Star Wars’ ‘Gay Planet’ – The Non-troversy
It’s been 35 years since Star Wars became a thing. In that time, we’ve seen six movies, a few dozen games with stories and about 170 novels and novellas. There are also a bunch of comic books that I don’t feel like counting right now.
In all of that content, there is only one item in which we learn that a character is gay, the e-novella “Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice” in 2007. Before that point, there were just no gay people in Star Wars. LucasFilm always seemed scared of the idea, and “Sacrifice” was them putting their toes in the water to test it. They certainly weren’t ready to open the floodgates, and to date there have been no more openly gay characters written.
It’s logical, then, to think that when BioWare was putting together Star Wars: The Old Republic with LucasArts, they were given the mandate to avoid same-gender entanglements. And when we saw a Bioware community manager say in 2009 that the words “homosexual,” “gay” and “lesbian” “are not terms that exist in Star Wars,” that mandate was made plain.
Same-gender romances did not make it into the base game. And so now we have the biggest game in history already built without them, and SWTOR’s executive producer Jeff Hickman has admitted that changing the infrastructure of the existing game is problematic and will take time. That makes sense, because a fundamental alteration to existing characters would require far more than a simple coding change. On the contrary, such a project would be an immense undertaking and may not be financially feasible.
In the meantime, though, BioWare has crafted new story content in the form of the Rise of the Hutt Cartel digital expansion. And in an attempt to start satisfying those who have been clamoring for same-gender romances in the game, they are adding some on the new planet featured in that expansion. Somehow, there are those among us who believe this is a bad thing, not because they are anti-gay, but because they are in favor of having same-gender romances in the game.
Out of context, they say this is BioWare “exiling” gay characters to a single planet and putting them behind a paywall. But when we work within context, the situation looks different. We can see, for example: if this expansion had four new planets in it, there would probably be gay characters on all of them; it’s safe to assume that there will also be gay romance options in future expansions in addition to this one; Rise of the Hutt Cartel is not a “gay expansion” but rather just a regular story expansion that happens to include same-gender romance.
Given Star Wars’ past relationship with gay folks, it’s a shame that some people are interpreting what is a very big and positive step for LucasArts as a negative. This development doesn’t exist in a vacuum, though, and we can’t act like it does. Context is important. And it’s telling that this was no controversy when Hickman actually announced that the new planet would feature SGRs two weeks ago, because the game’s actual community was not up in arms about this move.
LucasFilm is being dragged kicking and screaming into the present, and BioWare is finally able to do what they probably wanted to do all along, and what many of us wanted them to do. And yet some who are actually on our side want to vilify them for making a legitimate, good-faith effort?
Progress doesn’t come all at once, usually. BioWare and LucasArts made a mistake before. Now they are beginning to correct that mistake, but it feels as if some of my very vocal brethren are discouraging them when they should be supporting a move like this. Gays in Star Wars is a HUGE deal. We must recognize that, above all else.