It seems like the Star Wars Universe should be far more diverse than it really is. Its storytelling spans many generations, vast planets with a wide variety of alien species, and many different lifestyles. And yet, in some ways, I can find more diversity in my own Midwest hometown–namely, different racial, gender, and sexuality representations. Consider my beloved Star Wars: Original Trilogy: 1 major female character (white, hetero), 2 minor female characters (white, 1 hetero, 1 sexuality unknown), 1 borderline minor/major black character (male, hetero). The rest? White, male, presumably hetero though their sexuality is generally not depicted. George Lucas wasn’t very good at addressing issues of race, gender, and sexuality. In fact, many of the aliens in both the original and prequel films appear to be poorly masked ethnic stereotypes. For more on this, check out The Five Most Racist Star Wars Characters. But Disney has been making efforts to diversify the representation in their Star Wars productions. Not only have they chosen to add more major female and non-white characters, they now officially have their first LGBT character.
Of course, it isn’t in a movie. Disney is still Disney, so they’re dipping their toes in the water before committing. (Which seems a little absurd. Willow and Tara were a thing on Buffy the Vampire Slayer more than 15 years ago, and this past week’s The Flash directly addressed the police captain’s same-sex fiance as family for hospital visitation purposes.) The character is in the upcoming novel by Paul S. Kemp called Star Wars: Lords of the Sith. From Penguin Random House’s description of the character via NPR:
Moff Delian Mors is a supporting character in Star Wars: Lords of the Sith. She was a promising officer of the Empire, who was assigned to an undesirable post at the far end of the galaxy. At nearly the same point in her life, her wife was killed in a transport accident, and the weight of these burdens led to Delian becoming lax in her duties, and left her personal life in disarray. The events of Star Wars: Lords of the Sith occur a few years after her loss.
The good: a female Moff. Not the first certainly, but still some female representation. Also, a lesbian, which is wonderful. The bad: she’s only a supporting character and the relationship is in the past tense since the wife is dead. Any depictions of their love or affection for each other will be in flashbacks.
Apparently she isn’t the first gay character, just the first “official” one. I don’t really claim to understand what makes official canon and what doesn’t these days. I know that Disney cut ties with the extended universe stuff, of which the previous example is certainly a part. In Karen Traviss’ Legacy of the Force two male Mandalorians married.
There are loads of wonderful diverse changes happening in Geek World, and by and large diversification is paying dividends in higher box office and book sales. Star Wars has been behind on this for a long time, but we’re seeing the right steps for a new direction.