The Unicorn Scale: Solo: A Star Wars Story

7/3/2018

Greetings, readers and fellow lovers of light sabers! I hope everyone is feeling happy, healthy, and wise. I know people are getting antsy with good weather approaching and want to go into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters, but you can waste time with your friends when your chores are done. (Not that the Unicorn Scale is a chore – far from it! Just for the sake of the joke, folx.)

Anyway: Star Wars! You know it. I know it. Even monks in Tibet know about it. You probably hear a reference to it every single day one way or another. But what is there to see that we haven’t already seen from the helm of a Millennium Falcon? How about a character whose sexual orientation isn’t binary-bound? Let’s see if that’s the case with the newest addition to the pantheon, Solo: A Star Wars Story.

As per usual, here come the warnings and disclaimers: from here on out, I will need to utilize spoilers to make my argument. So, if you wanna discover if my observations hold even a drop of celestial water, you’ll have to watch this heist flick. If you need a reminder of what the Unicorn Scale is all about, you can head on over to the O.G. review here.

Solo centers on one of modern film’s favorite smugglers, Han Solo, and how he became the space pirate we know and love. During the narrative, we see Han escape his meek beginnings and enter the world of smuggling, in a heist that introduces characters familiar from the original trilogy and new to the Star Wars family. And that includes suave Lando Calrissian, played by Donald Glover.

Rumors flew before the opening of the movie that Lando’s character was bi (or other words used under the bi+ umbrella), so I knew I had to check it out. Would this galaxy start exhibiting same-sex attractions?

WHAT I LIKED:

Lando is canonically a flirt, but up until this film we had only seen him flirt with women. Not only did he flirt with women in Solo, but he worked hard to impress Han to the point that his droid, L3-37, called him out on it. And he was in love with L3-37, who may have had what we hear as a female voice, but did not necessarily include a gender. So I don’t want to assume anything and just say L3-37 is non-binary (as well as a different species).

Not only that, but Glover himself confirmed he viewed the character as pan.  And so did one of the screenwriters, Jonathan Kasdan, so I think it’s safe to say Lando’s pan identity is very much canon. Lando uses his sexuality at times as an opportunist, but it’s clear throughout the film he flirts and shows his attractions just for the sheer pleasure of it.

Lando gets a full romantic arc with L3-37 and exhibits fears, dreams, quirks, and critical thinking skills in ways that go beyond serving the plot, which makes him (to me) a fully-realized three-dimensional character – especially when his story is paired with his betrayal/redemption arc in Empire/Jedi.

It’s safe to say I’m a fan of this addition to Lando’s character profile. Sci-fi and fantasy, at their core, show us the possibilities that lie beyond our limited thinking, and doing so with sexuality seems like an excellent place to demonstrate that – especially in such a large, beloved franchise. It’s strange to me to think that people can easily, academically accept the ideas of Philip K. Dick’s worlds doing things like using memories as currency, but the concept of moving away from heteronormativity is verboten. Hopefully Lando will open that door for more mainstream movies.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

All of these happy progressions aside, I still had quibbles. Because I’m me. And we’re talking about bi representation.

My biggest beef was the old chestnut of conflating bisexuality with promiscuity. It’s totally organic for Lando to be promiscuous, but a bit dangerous to have such an established, beloved character expose a new young generation to that correlation. For the record, I have no problem with promiscuity as long as everyone is safe and enthusiastically consenting, etc etc etc. But when nearly all the examples in modern TV and film show people under the bi+ umbrella as voracious horndogs, it’s problematic as hell. Especially when Glover, who’s currently at the pop culture zenith, misrepresents pansexuality in his answers in promotions. It just further propagates this hurtful stereotype.

Not only that, but Lando’s attraction to L3-37 felt … off. Yes, it was unrequited, but bringing robosexuality into the narrative brings up a whole crop of ethical questions. He seemed to be L3’s master, but her free will seemed intact. I couldn’t be entirely sure he was respectful of her wishes and refusal of his love. Honestly, I would have to watch it again to see if there’s enough careful consideration given to her feelings and wishes in this regard.

THE RATING:

I’m not sure I would recommend watching Solo on its own merits – that depends on one’s personal level of Star Wars fatigue. I found it enjoyable – even thrilling in some sections. But I do think it’s good to see Lando’s character expanded in this regard. I want to see how it plays out, whether in this standalone film or if Calrissian gets his own film.

I love seeing the introduction of bisexuality into this well-loved universe. It signals good things to come, and its worldwide release hails a new age of acceptance – at least in a galaxy far, far away.

Jennie Roberson
Jennie Roberson is a comedic actress and screenwriter currently living in Los Angeles. She just finished her first novel (a bi coming-of-age tale, naturally) and hopes to share it with the world soon. When she's not busy binging on Star Trek or dreaming of her future cat army, you can find her occasional thoughts between mountains of re-tweets at her Twitter handle, @JennieRoberson.