Star Wars character Lando Calrissian is pansexual, and I couldn't be happier

Commentary: When it comes to representation in a galaxy far, far away, it's good to know Lando sees beyond gender to fall in love the way I do.

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
5 min read
Jonathan Olley

When news broke last week that suave Star Wars character Lando Calrissian is pansexual, I couldn't help but feel a bit giddy. I finally found a Star Wars character who falls in love the way I do.

While Lando seems like a flirtatious ladies' man in the original trilogy, Solo co-screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan confirmed during Solo: A Star Wars Story promotions that he isn't exactly straight. Asked in an interview with Huffington Post if the character played by Donald Glover is pansexual, Kasdan replied, "I would say yes."

"There's a fluidity to Donald and Billy Dee's [portrayal of Lando's] sexuality," Kasdan said. "I would have loved to have gotten a more explicitly LGBT character into this movie. I think it's time, certainly, for that, and I love the fluidity -- sort of the spectrum of sexuality that Donald appeals to and that droids are a part of."

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Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) attempts to charm Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.


Glover himself responded to the comment on Monday in an interview with SiriusXM's Entertainment Weekly Radio.

"How can you not be pansexual in space?" Glover said. "There are so many things to have sex with ... Yeah, he's coming on to everybody. I mean, yeah, whatever. It just didn't seem that weird to me 'cause I feel like if you're in space it's kind of like, the door is open! It's like, no, only guys or girls. No, it's anything. This thing is literally a blob. Are you a man or a woman? Like, who cares? Have good time out here."

To be clear, pansexual has a bit more complex definition than homosexuality or even bisexuality. While homosexuality is defined as being attracted to the same gender, and bisexuality is defined as being sexually attracted to both men and women, pansexuality is described by GLAAD as having an attraction to all gender identities, or an attraction to people regardless of their gender or gender identity.

Some critics have hinted in their Solo reviews that Lando flirts with Han Solo (played by Alden Ehrenreich). "Every ship isn't for everyone," Lando tells Han about the Millennium Falcon in the trailer. "She needs a particular type of pilot." 

Then his co-pilot droid L3-37 (played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) says to Lando, "You done flirting?"

That suggests the possibility that Lando is also attracted to L3-37 -- though this idea of robosexuality counting as part of the pansexual demographic doesn't sit well with everyone. (Full disclosure: I married the Star Wars droid R2-D2 as part of a Lucasfilm marketing gimmick when I worked for George Lucas, so robosexuality is just fine with me.)

"The assertion that Lando is pansexual -- because he seems to be interested in a female droid -- is a piss-poor shot at representation that still manages to reinforce hetero relationships as default," Megan Farokhmanesh from the Verge wrote on Thursday. "Kasdan's assertion that Lando 'doesn't make any hard and fast rules ... it's fun' falls into a long, damaging tradition of conflating pansexuality with promiscuity. Embracing sexual attraction to whomever catches your interest isn't about being a rule-breaker. Portraying it as such is lazy shorthand for 'wild and free' thinking."

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Donald Glover portrays a young Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story.


I understand that criticism and know that screenwriters and filmmakers have a long way to go before gay, bi, trans and pan characters are more accurately represented. 

But as a fan, I love that we're at least getting more diverse characters in Star Wars films at all. Knowing that Lando -- a popular character in the franchise who might get his own movie -- could be pansexual is more than just groundbreaking for mainstream sci-fi films, it's a personal affirmation that I might finally feel represented in Star Wars. 

As a woman and a feminist, I always identified strongly with Princess Leia (played by Carrie Fisher). She was sassy, smart, passionate and dedicated to her cause. 

But here's the thing. As a kid in the '70s and '80s watching the original Star Wars films, not only did I want to be Princess Leia (or maybe even Carrie Fisher), I kind of wanted to date her too. To confuse me even more, I had a crush on Han Solo and Luke Skywalker too.

This was long before I realized it was OK for me to be attracted to both genders. But I didn't really come to terms with my own sexuality until college. Even then I was too scared to admit I was bisexual. 

And it didn't really help that there were no bisexual characters on TV or film to identify with. In fact, the first bisexual I saw on screen was the coy murderess played by Sharon Stone in the thriller Basic Instinct. Not exactly the best bisexual role model. 

Recently, I discovered that I may not even be defined as bisexual at all, but in fact, pansexual, thanks to reading a Rolling Stone interview in April featuring singer and Hidden Figures actor Janelle Monáe. She also originally identified as bisexual, but later read about pansexuality and came to the conclusion that "Oh, these are things that I identify with too. I'm open to learning more about who I am."

I've always been drawn not to how people look, but how they are on the inside -- their interests, passions, likes, dislikes, etc. 

So when Lando was outed this week as pan, I couldn't help but get excited that this could open up a door for other filmmakers to include more pansexual characters, so people like me could finally look at at the big screen and identify with a character's style of loving. 

Even if Lando's sexuality is portrayed in Solo: A Star Wars Story merely as endless flirting with his female droid, Han Solo and maybe even Chewbacca, that's fine by me. Just knowing Lando is sexually attracted to more than the Princess Leias of his galaxy makes my heart race a little. 

First published, May 18, 12:30 p.m. P.T.
Update, May 21, 5 p.m. PT: Adds comment from Donald Glover.  

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