Ahsoka's New LGBT Star Wars Canon

Ahsoka Tano is easily the most popular Star Wars character who has not appeared in any live-action film. She was a principal character in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated television series, where she served as Anakin Skywalker's precocious Padawan. Her character developed in surprising and innovative ways throughout the series, culminating at the end of the fifth season of The Clone Wars when she renounced the Jedi Order and struck out to find her own path. To fans' great delight, Ahsoka was unexpectedly featured in the second season of the currently-running Star Wars: Rebels as the intelligence coordinator of the burgeoning Rebel Alliance.

The young adult novel Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston bridges these two television chronologies. Released on October 11, 2016, the novel spent three weeks at number one on the New York Times Young Adult Bestseller list. It's a fun read that provides illuminating answers to big questions about Ahsoka's sojourn as a not-Jedi (those white lightsabers!) and clues to other tantalizing mysteries of the Star Wars universe.

One of the novel's most exciting reveals was a new character, Kaeden Larte, a young queer woman of color who lives on a rural Empire-occupied planet. And who can blame her when Kaeden develops a crush on Ahsoka and her swashbuckling dual-lightsaber-wielding girl power?

Johnston applies an extremely light touch in her portrayal of Kaeden's queerness: Kaeden's attraction to Ahsoka is plain in the text but never overwrought, and is just one of many emotional dynamics at play between the two characters. As a plot device, Kaeden functions as the damsel-in-distress — twice. (Yeah. Kaeden has an alarming propensity for violent hostage situations.) But a female protagonist swooping in to save another female, with romantic undertones to boot, is simply taken for granted.

Fanart by coe-lilium

Meanwhile, in our galaxy, few if any reviews of Ahsoka mention the inclusion of a major LGBT character, and the author herself appears to not have commented much on Kaeden's sexuality. And for a fandom that is quick to seize on hints of same-sex relationships and spill copious digital ink on related fanfic, "AhsoKaeden" has gained surprisingly little traction so far. Then again, Ahsoka is geared towards young adult readers. Perhaps the novel's treatment of Kaeden's sexuality as unremarkable reflects a generational level of tolerance that might be surprising for some older LGBT fans who are accustomed to gay-coding and more of a ruckus when a Star Wars character comes out.

From a canonical perspective, Ahsoka's ambiguous response to Kaeden's affection is equally intriguing. Johnston delivers Ahsoka with an omniscient point of view that reveals the principal characters' thoughts and motivations. Yet when Kaeden finally confesses (blurts out) her feelings for Ahsoka, the description of Ahsoka's reaction is curiously objective and limited to only a look of mild confusion. Nothing overtly romantic develops between Ahsoka and Kaeden, but Johnston does not clarify whether the feelings are reciprocated, and if they are not, why not. Is Ahsoka straight? Is she bisexual or pansexual but simply not interested in Kaeden? Are the circumstances just not right? Or is it a matter of her "Jedi hang-ups," as Kaeden teases?

It was pretty clear from The Clone Wars that Ahsoka had a star-crossed romantic interest in Lux Bonteri, a minor male character. While never openly expressed in the show's dialogue, the camera certainly lingered on Ahsoka's numerous longing and mournful glances after Bonteri, particularly in the "Onderon" arc in season 5 while Lux was involved with Steela Gerrera (sister of Saw Gerrera, played by Forest Whitaker in next month's Rogue One). So while Ahsoka certainly had feelings for Lux, readers of Johnston's novel are left with yet another enigma surrounding this character: maybe Ahsoka is bisexual or pansexual. Ahsoka's non-answer to Kaeden's interest certainly leaves open that possibility.

In any event, readers' and fans' unquestioning acceptance of Kaeden and her same-sex attraction to a beloved Star Wars character is refreshing and welcome. With all the momentum of LGBT characters like Kaeden appearing in Star Wars canon novels, seeing an openly queer character in one of the many upcoming films feels more and more likely, if not inevitable.

And requited love interest or not, it's awesome to know that a hero like Ahsoka Tano is our ally and friend.

Fanart by payroo
Stephen T.'s picture
on November 22, 2016

So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb. -Dark Helmet