'The Acolyte fulfils its promise of being the gayest Star Wars has ever been'

The Disney+ series shows that the galaxy far, far away is slowly coming closer to representing our own

The Acolyte (Disney+)
The Acolyte features queer creatives both in front of and behind the camera, and the series is led by non-binary actor Amandla Stenberg. (Disney+)

Aside from keeping Pedro Pascal in work, what has Star Wars really done for the gays?

Ok, topless Kylo Ren, aka Ben Swolo, did awaken his fair share in The Last Jedi with that bulky chest and those high waisted trousers. But where are the actual gays in a galaxy that shouldn't be so far removed from our own?

They do exist — you can't tell me Poe and Finn are canonically straight — but by and large, queer people in Star Wars have mostly lived off-screen, like comic book character Doctor Aphra. The Rise of Skywalker tried to placate the gays with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it lesbian kiss, but in doing so, they inadvertently made a gay icon out of the frowning slug who J.J. Abrams cut to after instead.

One decent exception to all this so far has been Vel and Cinta whose longing looks and heartfelt love were just one of many things I loved about Andor. So yes, Star Wars has finally started giving some space to queer people in space. Space gays, if you will.

Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay) in Lucasfilm's ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
One decent exception of queerness in Star Wars so far has been Vel (Faye Marsay, pictured) and Cinta (Indira Varma) in Andor but it is a low bar for the franchise. (Disney+)

But with the bar so low, forgive us for being sceptical when The Acolyte showrunner Leslye Headland first claimed her new show was going to be the "gayest" entry yet in Star Wars.

To be fair, there is plenty more queer talent working on The Acolyte besides Headland herself, including Russian Doll's Charlie Barnett, trans icon Abigail Thorn, and Headland’s wife, Rebecca Henderson, as well as Mrs Fletcher star Jen Richards who has worked in the writers room this season.

Read more: The Acolyte fans are praising new ‘powerful’ Star Wars detail

Two episodes in, all this much welcomed queer talent didn't translate to an actual queer story on screen though. That is, aside from a brief reference to the fact that Osha and Mae were raised by two mothers. But with both of them long dead before the series had even started, this blip of queer representation barely registered.

So imagine my surprise when Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Mother Koril (Margarita Levieva) suddenly showed up alive and well in an extended flashback instalment, three episodes in. And in Pride Month, no less.

The Acolyte (Disney+)
The Acolyte's third episode introduced Mother Aniseya and Mother Koril, Mae and Osha's mothers who challenges everything we know about Star Wars lore. (Disney+)

Destiny takes us back in time to a sapphic paradise on Brendok, a planet where our two mothers mother with nary a man in sight. Together, they have raised younger versions of Mae and Osha, the twins who gay non-binary actor Amandla Stenberg plays in the present. The Acolyte doesn't make a big deal out of this reveal in the way Disney did with that Rise of Skywalker kiss, and there's no judgey space slug on hand either.

Instead, there is serenity to be found in this matriarchal lesbian coven of force-wielding space witches. Intrinsically queer by its very nature, this all-female community is free to love who they please and raise a family how they see fit. That is, until the Jedi appear.

With their arrival, it becomes clear why these women live separately from others in their own secret commune. Because after spying on Mae and Osha earlier, Jedi Master Sol immediately demands to know "Where’s their father?" in possibly the straightest thing I've seen since I accidentally walked in on my dad watching Top Gear.

With just three words, this well-meaning cis, straight man tries to undo an entire society with his limited heteronormative views. Because make no mistake, the Jedi don't approve of anything these women do, not because it's inherently evil or dangerous, but because it's not their way.

(Clockwise from center): Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss), Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae), Jedi Master Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo) and (second from right) Master Torbin (Dean Charles Chapman) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
The fact these girls have no father is unnatural to the Jedi, a so-called force for good who would rather rip loving families apart than accept anything other than what they blindly believe is true. (Disney+)

The fact these girls have no father, a point of pride for Aniseya, is unnatural to the Jedi, a so-called force for good who would rather rip loving families apart than accept anything other than what they blindly believe is true.

Read more: The Acolyte cast hail Amandla Stenberg as a ‘rare' talent

Sound familiar? Earlier in the episode, Aniseya tells her daughters, "The galaxy is not a place that welcomes women like us," and it's easy to see where she's coming from. But it seems at least that this no longer applies to Star Wars as a whole.

Like Andor before it, The Acolyte welcomes women such as Aniseya and Koril while framing those who would question their love — both for each other and their daughters — as wrong and bigoted.

It's no wonder that the notoriously toxic Star Wars fandom has taken issue with The Acolyte then. Episode three has especially enraged fans who hate the idea of two women creating life via The Thread (another name for the Force), as it apparently contradicts canon.

Jodie Turner-Smith as Mother Aniseya in The Acolyte. (Disney+)
Like Andor before it, The Acolyte welcomes women such as Aniseya and Koril and it is a great step forward for the franchise. (Disney+)

But no, it doesn't actually. What it does contradict is a narrow worldview where the Jedi will always be the heroes and cis, white, straight viewers will forever be prioritised above all else.

The hate for this episode is just the latest in a wider campaign which led to The Acolyte being review-bombed from day one with negative ratings far lower than those given by critics. But it's no surprise that the "gayest' Star Wars show has riled up certain members of the fanbase so much, just as so many other attempts at diversity have done in the last decade.

What's funny is that The Acolyte isn't exactly a defining pillar of queer representation that's going to change society as we know it. If it was, then Charlie Barnett would have been topless on the show way more than he has been. That is a shame though (not just the Charlie thing), because you would expect even more queerness in this series given everyone who's involved in making it.

But with more episodes to come — not to mention more inclusive hires working on both sides of the camera than ever — it's reassuring at least to see that this galaxy far, far away is slowly becoming not quite so far removed from our own.

The Acolyte airs new episodes every Wednesday on Disney+.