When it comes to supporting the LGBT community, actions speak louder than words. That's why a Solo: A Star Wars Story screenwriter's recent reveal that Lando Calrissian is pansexual has caused more trepidation than elation for some fans. Simply stating that a character's attractions are "not limited to people of a particular gender identity or sexual orientation" (to use the definition of pansexual from Merriam-Webster) is one thing. And in some ways, it's a step forward. But unless those promised qualities actually play out on screen in one form or another, then some Twitter users are adamant that the "reveal" is little more than lip service. It's a nice idea in theory, but subtle hints don't actually do much for representation.
The movie's father-son screenwriting team, Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, sat for a recent interview with Huffington Post published on Thursday. During the conversation, the interviewer highlighted some flirtatious-seeming banter between Lando and Han Solo that stretches from the modern portrayal back to the original, asking, point blank, whether Lando was pansexual. According to HuffPost, 38-year-old Jonathan answered "emphatically," stating:
"I would say yes. There's a fluidity to Donald and Billy Dee Williams' [portrayal of Lando's] sexuality. I mean, I would have loved to have gotten a more explicitly LGBT character into this movie. I think it's time, certainly, for that, and I love the fluidity ― sort of the spectrum of sexuality that Donald appeals to and that droids are a part of."
Immediately, there's a lot to unpack there, because the younger Kasdan seems to simultaneously hold multiple opinions in the same paragraph. Almost the moment the statement is out of his mouth, he appeared to backtrack: Yes, he would say that Lando is pansexual, but he already seemed to warn that it might not be openly acknowledged in the film. He said it's time for more representation onscreen, but based on this quote, it's not clear if this will be a film that furthers that goal. Instead of trailblazing, it could end up being a real letdown for fans who are as ready as Jonathan is for a "more explicitly LGBT" character onscreen.
Even though Jonathan gave such an unequivocal "yes" about Lando's pansexuality, he spoke about the situation as if it was outside his control. When asked by HuffPost about another moment, in which Lando's droid L3-37 reportedly teases him about his vibe with Han, he hedged. "That is her personality," Jonathan told the outlet. "Maybe it means something, maybe it doesn't." And later, the writer continued, stating about his character: "He doesn't make any hard and fast rules. I think it's fun. I don't know where it will go."
That's such an interesting statement to make — "I don't know where it will go." Lando is a fictional character, so he can say only what is written for him on the page. So to have his sexual orientation relegated to the subtext in some contexts, and touted as progress in others, feels like a cop-out at best, and exploitation at worst. And regardless, fans are fed up with this type of behavior, not just from Solo, but from Hollywood at large. And many took to Twitter to air their frustrations at the ongoing lack of outright representation.
These users, along with many others, seem to be referring to J.K. Rowling's tendency to label her characters after they're written, once the opportunity to include key details in her writing has already been lost. For example, CNN reported that Rowling revealed in 2007 that she'd always thought of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore as gay, a fact that disappointingly didn't make it into the book.
And others are simply exhausted by the rollercoaster that's getting excited for an LGBT character, only to find once the film comes out that no actual mention is made of that element of the character. It's a hurdle that has tripped up not only this studio before, but this franchise — and recently. In March 2017, shortly before the film's release, it was revealed that LeFou would be gay in the live-action Beauty and the Beast.
Fans looked forward to a promised "exclusively gay moment", but were ultimately disappointed. Aside from vague references to an apparently unrequited crush on Gaston, LeFou's sexuality came down to what USA Today called a "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" shot in the final seconds of the movie when he and another male character danced together just before the credits.
Similarly, back at home in Lucasfilm in December 2017, there was momentary excitement when Laura Dern's The Last Jedi character Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo was heralded as Star Wars' first queer character by W Magazine. But again, not much came of the statement, and countless hopes were crushed by the missed opportunity. And those were just two of the examples from last year alone.
In short, by this point, fans have been burned before. So it's understandably hard to get excited about Lando's pansexuality without feelings of dread trickling in that this portrayal may just be more of the same.