New Star Wars series to bring desperately-needed queerness to a galaxy far, far away

·4-min read

Disney’s new Star Wars series, The Acolyte, will bring a much-needed queer perspective to the franchise, its showrunner has teased.

The Acolyte will focus on the emergence of dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic, an era that began roughly 200 years before the events of Episode I: The Phantom Menace kicked off the Skywalker saga.

Leslye Headland, who is a lesbian, serves as the Disney Plus series’ showrunner, writer and executive producer.

She is the first openly queer person to take the reins of an on-screen Star Wars project, and has promised that her point of view as an LGBT+ person will be present in the new series.

She told The Advocate that she was “excited to do the type of character work” that she would normally do in her other projects as she joins the Star Wars universe. To her surprise, Headland said, this idea was something that “everyone was into”.

Though she couldn’t comment on how much representation fans might see on-screen, she said that her queerness will naturally be reflected in the series.

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Headland explained: “In the same way that the original Star Wars film, A New Hope, is about a young man living in Modesto, [California], who doesn’t want to take over his dad’s hardware store… there’s just no way that me being a queer woman is not going to be reflected in my work.

“I could try not to do it, but why would I? It just feels like a natural extension of what I do.”

She added that storytelling comes down to “either the personal or emotional through-line to your characters”, which is why “your identity is important”.

Whether she is “explicitly dealing with it or not”, her queer identity “is just going to be” present, she said, noting that it’s also important there is further “representation both on screen and behind the screen”.

Star Wars has made small steps towards LGBT+ representation

The legendary sci-fi franchise introduced its first canonically LGBT+ character in the 2015 novel Lords of the Sith. Delian Mors, a human female who is part of the Imperial order, had a wife in the book, who was tragically killed in an accident.

The expanded Star Wars universe has also welcomed a host of other LGBT+ characters including Sinjir Rath Velus, Doctor Chelli Aphra, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and non-binary Jedi Terec and Ceret.

However, LGBT+ representation on screen has been slim. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker made Disney history by featuring the first gay kiss in the movie franchise, but it was criticised for its brevity.

Mark Hamill famously said that his character, Jedi hero Luke Skywalker, could be any sexuality that fans want. In 2016, he told fans: “If you think Luke is gay, of course he is.”

In an interview with the AV Club, Headland shared that she loved Hamill’s take, and she said it was “such a strong, beautiful thing for him to say”. Headland added that she screams “with happiness” whenever she sees “gay or queer representation in media” – especially as a huge Star Wars fan.

Leslye Headland didn’t think it ‘was an option to be gay’

Headland, who also co-created Netflix’s critically-acclaimed series Russian Doll with Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler, shared her coming out story during Pride month, in a candid essay for Variety.

She described how earlier in her career, she felt “pressure” in her personal and professional life to “present myself as a sexually desirable heterosexual woman”.

She wasn’t “consciously hiding” who she was, but felt “so separated from my queerness” that “it wasn’t even an option to be gay”.

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“This was due to being raised straight and very religiously,” Headland explained.

“But also, as a female filmmaker, I had already felt so much animosity and distrust from certain collaborators that to be a ‘lesbian’, a word I had head used many times on set or in meetings as a derogatory term, seemed like a career-ending prospect.”

The Star Wars creator has been married to her wife, Rebecca Henderson, since 2016, and she told Variety that the “love story” she has with her wife is “so much more beautiful than anything I will ever write”.

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