Jonathan Kasdan, one of the writers of Disney's forthcoming children's film Solo: A Star Wars Story, announced last week that Lando Calrissian is "pansexual." Thanks to the magic of Google, I know this does not mean that the handsomest scoundrel in the universe wants to do something disgusting with odd bits of crockery or engage in illicit congress with a cloven-hoofed deity.
Asked to explain his declaration, which he claims applies retroactively to the character as portrayed by Billy Dee Williams in the original films and not just to Donald Glover's interpretation of the role, Kasdan told HuffPost: "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."
Look, sir! … Droids? Not to put too fine a point on it, but if we were meant to watch these films and regard C-3PO as a potential sex object, I think it's fair to say that millions of viewers have been misunderstanding them for 40 years now. What other obvious cues were the rest of us idiots missing during the laser gun fights and the ridiculous dialogue? It is, I suppose, just about possible that Greedo was always supposed to be a bisexual transman with a penchant for hot giant slug-on-green catfish action and that part of Jabba's animus toward Han Solo is, in fact, best explained by his desire to avenge the murder of his former flame. But what about IG-88? You can't tell me he showed up at the gathering of bounty hunters aboard the Star Destroyer Executor in response to a Missed Connections post from Bossk, the red-eyed leather-faced (and presumably cis) Wookie slayer from the planet Dosha.
Hilariously, Disney's attempt to score some woke cred for their billion-dollar franchise seems to have pleased roughly no one. (Has anyone reached out to Billy Dee himself, I wonder? Somehow I find it hard to believe that Mr. Colt 45 would be thrilled to learn that there is a non-zero chance that his hilariously dorky come-ons — "You truly belong with us here among the clouds!" — were actually directed at Han.) Jason Johnson at The Root was outraged enough to respond with some of what until about two weeks ago would have been considered among the most improbable sentences in English: "The idea that humans would have sex only with other humans, let alone only other humans of the opposite sex, is just ridiculous. Of course Lando would be pansexual. The problem is, why isn't Han Solo, too? For that matter, why isn't the whole damn cast?"
I don't know, maybe it's because nobody watches these movies and sits there thinking about robots boinking? Speaking not just for myself but for, I imagine, roughly three generations of filmgoers, I can safely say that Star Wars is less concerned with the incoherent phenomenon we refer to as "sex" than any franchise in the history of cinema and television, up to and including Saving Private Ryan and The 700 Club. Allow me very politely to suggest that if during the final confrontation between Darth Vader and the Emperor in Return of the Jedi you were thinking about what it might be like to have a quickie with one or more Dark Lords of the Sith and not about how much it would suck to get thrown inside a blue glowing laser pit, it's on you and not on the movie.
The original Star Wars has nothing to do with sex. It's an escapist tribute to the cheesy adventure serials of George Lucas' youth, full of priest-frogs in tan cassocks and black-helmeted samurai magicians and beautiful maidens. It's a cycle of big dumbed-down operas, complete with a pseudo-Wagnerian score and sets and costumes straight out of an experimental Bayreuth staging. Its great theme, like Wagner's, is the purity of the young versus the decadence and corruption of the old. It's Der Ring des Nibelungen for dummies, Dune for people who don't care about endless boring details. It's also harmless, almost painfully innocent entertainment. Even when the specter of sex is (briefly) raised in the films, it's always either sublimated and humorous, like the Shakespearean back-and-forth between Han and the princess in Empire, or intentionally disgusting, like the scenes in Jedi where Leia is forced to sit next to Jabba wearing nothing but a gold bikini.
It is inconceivable that a motion picture could be made today featuring a scene like the one in Star Wars in which Leia gives Luke a chaste peck before they fly across the gaping chasm of the Death Star and John Williams' soaring romantic horns and strings carry us with them past their obstacle into the empyrean bliss of youth. This is a great shame. Popular culture has clearly moved on to what many people consider bigger and better things than all of this idyllic flimflam, but that doesn't mean we have to pretend to find R2-D2's beeps and squeals desperately erotic.