China is notorious for censoring LGBTQ content in films.
When Bohemian Rhapsody screened in the Asian nation, for example, six scenes of queer intimacy were sliced onto the cutting-room floor in order to screen the Freddie Mercury biopic for audiences there. Call Me by Your Name, the acclaimed 2017 gay romance, was prohibited from screening in China altogether.
However, a scene of two women kissing in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — the first gay kiss in Star Wars history — slipped through the censors, reports Variety.
Skywalker, the ninth episode in the Star Wars saga directed by J.J. Abrams and the final chapter in the sequel trilogy, technically premieres Friday. However, attendees at advance screenings in China, which began Wednesday, report that the scene remained intact.
While some in China hailed the inclusion of the scene as progress, others regarded it as "baffling." The kiss occurs between minor characters, and the romantic nature of their relationship struck some viewers as nonsensical.
"Seriously, it was perplexing," wrote one audience member on the online message board Baidu. "The two characters are not lovers. Or their relationship is more noble than that of lovers."
There have been some signs of progress in China, where gay relationships are not illegal but remain culturally taboo. Last year, Looking for Rohmer became the first gay film to be screened in wide release in the nation — although reviewers noted that the sexuality of the two leads was so subtle that it "might go unnoticed by straight moviegoers." Moreover, the 2017 decision to show Beauty and the Beast with its "gay moment" intact may be a sign of shifting views.
However, the Star Wars moment may have survived censorship due to the minor role it plays in the film. The Advocate's sister site, Pride, called it "a blink-and-you-miss-it moment that, unfortunately, wasn't really anything substantial."
The news source for LGBTQ millennials and Gen Z bemoaned that the long-running franchise did not offer a scene of queer visibility that might have moved the needle for visibility — or attracted any notice from censors. Fans had long hoped for a romantic relationship between two of the franchise's male leads, Poe and Finn, but their wish was ultimately not granted by the Force.
"Is it too little, too late? Oh yeah. Is it something that LGBTQ+ pop culture fans are already used to? Unfortunately," Pride stated.