Film

The Slash Awakens: Why Finn And Poe Should Hook Up In The Next ‘Star Wars’ Movie

SEARCH YOUR FEELINGS. YOU KNOW IT TO BE TRUE.

This article discusses plot elements of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It contains mild spoilers.

Now that The Force Awakens has finally been released, Star Wars fanatics have plenty to wonder about over the year and a half or so until Episode VIII hits cinemas. What role will Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) play in the next instalment? Will we learn more about Rey’s (Daisy Ridley’s) backstory? Is there going to be an even bigger Death Star?

But the really important question is obvious: are Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) gonna hook up?

Oh, sure, J.J. Abrams and his merry band of screenwriters want you rooting for Finn and Rey (“…a boyfriend? A cute boyfriend?”), but even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we don’t need to be so dang heteronormative about things. Besides, there’s a pretty convincing argument behind this ship. Let’s begin.

They’re Adorable Together!

C’mon, that scene when they reunite at the Resistance base on D’Qar! They hug, then Poe entrusts Finn with the jacket he’s been borrowing. It warms your heart. Maybe they’re angling for bromance, not romance, but why can’t it both?

There’s more to this than “it’d be soooo cute” though, so bear with me.

It Would Fit With The Original Trilogy

The Force Awakens is basically a megamix of the all the best bits of A New Hope (with some samples from the other films). It’s a familiar formula reconstituted and recalibrated to resonate with the first Star Wars film without quite descending into straight plagiarism. Beyond hitting a lot of the same narrative beats, the new characters introduced to the series are essentially remixes of A New Hope’s core cast. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is Anakin/Vader through-and-through, of course, but none of the three main good guys – Rey, Poe and Finn – are so easily categorised.

One would assume that Rey, being the most prominent lady in the cast, would take on the mantle of Princess Leia. Except that, outside of a mid-film feint when she’s captured by Ren, she never really threatens to assume either of Leia’s primary roles in the first film: she’s neither a princess nor a damsel in distress (Yoda be praised). Nope, Rey is Luke through-and-through – a capable youngster on an isolated planet who finds herself thrust into adventure, finding herself preternaturally talented in an ancient religion she knew nothing about beforehand.

But if you’re looking for a Leia analogue, your best bet is actually Poe, despite his roguish, Han Solo-esque charm. Poe starts the film as an established, valued member of the Resistance captured by enemy forces – pretty much precisely how Leia was introduced in A New Hope.

And just as Luke was sufficiently entranced by Leia’s image to rescue her from Imperial forces, Finn is compelled to assist in Poe’s escape moments after the Resistance pilot’s brought on board. Oh, sure, Finn needs a pilot – a convenient cover story – but it would a brilliant rhyming of the films if the rescue mission had secondary motives.

This isn’t a perfect one-to-one match, though. If Poe is the damsel (of sorts) in distress in the first act, then he gets to switch roles with Finn in the second act, flying in at the head of the cavalry to save the day for a captured Finn (and repeating Luke’s A New Hope heroism in the final act).

Come ON.

But that remixing suits the Finn/Poe angle, anyway. Remember, the original trilogy was big on confounding audience expectations when it came its pairings. If you watch the first film again, Luke and Leia seem destined for romance (if you disregard the whole incest thing, anyway), but the real relationship-to-be was waiting in the wings. It’d be some brilliant rhyming to pull the same trick again by feinting at Finn/Rey before pivoting into Finn/Poe.

Besides, if we’re going to dispense of the increasingly tired damsel-in-distress trope, why shouldn’t the two knights in shining armour get to save each other and then ride off to the sunset together? (I’ll allow you, the reader, to come up with your own joke about jousting knights or duelling lightsabers here. I’m far too classy for that.) Also, don’t forget: it’d be adorable.

Fanfiction And Fan Service

I’m not going to pretend I’m the first to think that these two would make a good couple. This is the internet, after all. When I Googled ‘Finn/Poe’ a day after the film’s release, there was already this (short, SFW) piece of fanfiction to be found (published back in October, even). And fanfiction is usually where this sort of speculative erotica takes hold; in case you’re unaware, there’s a whole subset of fanfiction called “slash fiction” (as in Kirk/Spock – or Kirk ‘slash’ Spock) that’s built around non-canonical same-sex pairings.

If you’re unfamiliar with fanfiction, this still shouldn’t come as a surprise. You don’t have to go very deep into any fandom – even the most family-friendly fandoms – to find people happy to eroticise the characters, eager to imagine cute boys and cute girls kissing one another. But this subculture is also reflective of a wider culture that shunts anything outside the narrow umbrella of heteronormativity off to the fringes. Fans are creating their own representations of relationships that they don’t get to see in mainstream pop culture, and more power to ‘em. But when it comes to such prominent properties, why do same-sex relationships have to be relegated to fanfiction?

Sure, 2015 pop culture is much more accommodating to queer characters than it was, say, a decade or two ago. But that message doesn’t seem to have filtered through to the really big franchises. I might be forgetting someone, but when I try and think of the movies making real money – the Marvel films, Fast and the Furious, Harry Potter, Twilight – the only queer character that comes to mind is Albus Dumbledore. And Dumbledore’s not a great example, given his sexuality was only hinted at in the series; you have to rely on J.K. Rowling herself to confirm (or retcon) things.

The tiptoeing associated with Dumbledore’s softly-softly characterisation has been the status quo for a long time. But in the 21st century, surely we’re long past using scented handkerchiefs and secret handshakes to suggest that – maybe, just maybe – this boy might like to kiss other boys? Yet we still have contemporary ‘couples’ – think Holmes/Watson or Merlin/Arthur in their respective TV series – that are built out of showrunners winking to the audience, acting like they’re working under the Hays Code (which expressly forbade depictions of “sexual perversion” in Hollywood films in the ‘30s and ‘40s).

We might not have the Hays Code anymore, but we do have the international marketplace, driven by countries like China with far stricter censorship laws than the Western world. This, I suspect, is why we tend to see queer characters in genre TV shows – say, Orphan Black or Lost Girl – but not the big budget movies that rely on raking in hundreds of millions from overseas.

But just as the Hays Code’s collapse was precipitated by clever filmmakers testing its boundaries – relying on those aforementioned euphemisms – the best way to break through these walls is with brute force. If Rian Johnson’s Star Wars presents Poe and Finn as a couple – not merely for flavour, but to drive the plot, to create conflict, to test loyalties – it’s still going to make a jillion dollars, whether or not China (or other countries) decide to screen it. (Maybe it just won’t make a kajillion dollars.)

And that’s the worst case scenario. Just a few months ago, Chinese censors approved the cinema release of Seek McCartney, a film about a relationship between two men, suggesting that blockbuster filmmakers don’t need to be so cautious in their self-censorship.

The Force Awakens has already earnt plenty of praise for its diverse cast, which incorporates women and people of colour into a galaxy that, a long time ago, was mostly made up of white men. Now is the perfect time for Star Wars to – excuse the Trek trolling – boldly go where none of its blockbuster competitors have gone before, and find space for a gay couple in space. It’s time for #FinnPoe.

Dave Crewe is a Brisbane-based teacher and freelance film critic. Read his stuff at ccpopculture or pester him at @dacrewe.