Star Wars’ lesbian kiss was too much
The Star Wars films take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but one moment in The Rise of Skywalker catapulted me into the middle of a Hollywood boardroom faster than a jump to hyperspace.
The scene occurs towards the end of the movie when the Resistance fighters are in a celebratory mood (I won't say why, because spoilers, but you can guess). In among the shots of jubilation, one bit-part female Resistance commander is shown enjoying a lengthy snog with a female fighter pilot.
It doesn't go for very long, but long enough to notice, and long enough for me to wonder whose idea it was, and long enough for me to imagine in some detail the debate about it that must have occurred over a Disney Studios conference table before the film came out.
You can bet that that debate happened.
Stung by fanboy criticism of The Last Jedi, and disappointing box office returns for both it and Solo ($1.3 billion and $390 million, respectively), Disney needed The Rise of Skywalker to be a film that kept the diehards happy and the franchise alive.
Having shelled out a reported $4.05 billion for Lucasfilm in 2012, Disney needs Star Wars to live long and prosper beyond its just-completed saga.
So you can bet that every scene of Episode 9 would have been forensically scrutinised by studio executives, alive to its potential effect on future earnings.
The PC inclusions that so annoyed the fanboys about The Last Jedi were largely gone from The Rise of Skywalker - most notably in the character of Rose, who was introduced as a fully-fledged member of the Resistance gang in Episode 8, only to be almost effectively sidelined in Episode 9.
She's still there - just enough for the studio to deny that they dumped her altogether, but not enough for the character to actually make an impact on the story.
One wonders how actor Kelly Marie Tran, the first actor of Asian appearance in the Star Wars galaxy, feels about it all.
Given the clear sidelining of Rose in The Rise of Skywalker, and the pandering to fanboy tastes/prejudices that that suggests, it's a wonder that Disney allowed the space lesbians any screen time at all.
I mean, it's not as though they serve any purpose in the plot.
Director JJ Abrams has defended the shot, saying it was "an opportunity to show (a same-sex couple) without it being heavy-handed or making too loud of a deal."
It was a way of explicitly showing, he said, "(that) in this galaxy, everyone is there and is welcome".
"It doesn't matter your sexual preference, your race, your species, whether you're organic, whether you're synthetic - Star Wars is for everyone," he said.
That's all fine and dandy, but the problem with the shot is that it doesn't include a same-sex couple in any sort of meaningful way. It's a token inclusion, a waving of the rainbow flag that only serves to take the viewer out of the story.
Watching it, I was reminded of some similarly unsubtle inclusions in A Star Is Born.
In that movie, Lady Gaga's character is surrounded by gay men, and Bradley Cooper's character is friends with an African-American family. Both those things are fine, and good to see in a bunch of ways, but one cannot help but imagine that Gaga and Cooper insisted upon their inclusion as a condition of their appearance. It distracts from the storytelling.
One of the ironies of the same-sex kiss in The Rise of Skywalker is that it was edited out of the cinematic release of the movie in both Dubai and Singapore.
That says much about those societies, and their despicable treatment of sexual minorities, but if the same-sex kiss had not been such a token gesture, they wouldn't have been able to cut it.
By all means, give us space lesbians and space gays and space trannies in Star Wars, but let's see them properly, in ways that are more than just tokenism.
David Mills is a journalist for News Corp. @DavidMills1972