Yes, Deadpool Is Canonically Pan
By this point, we’ve likely all heard the kerfuffle around the team of Solo: A Star Wars Story telling people Lando Calrissian is pansexual.
Hurrah, right?! This makes perfect sense for a “womanizing” character in a space opera. It’s progressive! It’s representative! Except … it’s not.
Word of God and Queerbaiting
See, the thing with this whole “Lando is pansexual” is that it sounds great in theory. In practice, most fans are looking around, scratching their heads. Where’s the evidence Lando is pan?
The problem is there is none. Throughout the entirety of the Star Wars universe, Lando is never actually portrayed as pan. He’s not seen getting it on with a guy from another species or being attracted to a genderfluid character.
This is known as “queerbaiting.” Someone hints at a character’s sexuality or suggests we should read them a particular way, but never actually confirms it within context. The creators can say Lando is pan all they want, but we have plausible deniability until Lando straight up says, “I identified as a pansexual” or something equally blatant.
This is known as “word of God.” The creator said something and thus it is now true, even if there’s no other canonical evidence to support it.
Shades of JK Rowling
Another very famous character got a similar treatment from his creator. Of course I’m talking about the revelation Dumbledore is gay.
This is not stated anywhere within Harry Potter canon. Dumbledore never says it. No one else says it. No one ever even seems to hint at it. So how do we know he’s gay? Well, JK herself told us!
Rowling suggested she’d always envisioned Dumbledore as a gay man. Now, we can ask questions about how one “performs” gayness. Perhaps Dumbledore doesn’t “read” as a gay character because he performs gayness differently.
Even if we allow this very forgiving explanation, the fact of the matter stands: Dumbledore doesn’t read gay. He can thus be default coded as straight just as easily—and it’s more likely. People uncomfortable with the idea of a gay headmaster at the school could easily use the lack of evidence to argue Dumbledore is not, in fact, gay.
And since the only thing we can really rebuttal with is, “Well, the author said so,” it’s very difficult to challenge the assumption. The best you can offer is that Dumbledore could be read both ways.
This then plays into an issue: these characters don’t appear to actually add any representation. They get caught in a strange space wherein, by being (allegedly) queer characters, they help to normalize our perceptions and experiences with queer characters. Not every gay man is a lisping, flamboyant stereotype; Dumbledore’s performance of gayness would certainly strengthen that argument.
But then we have the issue that these characters still code straight. That does nothing to challenge our easy perceptions, and it allows people to go on assuming that Lando or Dumbledore or whomever else is actually straight.
“Word of God” style representation feels less like representation and more like creators seeking applause and acceptance. It feels like shoehorning in diversity for the sake of bartering “brownie points” with fans.
In the 1990s, when things were more conservative, maybe queerbaiting was more necessary. It’s unacceptable in 2018.
One of These Things Is not Like the Others …
Dumbledore and Lando have both had declarations made by creators about their sexual identity. Recently, I stumbled across a Slate article which forced the headline “Deadpool 2 and Solo Creators Claim Their Characters Are Pansexual.”
This is misleading and problematic. First, the creators involved in a Star Wars film are involved in making canon. The expanded universe included books, comics, and other spin-off products which largely aren’t considered canon.
Deadpool is a different category of film. It’s based on a comic, so the “creators” of the film aren’t “creators” the same way those working on a Star Wars film are. They’re drawing from decades of comic book source material.
Next up, we have the plain and simple fact that Deadpool is canonically pansexual.
Going Back to the Source
The article’s headline suggests the Deadpool and Lando claims of pansexuality are one and the same. This is a false equivalency, because Deadpool, in the comics, certainly acts in a way consistent with being pansexual (and he has been “confirmed” as such). I’m not sure he ever states it so blatantly, but his actions show it.
First, Deadpool is attracted to human women. He has a daughter. He’s also attracted to women of other species; he marries the succubus Shiklah.
Deadpool has also shown his interest in males, including Cable and Spider-Man. In fact, Spider-Man and Deadpool are revealed to be heart-mates.
Finally, we have the fact Deadpool is infatuated with Death. Although Death sometimes appears as a woman, more often than not this entity is depicted as a skeleton in purple robes. Deadpool’s got a crush on the Grim Reaper.
“Add Ons” vs. Canon
Keep in mind that, for Deadpool, the comics are canon and the films are spin-offs or add-ins. They build on or adapt the comic book lore. For Star Wars, that’s reversed: the films build canon, and the expanded universe is the “spin-off products.”
So the Deadpool films haven’t included the concrete evidence that exists in the comics to support their claims their hero is pan. (Although you could potentially argue the films do hint at it, at the very least; is Deadpool grabbing Colossus’s butt a joke or sexual attraction?) But the fact of the matter is that the canonical material does contain that concrete evidence.
The Star Wars universe—canon or add-on—does not support the idea Lando is pansexual with evidence as yet. The movies here are the more critical pieces; they are the basis of canon and everything else grows out of them.
So if we want Lando and Deadpool to be equivalent, then Lando needs to be made explicitly pansexual in the Star Wars films. It can’t happen in the expanded universe stuff. It must be on the big screen.
For Deadpool? It would be amazing if evidence of his pansexuality made it into the films. It would certainly help disabuse people of the notion Deadpool can or should be read as straight. He isn’t and he shouldn’t be read that way. It does a disservice to his character.
The Long and Short of It
The conclusion you need to draw here is that we need more pansexual representation—and more queer representation as a whole. The fact Deadpool is canonically a queer character is fantastic. But he shouldn’t be the only one—and this aspect of his character shouldn’t be relegated to the pages of comic books “movie only” fans will never read.
Lando poses another interesting opportunity. It makes perfect sense for this character, in my own understanding and reading of him. But I agree that when representation (and good representation especially) is scarce on the ground, we can’t abide by these declarations of sexuality and nothing more.
They ring hollow.
There’s an opportunity here for the Star Wars franchise to showcase a more diverse universe, with a character it makes sense to write this way—and to do it in a way that doesn’t feel pandering, hollow, or shoehorned in.
It’s doubtful Disney will bite, but let’s hope they do.