people would open up to me. I cannot recall a time, from that point forward, that I was not aware of someone in my life who was homosexual. I cannot, also, recall a time where I gave a crap where someone sat on the Kinsey scale.
The 1980s were that strange transitional time where sexuality, and the representation thereof, collided with a growing level of social awareness to present alternate lifestyles than the standard, ‘accepted’ ones of the past. There could be a lot of reasons for this, but I think a great deal of it has to do with the perceived inevitability of our complete and utter annihilation in nuclear fire. Every time we turned on the television there were old, white dudes in expensive suits telling us that a poorly-defined nemesis of ‘freedom’ was ready to blow us all to hell.
So why wouldn’t we change the channel to MTV? With hearty doses of Madonna, Duran Duran, Adam Ant, and all the rest, how could we possibly embrace the close-minded realities of the past, eschewing this fantastic new shiny?
Well, not all of us made it out of the 1990s unscathed.
Growing up questioning everything and accepting anything as possible has led to some interesting retrospection in regards to entertainment and that leads me to the byline of this article.
A month into the year 2016, Tumblr has exploded with the memetic ‘Boba Fett is a Lesbian 2k16.’
Allow me to break this down with an image:
And so it begins.
The reaction has been… um… mixed, as many hardcore Star Wars fans are incensed about the idea that a beloved character from Star Wars (who manages to accomplish remarkably little, in the course of two movies) could be anything other than what was established in the cannon. Meanwhile, those embracing this concept are willing to develop non-canonical, but amazing, interpretations as to how Boba Fett could, indeed, be a lesbian. As a fan of the ‘No-Prize’ concept, I am thoroughly enjoying the latter, a great deal, but the vitriolic response from fans of the canon is kind of upsetting.
This concept, as others before me have pointed out, spotlights a distinct lack within the canonical Star Wars material that, although it has been addressed to some extent, is not a component of the mainstream films. Although there have been a diverse cast of human characters, for the most part, the lack of LGBT characters in the Galaxy Far, Far Away belies a subtext that is somewhat upsetting; both from a social standpoint and, ultimately, from a storytelling standpoint.
When one is spotlighting conceptual differences between our reality and that of a fictional universe, one of the ways to do so is to present social issues. Through metaphorical representation, the creators can present ideas in a way that aligns with their own opinions or even present new social ideas and definitions that would not or could not be considered in the real world.
With the example of the Star Wars Universe, since very few characters have their sexual preferences spotlit (in the films, it pretty much breaks down to Leia, Han, Padmé, creepy Anakin, and Jabba the Hutt, although, for all we know, his male dancers may have had that day off), it is entirely possible that Boba Fett; or nearly any other character; might have desires that deviate from the ‘norm.’ It may be, in fact, that such considerations are simply the norm. There is no need to shine a light on this aspect of the universe because, in that universe, no one cares.
With the example of Boba Fett, let’s take a look at the history of the character through the filter of this meme:
We know that Jango, in the process of maintaining his legacy, accepts an ‘unaltered clone’ as payment for his services. Could it be possible that the reason he does this rather than ‘find a nice girl and settle down’ is that he has never been comfortable as defining himself as a male? Perhaps, having grown in a militant society, the idea of sexuality was something that he did not feel he could address with those around him. This may have, ultimately, led to his focus on being a loner and, disenfranchised with the Mandolorian way of life, turn to bounty hunting.
Perhaps the source of the Clone Army was chosen, very specifically, because Jango’s personal turmoil was such that it made him susceptible to manipulation, enabling the clones’ devotion to Palpatine to be absolute. As far as I am aware (and I welcome anyone to correct me), the sexuality of the clones is never examined in any of the canonical storylines.
Boba Fett, for their part, has appeared in Star Wars Episodes II, V and VI (Attack of the Clones, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, respectively) as a child or masked, never revealing their adult face. The other appearances of the character occurred in The Clone Wars cartoon series, once again, as a youth. Those intervening years for the character have yet to be addressed, although the prospect of a Boba Fett movie could change all of that.
What we do know is that Boba Fett changed aspects of the legacy left to them by their ‘father,’ without relinquishing them, entirely. His armor has received a wide range of alterations and both armor and ship, the Slave-1, have had full paint jobs. Perhaps these alterations paralleled a more distinct and personal alteration that Boba made the decision to upon arrival into adulthood. Perhaps Boba made accepted those things that Jango never could, thereby walking the path Jango had hoped his child would take; the road he could not bring himself to walk.
When we see the flirtations with the women of Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi, this is Boba Fett having accepted who she is and allowed herself to come out of her shell in ways her father never could. She is finally the person that Jango Fett wanted to be and could not be: a woman who enjoys the company of women.
Which makes the final appearance of Boba all the more tragic, in my opinion.
There will be those who read this and ask, ‘Why would you do this?’ I can only respond with, ‘Why not?’
Do not all people deserve to find representations of themselves in the fiction they enjoy? Without definitions from the source, can we not accept that each fan can make the choice to define in ways they so choose?
At what point is it determined that Han Solo is heterosexual? Certainly he pursues Leia, but is there any reason not to imagine liaisons with Lando Calrissian or enjoying ‘rug-jobs’ from Chewbacca during those long trips through hyperspace?
Another thing I encountered, recently, was a video in which Max Landis discusses very specific fan arguments. I’ve embedded it, below:
When extrapolated, Landis’ point regarding fiction being whatever we want it to be enables us to use our imagination to fill in the blanks. We can determine who would win in a fight between whom or whom wants to smooch with whom in any way we would like.
The rise of the ‘Boba Fett is a Lesbian 2k16’ meme also shows a significant need for the Star Wars franchise to address the sexuality of the characters in a real and meaningful way. In the expanded universe, there have been at least two LGBT characters, most recently in Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith, which is part of the current canon of the Star Wars EU.
However, fans are clearly indicating a desire for a more major character to be aligned on the spectrum, so why not give it to them? It could be argued that sexuality of characters should not be part of the conversation when you are talking about a franchise that appeals to children, but I am far more comfortable with children seeing Poe flirting with Finn than I am with the on-screen murder of billions of people (which we have seen twice). Hell, the fact that the word ‘Wars’ is in the name indicates that there needs to be some conversations with kids prior to sitting down and watching these films.
At the end of the day, the fans win, quite often. The prequels were derided by a large number of fans and the franchise ended up taking a different turn. It was clear that fans would not shell out money for more of the same, but the franchise still had value. Disney purchasing it has become a massive success and George Lucas isn’t hurting, in any way.
I know that there are those who are opposed to introducing LGBT characters in various franchises, but each dollar they refuse to spend is supplemented by hundreds of dollars of people that are pleased to see themselves represented in fiction. This has proven to be the case with Episode VII: The Force Awakens and it has proven to be the case with the current roster of Marvel Comics. Inviting diversity serves only to grow the things we love and expand the range of the population that are willing to pay to enjoy it.
Every year, more and more media outlets seem to be willing to embrace the idea of the wide range of human diversity, but we still have a long ways to go. Every time I see some comment someone has made about how they can’t stand all the changes, I think back to the environment I was raised in. This was the ongoing sentiment of those who surrounded me: ‘Things were better back then.’ ‘Why does everything need to change?’
This commentary saddens me because the only thing that is absolutely inevitable in the human experience is change. Acceptance of this can lead a person down new and amazing roads. Denial is like trying to stop a freight train by folding a newspaper at it: the effectiveness of this tactic may leave something to be desired.
And enjoy your thing the way you want to enjoy your thing. You want to write fan fiction? More power to you! You want to just watch the movies and be happy? Go for it!
But if the way someone else is enjoying the thing you love somehow makes you angry, you should maybe take a look at why that is the case for you before you start throwing stones at them.