by Michael Pearson
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.
According to the sci-fi website Big Shiny Robot, the upcoming novel “Lords of the Sith” will feature a capable but flawed Imperial official named Moff Mors who “also happens to be a lesbian.”
The character is the first gay figure in the official Star Wars universe — the movies, television shows, comics and books approved by Star Wars franchise owner Disney — according to Shelly Shapiro, editor of “Star Wars” books at Random House imprint Del Rey Books.
It’s not entirely unprecedented; a previous Star Wars book series and a few video games have featured gay relationships. But those characters aren’t considered to be part of the “official” “Star Wars” world outlined by Disney last year.
The new character is part of that world, and none too soon, Shapiro said.
“There’s a lot of diversity; there should be diversity in ‘Star Wars,’ ” she told Big Shiny Robot. “You have all these different species, and it would be silly to not also recognize that there’s a lot of diversity in humans.”
Except there hasn’t always been a lot of diversity in “Star Wars.”
The franchise, one of the biggest in all of science fiction, featured an all-white main cast for its first film and has been criticized for a lack of prominent female, minority and gay roles.
The series did eventually add Billy Dee Williams in the role of Lando Calrissian, and minority actors played a bigger role in the prequel films. For instance, Samuel L. Jackson played Jedi Master Mace Windu, and Jimmy Smits had a role as Princess Leia’s adoptive father, Bail Organa.
Just a few months ago, black actor John Boyega appeared as a stormtrooper in a trailer for the upcoming “Star Wars” film, a decision met with some controversy. Two other black actors also have roles in the film.
A couple of “Star Wars” video games have included references to gay relationships. A 2007 novel also included a gay couple, but for many fans, neither the video games nor the “extended universe” novels were part of what they considered to be the official “Star Wars” universe.
Disney, which now owns the “Star Wars” franchise, endorsed that view last year, sweeping all the old novels, video games and other materials into a side room and slapping a “Legends” tag on them. Only the six movies, the animated “Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels” series and stories published since the change are considered “canon.”
And although we don’t know much about the storyline of the new movie, due out late this year, there’s been no mention of a gay character, giving top billing to the “Lords of the Sith” appearance for fans excited by the inclusion of a lesbian character in a heretofore uniformly straight universe.
The news was met with excitement, skepticism and some concern.
“Very excited about the recent #StarWars news,” Twitter user BlueJaigEyes said. A Twitter user called vilinder wrote, “tough Star Wars getting a canonical lesbian character is extremely cool!”
But, as you might expect, not everyone was so thrilled.
A common refrain: What difference does sexuality make?
“Response I have is why should the sexual (preference) matter to character building?” one Twitter user asked.