I want to make an admission right off the bat. I grew up on Disney films, The Wonderful World of Disney and all things Mickey Mouse. But over the years, especially over the last decade or so, the shine for Disney has worn off as it has done its best to torpedo very good franchises into nothingness. They’ve done it with Marvel and the Star Wars franchises and it doesn’t look like things are going to change anytime soon.
What brought on this line of thought was seeing this article come up on my newsfeed this morning. I almost didn’t click on it. After all, we’ve all had a front row seat to the debacle going through the TV and movie industry where they either “reimagine” or retcon a movie or TV series from days gone by.
Who can forget the all-female lead Ghostbusters movie?
And who can forget the drama that followed its release when negative reviews began pouring in. The powers that be behind the movie screeched the negative reviews were all unwarranted, that they were written by knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who hated the idea that a trio of females could make a beloved movie better than the original. They ignored the fact the movie just wasn’t any good. In their eyes, moviegoers were wrong for hating the movie and being so narrow-minded they didn’t understand the importance of giving women representation in what had been a “male dominated” movie.
You see, representation is everything these days in Hollyweird, just as it is in much of traditional publishing.
Unfortunately for Disney and others, they haven’t figured out you can have representation without destroying a good plot line or corrupting a beloved franchise. We saw that with 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The movie wasn’t perfect by any means. But it also didn’t destroy the image of the original movie all in the name of inclusiveness. Instead, it had a varied cast and one of the lead characters, Phoebe, is neurodivergent. In other words, it hit many of the “diverse” checkboxes without sacrificing entertainment value.
But now Disney is once again making noises about retconning Star Wars, something it has done, imo, to the detriment of the franchise (literary and movie) more than once. In this particular case, there is talk about making Luke Skywalker a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Disney has already taken a step in this direction by accepting a short story in Tales of the Jedi and Sith canon. In this short story, Luke is attracted to a man.
Now, I would normally have no problem with this. But there is nothing in the first three movies, starting with A New Hope, to indicate Luke was gay or bi. Remember his attraction to Princess Leia before he discovered she was his sister and in love with Han? Or how about the books where he married Mara Jade? By coming in now, decades after the introduction of the character–a character whose entire adult life we have seen played out on film and in books–you not only break the character by introducing this sort of change but you piss off who knows how many fans by messing with what was canon and what the creator of the character had in mind.
Does this mean the Star Wars universe (or any other for that matter) shouldn’t be diverse?
Hell no. Just because it takes place “far, far away”, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a thread of realism in it. But instead of retconning a beloved character, give us new characters or develop older ones whose backstory we don’t already know in intimate detail.
The Sporskeeda article says it best:
Creating new icons for the LGBTQ+ community is a better approach than changing the original icons for several reasons. Firstly, it allows for the creation of unique and diverse representations of the LGBTQ+ community.
This can increase the community’s visibility and representation and provide more opportunities for members to see themselves represented in the media and culture. Additionally, creating new icons can help avoid controversy and backlash that comes with changing established characters.
Not that Disney will listen. It’s track record is clear and it isn’t necessarily a good one. There is a reason why management changed recently. Bad decisions led to lower earnings. Now Bob Iger is back and trying to change that financial trend. Will he also return to making movies and TV shows that put entertainment over message is yet to be seen.
Give us a more diverse “universe” without changing canon or retconning beloved characters when the foundation hasn’t already been set. Frankly, it is time to move beyond Luke, Leia and Han and introduce new, interesting–and, yes, diverse–leading characters as part of fun, engaging and entertaining stories.