Gay 'Star Wars' character in next film? Major group pressures Disney to be 'inclusive'

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |

LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – The "Star Wars" franchise may have taken place a "long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," but if a modern-day gay rights group gets its way, the movies soon will have an on-screen gay character, too.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) released its fourth-annual Studio Responsibility Index Monday, showing that while 17.5 percent of the 126 films from the seven largest studios in 2015 contained lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender characters, some of the year's biggest films did not.

"Hollywood's films lag far behind any other form of media when it comes to portrayals of LGBT characters," said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "Too often, the few LGBT characters that make it to the big screen are the target of a punchline or token characters. The film industry must embrace new and inclusive stories if it wants to remain competitive and relevant."

Further, GLAAD complained, of the 17.5 percent of films that contained LGBT characters, three-quarters of those were on screen for less than 10 minutes.

GLAAD gave a failing grade to Walt Disney, the studio behind the newest films in the "Star Wars" franchise, led by "The Force Awakens." Not one of Disney's 11 films in 2015 were what GLAAD called "LGBT inclusive."

"Of all the studios tracked in this report, Walt Disney Studios has the weakest historical record when it comes to LGBT-inclusive films," the GLAAD report read.

The report then set its criticism on the "Star Wars" franchise.

"As sci-fi projects have the special opportunity to create unique worlds whose advanced societies can serve as a commentary on our own, the most obvious place where Disney could include LGBT characters is in the upcoming eighth 'Star Wars' film," the report said, referencing a film set to be released in 2017. "2015's 'The Force Awakens' has introduced a new and diverse central trio, which allows the creators opportunity to tell fresh stories as they develop their backstory. Recent official novels in the franchise featured lesbian and gay characters that could also be easily written in to the story."

The report by GLAAD – one of the most influential LGBT groups in the U.S. – likely will add pressure on not only Disney but on other studios to include more gay characters.

Bob Waliszewski, director of Focus on the Family's Plugged In department, said Disney should withstand any pressure and stick to what works for the "Star Wars" saga.

"GLAAD asking for a gay character in an upcoming Star Wars movie is a bit like me asking for a strong evangelical character who clearly shares the Gospel in the same film," Waliszewski told Christian Examiner. "While everyone has the right to ask (and dream), let's be honest, neither furthers the sci-fi saga's story development. Somehow, Lucas and now Abrams have done just fine imagining a galaxy far, far away that doesn't delve into character's sex lives or a biblical account of sin, crucifixion and an empty tomb."