Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian is quick, charming, and — according to Solo co-writer Jonathan Kasdan — pansexual. In an interview with HuffPost, Kasdan said there’s a “fluidity” to both Glover and Billy Dee Williams’ portrayals of the beloved character. “I mean, I would have loved to have gotten a more explicitly LGBT character into this movie,” Kasdan says. “I think it’s time, certainly, for that, and I love the fluidity ― sort of the spectrum of sexuality that Donald appeals to and that droids are a part of.”
While GLAAD defines pansexuality as attraction “to all gender identities, or [attraction] to people regardless of gender,” in this case, Kasdan is applying it over-generously. The film’s trailers have prompted discussion over Lando’s flirty banter with Han, and even a potential attraction between Lando and his droid co-pilot L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). But this act of retroactively making characters queer off-screen — which we’ll call the Rowling Rule — panders to audiences without actually offering real change. It’s a tiresome pattern in which fans are teased (the popular term here is “queerbaiting”) rather than rewarded with concrete representation.
Kasdan is hardly the first to do this. Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling has a habit of declaring extra tidbits about her characters that can’t be explicitly found anywhere in her novels, like Dumbledore being gay. (Despite both he and his supposed love interest Gellert Grindelwald getting extra screentime in the Fantastic Beasts series, filmmakers so far have chosen to skip this important plot point.) Thor: Ragnarok cut a scene that would have confirmed Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie as bisexual. The canonically queer Wonder Woman got a male love interest in her latest on-screen blowout starring Gal Gadot.
Even within the Star Wars universe, Amilyn Holdo, portrayed by Laura Dern, is written as queer in the novels rather than in film. The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams has promised to include inclusivity in his Star Wars films. Fans will have to wait until Episode IX to see if he makes good on his promise, however, or else be left to dreaming up Finn and Poe ships on their own.
The assertion that Lando is pansexual — because he seems to be interested in a female droid — is a piss-poor shot at representation that still manages to reinforce hetero relationships as default. And Kasdan’s assertion that Lando “doesn’t make any hard and fast rules. I think it’s fun” falls into a long, damaging tradition of conflating pansexuality with promiscuity. Embracing sexual attraction to whomever catches your interest isn’t about being a rule-breaker. Portraying it as such is lazy shorthand for “wild and free” thinking.
Kasdan’s eagerness to represent the LGBT community is a lovely thought, but it’s just that: a thought. Real representation means crafting considered, nuanced characters whose sexuality is treated as respectfully on-screen as it is off. If creators want to do right by LGBT fans, they can start by picking them up off of the cutting-room floor.