A galaxy not so far away...
*Spoilers for Andor Season 1*
Star Wars is not a franchise known for its LGBTQ+ characters or themes.
In fact, queerness in Star Wars is almost nonexistent, with only one live-action moment of queerness being shown in any of the movies, even though "gay characters are coming to Star Wars," at least, according to J.J. Abrams, almost six years ago.
Andor, the latest Star Wars TV show, seemed to be on the verge of reconciling Disney and Star Wars' complete erasure of queer characters, while making an amazing show. However, with the end of the first season, once again, Star Wars leaves its LGBTQ+ characters to middling subtext and ultimately nothing substantial.
Andor *seemed* like a step in the right direction
The latest Star Wars show was supposed to be a remedy for the recent fatigue of the onslaught of middling Star Wars programs. Aside from The Mandalorian, which, while great, has become basically an excuse to sell Baby Yoda merch, The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi have failed to live up to their expectations.
Andor, a prequel to 2016's Rogue One, follows in the footsteps of Cassian Andor, who would help take down the Death Star and be a vital piece of the Galactic Rebellion. Early in the season, the show introduces very committed rebels Vel and Cinta, who are "sharing a blanket."
This off-handed comment ends up leading to some long glances and hand-holding, but nothing else. Despite the constant hints, the two characters end up looking like they barely know each other, much less are together. The two characters have many moments that could've made them the first lesbian couple in Star Wars, but it never ended up happening.
Andor's lack of queerness undermines its entire message
Critics and Star Wars fans have been raving about Andor, which has provided a more grounded look at a franchise obsessed with space wizards with laser swords. The show took a ground-roots approach to the story of the rebellion, showing the average people that created it, and the oppression that pushed them to do so.
Yet, despite how wonderful the show is, its themes end up coming off hollow. It's hard to fully appreciate a story about overcoming oppression when it shoves its LGBTQ+ characters to the side in a way that is truly baffling. Andor is not afraid to show murder, suicide, and talk about many mature themes, but somewhere along the line, the creators decided that even having their queer characters kiss or show any sort of affirmation was too much.
While the show is not afraid to take inspiration from real-life queer rebellions, like a brick that becomes a major part of the climax, it never ends up having anything real to say or go on. The LGBTQ+ characters in this show could've provided some real-world parallels to the show's message of oppression, but baited viewers for something that would never come.
Disney, the company of firsts, does a new kind of first
Disney and Star Wars motives have always been pretty clear. Since buying Lucas Film and Star Wars, Disney had made sure that Star Wars will foremost always be a franchise with merchandise to sell (like toys). Still, Andor was supposed to be different, with the show no doubt being the first TV show from the franchise for adults.
It did always seem ominous, though, that Disney, the company known for their "firsts" wasn't parading their queer characters in Andor to soak up every dollar and view they could. As the show went on, I hoped it was a sign that Disney was changing its ways, but it became all too clear that Disney had no intention of showing meaningful LGBTQ+ characters.
Disney and Star Wars are repeat offenders, and running out of "family-friendly" excuses
Being an LGBTQ+ person, one of the most common coded-phrases you will hear about queer characters in media for kids is that LGBTQ+ themes are not "family-friendly." This excuse is often the first you'll hear when there is any queer erasure.
With the popularity of Star Wars toys, it isn't hard to imagine what media firestorm could occur if suddenly kids were playing with a gay Jedi or lesbian Rebels. However, it's time we move past this faux-morality argument that queer characters are not "family-friendly," a notion solely based on the idea that being LGBTQ+ is learned behavior, which is not true.
LGBTQ+ kids and adults deserve to have some meaningful representation in one of the world's biggest franchises (that isn't a single second kiss between two unnamed characters with no lines). But after how badly Disney handled Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill earlier this year, Disney still has miles of work ahead of it to earn the respect of its queer audience.
Andor is too little, too late
Andor was never going to right the many wrongs of Star Wars' history of lack of LGBTQ+ representation. But as a queer fan, the idea of finally getting some amazing LGBTQ+ representation in a franchise that I have watched my whole life (Padme stans rise) was exciting, making each missed opportunity sting even more.
Ultimately, as we continue in an age with an unprecedented amount of privilege and power as LGBTQ+ people, expired bread crumbs just aren't going to cut it anymore.