'Space Sweepers' Review: A Charming Sci-Fi Adventure with a Political Message
Behind all the action, 'Space Sweepers' is a surprisingly heartfelt and progressive story about building community.
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With Luke Skywalker back in the public consciousness for, uh, no particular reason, now seems like an opportune time to revisit one of cinema’s most iconic heroes. There’s much to be said about the farm boy from Tatooine. One could argue that Luke upholds false narratives about white male exceptionalism, or conversely that he represents a softer and more compassionate view of masculinity. As far as I’m concerned, though, two things about Luke Skywalker are unquestionably true. First, he reinvented the classical hero’s journey for the space age. Second, he’s gayer than a basket of Coruscanti jogan fruit.
I would say “Welcome to my TED Talk,” but apparently my gay Star Wars headcanons don’t meet TED’s highfalutin standards of academic rigor. Instead, I will present my humble homosexual argument by walking you through each film with a pair of gay goggles firmly in place. Please note that I’m restricting myself to the Star Wars canon as presented in the films. I won’t be delving into the bottomless Sarlacc pit of comics, novelizations, TV shows, and games because I don’t hate myself. Without further ado, here’s my hot gay take on Star Wars: A New Hope.
When we first meet the 19-year-old Skywalker twins, Leia is a senator, a princess, an ambassador, and a spy for the galaxy-wide rebellion against the oppressive Empire. Luke is a bratty farm boy who plays with toy planes.
He lives on his aunt and uncle’s moisture farm and spends his days thirsting for adventure harder than a Disney princess in a power ballad. He’s a little useless, a lot whiney, and full of “I gotta get out of this dang town” energy. As a former Farm Gay™ myself, I can confirm that all of these traits are peak Farm Gay™ culture. Game recognizes game and gay recognizes gay.
Our unlikely hero gets his call to adventure via two secondhand droids. (C3PO and R2D2 are gay icons in their own right, but we’ll save those metal husbands for another article.) While Luke patches up R2, he whines about being stuck on the farm and mentions a guy named Biggs. Since George Lucas cut all scenes with Biggs from the beginning of the film, we’ll need to dig into the deleted scenes for an explanation.
Yes, I know. I said I’d restrict myself to the canon of the original trilogy, but I’m not above pulling from deleted scenes if it forwards my gay agenda. In these missing scenes, we learn that Biggs grew up with Luke on Tatooine before leaving to study at the Imperial Academy. He became disillusioned with the Empire and joined the Rebel Alliance as a fighter pilot. More importantly, for the purposes of this article, he came back to Tatooine to see Luke before embarking on a dangerous mission. Why? Because they were boyfriends, obviously.
Folks, Biggs tells Luke that he missed him! And Luke says things haven’t been the same without him! And they swap some snarky, flirty banter about whether Biggs can trust Luke to keep his secrets! The “my highschool boyfriend broke up with me because he went to some preppy university on a sports scholarship and he didn’t want to try long distance but now he’s back for summer break trying to hit me up and sure I’m still a little bitter but he’s a total dreamboat who rocks a Freddie Mercury stache and I wanna get off this stupid farm and follow him to the big city” vibes are off the charts. (Also, Biggs says that Luke has “a mouth bigger than a meteor crater.” No comment.)
Back in the official cut of the film, Luke finds Leia’s hidden message while messing around with R2’s hardware. Upon seeing a 5-inch tall 144p hologram of Leia, he exclaims, “She’s beautiful!”
Here’s the thing: I’m a lesbian. I’ve convinced myself that I’m in love with a woman based on a blurry dating profile pic that shows approximately one-fifth of her face. We’ve all been there. I’m not ashamed to speak my truth. But this? This would be a stretch for me.
I will now disgrace Adrienne Rich’s name by evoking her concept of compulsory heterosexuality for my joke article. To egregiously oversimplify, compulsory heterosexuality is the web of sociopolitical pressures that promote heterosexuality as the default and reinforce heteronormative and/or patriarchal models of attraction. Rich coined the term to describe specific experiences of lesbians and bisexual women, but the concept applies in similar ways to LGBT people of other genders.
As a result of compulsory heterosexuality, people (especially LGBT people) might automatically interpret any feelings toward someone of a different gender as romantic. When I was but a wee baby lesbian, I sometimes thought that I had a crush on a boy when I really just dug his video game collection. Since Luke and Leia are force sensitive, it’s possible that Luke subconsciously recognized his connection to Leia and misinterpreted this feeling as attraction. At least, that’s what I choose to believe because it’s less uncomfortable and incesty.
Moving on! Luke sits down for dinner with his aunt and uncle and throws a hissy fit about wanting to go to the Academy (with his boyfriend Biggs) instead of helping out with the next harvest. He stalks off to pose dramatically and stare at Tatooine’s suns.
Some plot happens. While Leia’s busy withstanding psychological torture, Luke gets knocked on his ass and rescued by an old man. He learns from said old man, Obi-Wan Kenobi, that his father was killed by Darth Vader (nudge nudge, wink wink). Obi-Wan tries to convince Luke to join him on his quest to save Leia, but Luke refuses because, I kid you not, he wants to be home in time for supper. For those wondering, my “hey George Lucas, why is Luke the protagonist of this movie instead of Leia?” counter has hit three.
Anyway, Luke returns to the farm and finds that his aunt and uncle were killed by Stormtroopers. It’s all very sad. With no supper left to be home for, Luke decides to join Obi-Wan after all. They hit up a bar in search of someone willing to transport them to Alderaan. As one does. Luke, bless his gay little heart, has no idea what to do with himself at a bar. He sulks around for a bit, minding his own business, before he’s cornered by two aliens who declare that they don’t like him. Since they offer no reason for their dislike, I’m calling homophobia. The aliens try to beat him up, and Obi-Wan once again jumps in to save Luke’s skin. Walking into your first bar, being socially awkward, and immediately getting hate crimed? That’s the gay experience, baby!
Fortunately, things take a positive turn for our sweet farm twink when Obi-Wan introduces him to an absolute hunk of a smuggler. You may have heard of him: Han Solo, loveable rogue, bisexual icon. We’re treated to a few shots of Luke looking thoroughly gobsmacked while Han brags about his ride, the Millenium Falcon.
Let’s think about this from Luke’s perspective. He’s lived a sheltered life on a tiny farm that seems to be miles away from any other humans, let alone any handsome young men. He’s also an aspiring pilot who craves adventure in the great wide somewhere. Han, a dashing pilot who rattles off stories about his adventures and wears V-necks that show off a lot of chest hair, is probably the embodiment of every wet dream he’s ever had. It’s no wonder Luke spends the first half of the conversation staring at Han like he’s a tall glass of blue milk on a hot day.
However, Luke gets a little prickly when he suspects that Han’s overcharging them for their intergalactic Uber ride, which he totally is. He spends the rest of the film oscillating between nagging Han and hero-worshipping him in peak rom-com fashion. Before Luke and his brand new crush set off on their journey, he dons a poncho for no apparent reason. I only mention this because I think it’s adorable.
The Falcon takes off. Luke continues to be whiney and idealistic, Han continues to be snarky and cynical, Sir Alec Guinness continues to question why he agreed to be in this movie. Chewbacca’s there too — and is, by the way, the ultimate bear. Oh, and Leia’s entire home planet gets vaporized. Whoops.
Our dashing heroes are too late to prevent an act of galactic genocide, but there’s still a princess to save. Han causes a distraction (a.ka. makes a complete fool of himself) while Luke finds Leia. Right off the bat, they make much more sense as siblings than romantic interests, with Leia razzing Luke about his height and commiserating with him about Han’s dumbassery. At one point, Leia gives him a kiss on the cheek (“For luck!”), and it’s so painfully awkward that I can only assume Carrie Fischer herself was Force-sensitive and knew that Leia was Luke’s sister before George Lucas did.
Leia continues to prove that she’s the real hero of the story by getting this pair of himbos out of the Death Star and correctly deducing that the Empire let them escape in order to track them back to the rebel base. Han ignores this warning because male egotism knows no bounds, even in a galaxy far, far away. Never fear, though! His disregard for her expertise and irritation at her innate leadership skills don’t stop him from finding her attractive!
After Han rejects her (extremely reasonable and correct) advice, Leia warns Luke that Han only cares about himself, which sounds to my gay little ears like someone not wanting her new friend to get his heart broken by an asshole. She storms out, leaving said friend and said asshole alone together. Han makes like a middle schooler at a sleepover asks Luke if he thinks Leia likes him back. Luke doesn’t handle this well. Just call him Mr. Brightside, because jealousy’s turning this saint into the sea.
This scene merits a closer look because it exemplifies why Gay Luke is the superior Luke.
LUKE: So… what do you think of her, Han?
HAN: I’m trying not to, kid!
LUKE: (with quiet satisfaction) Good…
HAN: (pauses, smirks) Still, she’s got a lot of spirit.
HAN: I dunno, what do you think? You think a princess and a guy like me–
LUKE: (with a frantic head shake and absolutely no hesitation) No!
Now, if you’re deadset on believing that Luke’s crushing on Leia, this scene is pretty straightforward. Luke likes Leia, Han likes Leia, Luke’s jealous, Bob’s your uncle, Leia’s his sister, we’re all uncomfortable. Luckily, there’s an alternative with approximately 100% less incest. What if Luke’s actually jealous about Han’s attraction to Leia because he’s interested in Han? The scene makes equal sense either way. If anything, Luke’s chemistry with Han and brotherly dynamic (plus, y’know, literal brotherhood) with Leia makes the second option more viable. Absolutely nothing needs to change for this interpretation to make sense, other than opening your heart to the Gospel of Gay Luke. Even better: Han doesn’t follow up with “She’s got a lot of spirit” until after he sees Luke’s reaction, which opens up the possibility that he’s actively trying to make Luke jealous.
Is this how George Lucas intended for the scene to be read? Definitely not, because he’s a homophobe and a coward. As a subscriber to the “death of the author” school of literary criticism, this doesn’t deter me at all. Art lives through its interpretation, and if I claim Luke for the gays, there’s nothing George Lucas can do to stop me. Try me, George.
After he’s returned Leia to the rebel base and received his reward, Han decides to peace out. Luke confronts him with all the righteous indignation of a jilted lover. A few things are notable about this scene. First, Han asks Luke to come with him, both because he thinks Luke would be a valuable member of his crew and because he believes that the rebels’ attack on the Death Star is a suicide mission. Despite their squabbles, Han actively wants Luke by his side and is concerned about Luke risking his life. Second, Luke believes that Han has the potential to be a better person and wants him to live up to that potential. Third, this scene largely exists to set up Han’s eventual decision to return and join the fight, thereby framing Han’s relationship with Luke as the primary motivating factor in his heel-face turn. It would have been easy to make Han’s return about Leia as a way of developing their romance. Instead, it’s about Luke. Some fans actually speculate that this scene — and, indeed, Han’s whole character arc in the latter third of the movie — derives from an early draft in which Luke was a young woman who was explicitly in love with Han.
For now, though, not even Luke’s poutiest face and dreamy blue eyes can convince Han to stay. That’s okay, though, because another handsome man walks into Luke’s life as Han walks out. That’s right: Biggs is back!
Yay! How exciting! We totally know who this guy is and why Luke’s so happy to see him because George Lucas totally didn’t cut all of the scenes that would have given us any context! We love boyfriends! Sure would be a shame if…
Uh oh. During the bombing run against the Death Star, Biggs gets shot down by none other than Dad Vader. The audience definitely feels the emotional weight of his loss because they definitely know who he is. Luke’s certainly feeling his loss. To make things worse, he misses his first shot at the Death Star’s self-destruct button, and Vader’s hot on his tail. That can only mean one thing: it’s time for some gayeus ex machina.
You know that quintessential gay experience when your secret estranged dad murders your ex-boyfriend but then your new boyfriend shoots down your dad and saves you? Luke does. Han’s change of heart buys Luke enough time to blow up the Death Star using the Force and the power of gay love.
Luke returns to the rebel base. Leia hugs him, then literally pushes him into Han’s arms, like the true ally that she is. Luke is positively gleeful when he embraces Han and exclaims “I knew you’d come back,” and his face looks like it’s about to split in half when Han ruffles his hair. And who can blame him? He just saved the galaxy and got his man back. Since Luke’s actual dad won’t say it, I’ll say it for him: I’m proud of my gay son.
We then skip to a medal ceremony. For some reason, Han gets a medal for ditching the rebellion and coming back at the last minute, and the other rebels who’ve been putting their lives on the line for years get nothing. At least Luke looks like a little ray of sunshine in his yellow jacket. That’s what I call fashion!
George didn’t bother writing dialogue for this scene, and given the quality of most of his dialogue, that’s probably for the best. Besides, that means I can play Pachelbel’s Canon in the background and pretend it’s Han and Luke’s wedding. Leia’s officiating, Chewie’s Han’s best man, and Threepio and R2 are Luke’s best droids. What a beautiful ceremony.
And that’s the end! The galaxy’s safe-ish, Han’s slightly less of an asshole, Luke’s grown from a bratty farm gay to a slightly-less-bratty rebel gay, and Leia’s still cooler than either of them will ever be. I hope you enjoyed this gay little journey through Star Wars. Tune in next time for more of me throwing around gay terminology, praising Luke’s fashion choices, and reading George Lucas to absolute filth.
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Behind all the action, 'Space Sweepers' is a surprisingly heartfelt and progressive story about building community.