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    Saturday, August 4, 2018

    Finalizing the Lando Calrissian Is/Isn't "Pan" Debate WITHOUT Derailing Much Needed Diversity



    Now that Afronerd.com is most certainly open for business, I think it's best for yours truly to finally put pen to digital pad and succinctly summarize my thoughts regarding the retconning of Lando Calrissian as pansexual controversy.  For those that may be unfamiliar with the dustup, it stems from a May '18 Huffington Post interview with Solo: A Star Wars co-writer, Jonathan Kasdan (born circa '79) musing that he interprets both Donald Glover and Billy Dee Williams' portrayals of the Lando character as being sexually fluid-hence, "pansexual."  You probably noticed that I parenthetically included Kasdan's date of birth in the preceding sentence.  I suspect that Kasdan being an older millennial  (The Empire Strikes Back was released May 1980) partially plays a role in his viewpoint.  Sometimes you have to be either old enough to remember the tenor of the times when Empire premiered or at the very least well educated in cinematic history.  If you think "diversity" is a dirty word in some circles currently, we can posit that representation was also problematic in decades past.  When Lucasfilm hired Billy Dee Williams in '79 to become a part of the Star Wars franchise juggernaut, it had very little to do with fairness or altruism.  Williams was a legitimate Black superstar who garnered so much notoriety as a romantic lead that he was oftentimes dubbed "Dark Gable," an obvious reference to the quintessential and White matinee idol, Clark Gable.  I don't think we can argue that Williams' characterization wasn't morally ambiguous but was Lando's sexuality equally duplicitous as well?  Check out this excerpt from a 1980 People Magazine article encapsulating exactly why Williams was chosen for the role:

    Or is Calrissian something else? Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away—say, Hollywood in the ’60s—they called it tokenism. Whatever the label is today, Sid Ganis, VP of Lucasfilm, emphatically denies the charge, saying: “We were just looking for a wonderful romantic hero.” Williams accepts that. “The reason I was attracted to this role was because it wasn’t written for a black person,” he snaps.

    As a perfunctory salvo, we (blerds, nerds....humans) should be open-minded, if not demanding of diverse depictions in all manner of cinema.  However, we should also be mindful of classic imagery and what is plausibly canonical. And what is Star Wars, exactly?  Is it not a space opera?  The space opera genre, dating back to the 1930s implicitly imbued chivalric romance and melodrama which fits within the crosshairs of Williams' well crafted persona.  Another problematic inference with Kasdan's opinion deals with the White gaze and it's discomfort with Black sexuality and swagger.  Despite what a muched derided Root piece asserts, Black straight males are not the White people of Black people.

    Being a person of color irrespective of where you fall on the sexuality scale is not a welcoming consideration in mainstream cinema.  Black traditional romanticism is still very much a non starter in media and the legacy of Billy Dee Williams (and Lando Calrissian) should be respected as a sort of sacred cow.  Let's face it-James Bond, Batman, Captain James T. Kirk, Philip Marlow, Han Solo etc. are probably not going to get that pan label in the near or distant future.  John Constantine (and maybe Wonder Woman) is canonically omnisexual and therefore, that depiction might make it to the silver screen.  Why was the sole Black person in Star Wars given this label?  We have had rather festive jousts with other Blerds concerning this issue and no one can seem to answer how are Han, Obi or Luke not perceived similarly in this fictional space faring community?  When there's an agenda at play, it seems that the Black image is consistently up for grabs obfuscating all other considerations or iconography (CW's Mr. Terrific, anyone?).


    What Kasdan has exhibited is essentially queerbaiting whereby a person teases or implies alternative representation without really addressing the issue.  It's lazy and tantamount to throwing gristle to hungry wolves-in this case a growing audience demanding of expansive and more varied depictions.  I get it.  BUT...as someone who appreciates the classics, the first wave of Black fictional characters really should remain unfettered.  Let's demand that writers do the leg work and develop new  interesting characters (with their own mythologies) that ALL audience members can rally around.  Interestingly enough, in a new take on the science fiction and sex rules in space argument, Seth MacFarlane's The Orville addresses this as fresh canon:




    Don't take the bait....demand better.       


    Oh and just for sh*ts and giggles:



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    Item Reviewed: Finalizing the Lando Calrissian Is/Isn't "Pan" Debate WITHOUT Derailing Much Needed Diversity Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: desmond burton
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