Let me start with something that might be a bit of a heretical disclaimer: I do not ship Finn and Poe. At least, not fanatically. For those who don’t know, Finn is a rebellious storm trooper who, towards the beginning of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, escaped the sinister First Order and joined the Rebellion. Poe, one of the Rebellion’s top pilots, helped him do so.
The two men bonded quickly. When they were finally reunited in the third act, they shared a rather tender embrace. These facts, plus a half-joke that Oscar Isaac (the actor playing Poe) made saying that he was portraying his side of the relationship as romantic, are the only pieces of evidence used by passionate shippers of Finn and Poe – or, “Stormpilot.”
So why are there so many people, including me, who want this very loose basis for a relationship to come to fruition? Why are so many people so fervently in support of Stormpilot? Well, followers of Underdog Comics shouldn’t be surprised by my answer: representation.
There is yet to be a movie as mainstream and integral to the pop-culture landscape as Star Wars to feature a canonically gay character in the main cast.
This fact alone is extremely harmful to LGBTQ+ youth who are trying to come to terms with their identity. (I guest-wrote an entire episode of Project E about the real-world implications of growing up in a deeply heteronormative media landscape. Read it here!)
Plus, it isn’t like characters in Star Wars movies with no chemistry haven’t gotten together in the past. Han and Leia barely had any chemistry until The Empire Strikes Back, the second installment of the original trilogy. Padmé and Anakin never really developed a believable chemistry, and yet they were coupled up. I would argue that Finn and Poe are actually in a better place for a relationship to form than either of those couples were at the same place in their respective trilogies. So why can’t we have our first canonically gay Star Wars characters?
Now, all this isn’t to say gay characters haven’t been cropping up in mainstream media. Call Me By Your Name, an independent film telling a gay love story, is becoming one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. An episode from the past season of the wildly successful Netflix show Black Mirror centers around two women falling in love. Love, Simon, a coming-out while coming-of-age story is building up hype for its March 2018 release date. But the sad truth of the matter is that none of these are as influential on the mainstream consciousness as a franchise like Star Wars.
Ever since A New Hope hit the big screen, kids have been taking their cues off of the exploits of galactic rebels, for better or for worse. Making two of the new leads gay could speak volumes for how this rising generation views queer representation both in the media and in the real world. No, it wouldn’t fix homophobia by any means, but portraying a romantic gay relationship in Star Wars could do wonders for tolerance and for queer kids. Kids desperately need positive gay role models in the media they consume so, if they grow up and find that they are gay, they can feel comfortable with themselves and not feel so different from the kinds of people that the media has coded as “normal.”
I know firsthand all the good that could come out of a simple matter of representation, but here’s the problem: Star Wars is now owned by Disney. The cruel irony of the situation is that, without Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilms, there wouldn’t be a Finn and Poe to ship. George Lucas himself had no intentions to make a new Star Wars movie. That was all Disney’s doing after they bought the studio. But because Disney does own and, therefore, control Star Wars, Stormpilot can never be more than a fantasy.
Disney has been doing a bunch of faux-representation recently. There was the weird, throw-away line about the possibly gay family in Frozen, there were the “lesbians” in Finding Dory, and then who could forget LeFou’s “Gay Moment” in the live-action Beauty and the Beast. Though all of these moments were way too ambiguous, subtle, and glossed-over to be considered genuine and significant representation, Disney has been awarded much praise for accomplishing something that I am hesitant to even call a bare minimum. However, they have also received a good amount of flak.
For the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie especially, foreign distributors of Disney’s movies were unwilling to sell movies with gay moments that were even this subtle. Russia and China especially have strict censorship laws that prohibit movies that seem to promote homosexuality. Unfortunately, these foreign markets are some of Disney’s largest sources of revenue. For a movie like Star Wars: The Last Jedi to be banned from a multitude of these foreign markets would be a huge blow to Disney’s revenue. That’s a risk Disney is unlikely to take any time soon.
Disney is and always has been a brand for the purpose of making money. They are happy dropping in little, possibly-gay Easter eggs into their movies as long as they draw larger domestic audiences without alienating foreign markets. But until representation of gay characters proves to be profitable on a global scale, Stormpilot can only exist in our collective dreams.