This is the 27th post in a daily series. Read about it here and see the list of previous posts here. A new post about “Star Wars” will be posted every day for 40 days leading up to the franchise’s 40th birthday on May 25th.
When J.J. Abrams said last year that he expected gay characters to play a part in the diversity of the future movies, many fans had hopes he was referring to Poe and Finn.
But in the comments sections on some pieces, many fans expressed confusion: “What about C-3PO? And R2-D2?” Even some writers got in on the joke.
The speculation that C-3PO and R2-D2 were gay is not new, as fans have debated (and joked about) that possibility on message boards for at least a decade. One YouTube user even made a “Brokeback Mountain” parody about the the two droids.
The argument that the droids were gay rests on C-3PO’s mannerisms. Because he had the effete affectations stereotypically associated with gay men, he must have been gay himself. And because R2 was his constant companion, he must have been C-3PO’s lover.
The opponents of this argument have fallen into a few camps. Some fans decry this as an attempt to sexualize characters in a kids’ movie and further a “gay agenda.” Others oppose the concept on the premise that these robots have no genitals, and even if they did have genitals, these droids could not have the same types of relationships as humans and other life forms.
What we assume (or don’t assume) about C-3PO’s or R2-D2’s sexuality says more about us than it says about C-3PO or R2-D2. The idea that C-3PO’s sexuality could be dictated by his mannerisms fits in with how we view humans’ orientations. That C-3PO could not have any type of sexual or emotional relationship is secondary to our societal need to think that just because he “acts gay” he must be gay. This is because our society still teaches that there are gay ways to act and straight ways to act. In other words, we assume a person’s sexuality by that person’s mannerisms rather listening to that person’s experiences and attractions.
But that’s just my take, and that says more about me than it says about C-3PO or R2-D2. For other people who aren’t straight and cis, these droids were almost iconic. In a tongue-in-cheek post for Gay Star News, James Withers wrote:
While my peers couldn’t stop talking about Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo, as a neophyte gay I knew the real story was about the robots: ‘Gay’ C-3PO and ‘lesbian’ R2-D2.
Yes. We all know neither had a romantic attachment, but the signs were all there for a young gay kid looking for validation in a culture where there was none (minus the incomparable soul singer-songwriter Sylvester).
Let’s take C-3PO. A stereotypical gay man if there ever were one. From his voice, mannerisms, and those cries of distress. The golden plated robot was a walking example of a drama queen.
As for R2, all butch lesbian. Prepared to repair anything. Went where she wanted. Didn’t pay people much attention, could be a little obstinate, and her advice was always ignored even though she knew the deal.
The “Star Wars” purists will be quick to point out that R2 has been referred to as a “he,” not a “she.” But that is beside the point, because early on, Withers established his characterization of the droids was admittedly not about the droids but “a young gay kid looking for validation in a culture where there was none.” If viewing C-3PO and R2-D2 as gay helped Withers feel more confident in his own skin, then hey, may the Force be with him.
That desire to have characters with whom we identify is a strong one. It’s why many fans hoped Poe and Finn could be a couple, and it’s why GLAAD stated that Episode VIII should have LGBTQ characters. C-3PO’s behavior might seem stereotypically gay, but that’s not going to be enough for today’s audiences to pass as actual LGBTQ representation.
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