Apparently there’s been a great deal of talk on the Internet this week about Delian Mors, a lesbian Imperial officer in Paul Kemp’s upcoming Star Wars spinoff novel Lords of the Sith. The story broke when Del Rey editor Shelly Shapiro allowed a reviewer with an advance reading copy to reveal Moff Mors’s sexuality online. “If there’s any message at all,” Shapiro was quoted as saying, “it’s simply that Star Wars is as diverse, or more so because they have alien species, as humanity is in real life and we don’t want to pretend it’s not.”
Thrilling as it is that Lucasfilm has bucked all convention and made the first widely publicized homosexual in Star Wars a villainous lesbian, every article I’ve read on the subject leads by stating that Moff Mors is the franchise’s first LGBTQ character. Which is patently untrue clickbait.
Just Google Mors’s name and you’ll find no shortage of editorials calling her the “the very first LGBT character to be made canon in the Star Wars universe” and “the first canon lesbian character in the franchise’s history.” “Writer Paul S. Kemp is changing Star Wars forever,” one site claims. Even CNN picked up the story. “If you feel a ripple in the Force today, it may be the news that the official Star Wars universe is getting its first gay character,” writes Michael Pearson, ill-informed journalist.
Many of these articles, after going on for several paragraphs about how Lucasfilm is breaking new ground by introducing the First Ever Gay Character In Star Wars™, slip in a mention at the very end alluding to how there have previously been gay characters in Star Wars. But you see, they point out, those characters don’t count; Moff Delian Mors is the first canon LGBT character, and that is a newsworthy distinction.
Two problems with that:
1) Those characters were 100% officially licensed canon when they were created, and only lost that status in April 2014 (see the first epigraph here).
2) Only nerds care about canon.
Canon is empty marketing jargon. Canon is a corporate buzzword. “Hey, guys, check out our new canon Star Wars books! Unlike those old, non-canon books (which we previously promoted as canon until it stopped being profitable to do so), this is the real, true, factual continuation of a fictional story!”
Canon is meaningless in this context; if it says Star Wars on the cover, it’s Star Wars. Or are we pretending the previous books and videogames with LGBTQQPIAA+ characters were published without the license holders’ permission and against their will?
Because that would be almost as stupid as discounting these characters just because their sexuality can’t be cynically exploited to promote a webpage or market a new product.
A recruitable party member in Knights of the Old Republic (2003), Juhani is a female cat alien who will eventually profess her love to you if you are playing the game as a female character. “I care for you,” she admits. “I do not know why. I do not know if anything will be possible or if you even return what I feel, but I do know it is there. I am sorry if this upsets you. I am so sorry if I am wrong, but I cannot deny what it is that I feel.”
You can also encounter a female Jedi named Belaya, who describes Juhani as “a dear companion to me for many years” and recounts how they “spent many nights together alone under the stars.” Should you elect to kill Juhani instead of recruit her, Belaya will turn to the dark side and join the Sith. She returns later to attack the player for placing “this black bitterness” in her heart.
2. Goran Beviin and Medrit Vasur
The first married homosexual couple in Star Wars, Goran and Medrit were introduced in Karen Traviss’s 2006 novella Boba Fett: A Practical Man, although Medrit’s sex was not specified until his appearance the following year in the execrable Legacy of the Force series. A few articles about Moff Mors made reference to the “gay Mandalorians” from past books, but dismissed them for being too subtly homosexual.
It’s actually completely unambiguous in the text, but that presupposes the people who read those books actually cared enough to comprehend what they were reading. Regardless, the accusation of subtlety has no leg to stand on. After Medrit’s nonchalant introduction as Goran’s husband failed to incite a whirlwind of controversy across the Internet, Karen Traviss apparently felt the need to hammer the point home, just to be safe; later in the series, Medrit needlessly points out that he doesn’t know how to tell if women are attractive.
An NPC from Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (2004), Luxa is a female Zeltron, which means that she is basically just a human with pink skin. She will also hit on the player character regardless of which sex you’re playing as, and even has variable flirtation dialogue depending on your gender. Does this make her the first bisexual in Star Wars? Wookieepedia says there’s no way to know, but they also have a page about space tits, so who are you going to believe?
4. Sarn Shild
Possibly the first Star Wars character implied to be anything other than heterosexual, Sarn Shild, governor of the Baxel sector in the Outer Rim Territories, was created by the late A. C. Crispin way back in 1997 for her novel The Hutt Gambit. Shild, a thin man with oiled hair and a pearl stud in one earlobe, is described as having tastes that do not extend to human women, and hires one to pose as his mistress to avoid the suspicion of his Imperial colleagues.
This reads like coded language for gay to me, especially considering the Star Wars license-holders’ more conservative restrictions at the time (Daniel Keys Moran once recounted how he was forbidden to use the words “hell,” “damn,” and “whore” in his stories, despite the first two appearing in the films themselves). Of course, some fans will argue that Shild was just into alien women. Don’t ask them why the text couldn’t just say that instead of portraying him as a closeted gay man, though. I mean, Corran Horn banged an otter that one time and no one seemed to care.
5. Mr. Sulu
6. C-3PO and R2-D2
7. The Planet Makeb
Oh, we’ve forgotten about this already, have we? In 2013, BioWare released Rise of the Hutt Cartel, the first expansion pack to their Star Wars MMORPG The Old Republic. Among the features this expansion added to the game was the ability for the player to engage in same-sex romances, but only on the planet Makeb. Like Tatooine was a desert planet, Hoth an ice planet, and Mustafar a lava planet, Makeb is apparently a gay planet.
This seeming ghettoization of the galaxy’s homosexual population was unpopular, to say the least, and game’s implementation of same-gender relationships probably should have been handled a bit more deftly. But despite the controversy, only a scant few NPCs on the planet are actually romanceable. In terms of press coverage, apparently Delian Mors is just lucky her name rolls off the tongue a little more easily than Lord Cytharat’s.
Ultimately, that widespread press coverage is what’s so baffling about this non-story. Of course we should celebrate and encourage increased diversity in Star Wars, but Moff Mors is just the most recent step in that direction, not the first or the most notable (except in terms of the publicity she’s gotten). The fact that she’s currently the only “canon” LGBT character doesn’t make her any more special or important than the characters who broke that ground before her.
Not to bad-mouth Lords of the Sith, since only the handful of people with advance copies have read it, but it’s just one in a long line of media tie-in Star Wars spinoff fiction. I’m pretty sure that a lot more people played the Knights of the Old Republic games than will read Lords of the Sith, and a lot more people than that will be lining up to see The Force Awakens. Wake me up when J. J. Abrams has two dudes make out on-screen; that’ll be a story worth tweeting about.
(Are you the sort of reprehensible nerd that enjoys whiling away their life talking about Star Wars lore? Then check out Frank’s Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha articles where he attempts to examine and review the entire Star Was Expanded Universe. Also consider liking the U4E on Facebook or following us on Twitter or Tumblr.)