The Point to Which Their Striving Leads – The Journey of Aromanticism and Asexuality in Star Wars

I would love to say that it began with the second article I wrote for Eleven-ThirtyEight. I would love to say that it began with From a Certain Point of View. I love to say that “The Baptist” was our first aromantic and asexual representation in Star Wars. Though Omi is as alien as you could get – the dianoga of the trash compactor in A New Hope – the manner in which Nnedi Okorafor wrote her and her sexuality is dignified. Noble, even.

Unfortunately, the novel Phasma beat “The Baptist” to publication by little over a month. Within the novel, Phasma was described as never having been interested in relationships with men or women. It would be frustrating enough that our first aro/ace character was a villain, as a common microaggression against aro and ace people is interpreting our lack of attraction as a lack of compassion. But there were ways that this could have still worked. There are ways to make aro/ace villains that are compelling. What makes Phasma sting as our first aro/ace coding in Star Wars canon[1]Any potential aro/ace coding in Legends is another discussion. is the fact that the novel leans into that microaggression.

This lack of relationships is noted within the context of someone reflecting on how much crueler and more ruthless Phasma is, specifically in contrast to sympathetic characters who have partners. While I presume that author Delilah S. Dawson did not intend to say that Phasma is immoral because she is aro/ace, the framing nevertheless sends that message.

An inauspicious beginning for our representation. But far, far from the end.

Over the six years I’ve been writing for Eleven-ThirtyEight, many of my articles have focused on exploring aromantic and asexual representation and coding within Star Wars. We have come a long way over those years, and as the site closes its doors, this – my final article – will look back on the journey and ahead to new frontiers.

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1 Any potential aro/ace coding in Legends is another discussion.

Masculinity in The High Republic Adventures

I have been stunned when individual males would confess to sharing intense feelings with a male buddy, only to have that buddy either interrupt to silence the sharing, offer no response, or distance himself.

The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks

I have begun reading bell hooks’ The Will to Change as a means to better understand my own masculinity. The feminist author was one of several voices I tuned into to help me navigate the imposter syndrome I had regarding my gender, and as I was making my way through one of the chapters, my mind kept circling back to The High Republic Adventures.

The preview of issue #5 of the comic had been released two days prior on May 4th. I was of course obsessed with a certain queer coding from Dexter Jettster, but that wasn’t the primary reason why the preview kept repeating in my head. It was the fact that he was saying these things to Alak, another man.

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“For the Moment, Let’s Call it Home” – Embodying Queerness in The High Republic Adventures

It was the dress rehearsal dinner for my cousin’s wedding. Casual clothes for everyone in attendance; it was a hot California day, with a grimy rock outcropping just beyond the grassy seating area.

I’d managed to play chicken with my mother to get my hair cut shorter than my jawline. My shirt was baggy enough to conceal the growing chest I fought by way of multiple sports bras. And so as a gaggle of boys scrambled their way to the outcropping to play, I raced after. It was the age of cooties and “no girls allowed”, so my name I kept locked behind my teeth. They never asked and they never noticed.

I bounded up to my mother afterwards, saying how much fun it was that they all treated me like a boy.

Things like this were what made adults in my life terrified that I’d grow up to be a lesbian. I wasn’t allowed to cut my hair like the boys because People Would Think Things™. “I’m not gay”, I would say years later to gasps of relief, only to add, “but I don’t want to be perceived as a girl.”

Oh, the reassurances rushed in – there’s so many ways to be a woman, you don’t have to be girly – but the fact remained. Young or old, gathering with extended family or browsing the feminine product aisle at Walmart, being mistaken for a boy felt like home.

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On Disobedience and The High Republic Adventures

St. Augustine is one of the most influential figures in all of Christian history. His writings have impacted Catholicism and the various scattered denominations of Protestantism alike. Even in my charismatic and evangelical faith, Augustine was a name to be respected.

Augustine believed in the theology of “original sin” – that the choice of Adam and Eve to disobey God in the Garden of Eden created an inherent corruption in all of humanity. That we are born with that original sin still within us and, if left to our own devices, will gravitate toward evil. Augustine therefore placed an immense amount of importance on hierarchical authority and on obedience thereto. [1]Tokar, Nicholas. Augustine on Obedience and Authority. 2012. Such a theology also gave Augustine himself the ability to assert authority on and demand obedience from those lower in the hierarchy. Augustine’s sermon “On Obedience” was written in-part to shame a congregation who had been expecting an apology for his arrogant behavior. [2]Brown, Peter. Through the Eye of a Needle. 2012. If God created all earthly authorities, than disobeying anyone in authority was the same as disobeying God.

Within such a theology, obedience itself becomes the paramount virtue. It takes precedence over courage, compassion, and justice. It is better to obey than to right a wrong.

I use this example from Christianity in this matter because that’s my house; this religion is where I make my bed. It was the first and loudest place that I encountered this lesson as a child. But the virtue of obedience was not spoken of just within church boundaries. Many of our fairy tales are designed to teach obedience. Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother get eaten because she disobeys. The children in Pinocchio are turned into donkeys for not being “good.” Beauty and the Beast was used at one point in its long history to encourage the obedience of young girls with regard to arranged marriages. How many boogeymen in our cultures exist specifically for the purpose of scaring children into obeying their parents?

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1 Tokar, Nicholas. Augustine on Obedience and Authority. 2012.
2 Brown, Peter. Through the Eye of a Needle. 2012.

The Function of Laughter in The High Republic Adventures

I’m going to confess something: comedy is not my thing. I don’t dislike comedy; I don’t dislike laughing. I don’t think everything should be grim, dark, and edgy. But I have a hard time understanding comedy, on a technical level. I have a hard time picking it apart, peering inside to see how it functions. I’ve tried. I’ve read books and articles on how to write comedy, but it’s still this black box in storytelling that eludes me. Maybe it’s the autism.

I think this is why I took so much longer to put words to issue #2 of The High Republic Adventures than issue #1. Because everyone already said it. From the early reviews to the general reader response: it’s a laugh riot. I myself howled, out loud, a multitude of times. It’s hilarious. What more is there to say?

Comedy is not my thing.

But I also know that comedy itself is a form of storytelling. It requires pacing, setup, payoff, emotional buy-in. It’s why it’s so common for good comedic actors to also be good at drama. It’s why Jordan Peele, who made his name in sketch comedy, delivers quality horror again and again.

So I didn’t want to just dismiss this issue from analysis because it was funny. As much as I struggle with understanding the way comedy functions, issue #2 is still art. It’s still craft. There’s still an entire creative team that put effort into making this a cohesive story, that moves the story forward and reveals elements of our characters. There is still a function…

…a narrative function. Now that is something I do understand. I can’t break apart a joke and tell you how it works. But maybe I can tell you where the jokes fit with the other story elements. And I see three narrative functions that comedy plays in The High Republic Adventures issue #2.

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