A few weeks ago, after the Andor episode “The Axe Forgets,” I discussed the possibility of Vel and Cinta being girlfriends. There was a heck of a lot of queer coding in that episode that seemed to point in that direction.
In case you didn’t read the first article, Queer coding, as described by Book Riot, is “when characters may not be explicitly stated to be queer, but there is enough subtext available for an audience to read them as queer… Queer coding is not inherently negative or positive.”
Since then, there has been a major development in the Cinta and Vel romance. In the latest episode of This Week! In Star Wars, host Kristen Baver recapped the previous Andor episode “The Eye.” In her video, she specifically says, “Vel made it to the ship, but her girlfriend Cinta was left behind!”
Pardon me as I scream:
SHE SAID GIRLFRIEND!
This is absolutely a huge step in representation for Star Wars. For so long our only on-screen queer rep has been Orka and Flix from Star Wars Resistance or the kiss in The Rise of Skywalker that was so quick that not even China edited it out. I love Orka and Flix, and they mean the world to me. But I understand that because of the Star Wars funnel (discussed in this post), most of the general audience is not watching animated shows. With the TROS kiss, it’s so fast. It’s literally a blink-and-you-miss-it situation. I actually did miss it the first time I saw the movie.
The books and comics have been filled to the brim with queer characters for years. The list of LGBTQIA+ people in The High Republic could fill an entire article on their own. Still, only the smallest part of the fandom is reading those so it feels like all of it is being hidden away. Having Vel and Cinta in a main Star Wars show is a huge step forward in normalization as a wide audience can see them.
In turn, it begs the question “Is this good queer representation?” That’s tricky to answer at this point as we’re only halfway through Andor’s first season. I have no idea what the future holds for Vel and Cinta. There could be a huge, romantic kiss with swelling music and warm fuzzies felt all around. Or I could end up writing a very salty “bury your gays” article if one of them is killed. We simply don’t know at this time what will happen. But as of episode seven, “Announcement,” I can give some thoughts on what we have so far.
The basic answer of is this good queer rep is that it’s still not technically queer representation. At this point, Vel and Cinta are like Orka and Flix from Resistance. Those two were never confirmed to be in a relationship on screen. It was only because the producers of that show came out and shared that they were a couple. Even then, the announcement had its own caveats apparently. Resistance relied on coding to get the message across. Orka and Flix would visit Flix’s mother, they shared a pet and a business together, and Flix’s cousins said they understood why Flix liked Orka. Orka even offhandedly said, “I love the guy” talking about his partner. Still, this is all very coded. As long as this could be misunderstood as them being good friends or roommates, it is not clear and obvious.
That’s the key to all this. If someone can look at what’s being presented and not know 100% that they’re in a relationship, then it’s bad queer rep. We don’t even know if Orka and Flix are boyfriends or husbands. They never held hands, refer endearingly to each other, or confirm their relationship status. Even in some of the shorts, they bicker like business partners, not boyfriends/husbands.
There is an entire sub-argument about queer content in animation being seen as “adult content” which is absurd. This is probably why Andor, a live-action show, is so easily pushing Vel and Cinta more than Orka and Flix were showcased in Resistance. I mean Resistance never got a full Kristen Baver announcement nor have Orka and Flix ever been mentioned during Pride month despite being the historic first on-screen queer couple. This argument that queer people exist is “adult content” and therefore kids shouldn’t see it needs to be done away with. That’s an argument for another time, but I did touch on it a bit here. It’s not fully relevant to this piece, but it should be mentioned this is an ongoing issue.
Cinta and Vel are in this same weird space as Orka and Flix at the moment. Everything shown about them so far is coded. Even the big “sharing a blanket” line could be misunderstood as friends. Or it could be read that because of the bare-bone nature of the Rebellion at this time, it was more of a necessity that they share a space to keep warm. Vel taking Cinta’s hand before they separated in “The Eye” could be seen as two friends comforting each other, not romantic partners. For example, when my best friend’s father died, she held my hand during parts of his funeral. We’re not romantic partners in any way. This moment between Vel and Cinta could be misunderstood as such too.
In both of the cases of Resistance and Andor, announcing these pairs as romantic couples but not confirming them in the show is bad queer representation. This is no shade toward Kristen Baver, who is just doing her job. But it gives off the same vibe as when J.K. Rowling said in an interview that Dumbledore was gay. At no point in the Harry Potter books or movies did it ever indicate that he was. At least Resistance and Andor are better with their coding to at least hint there are relationships going on. There is nothing about Dumbledore in the text. Still, Andor and Resistance leave a bad taste in my mouth because as of writing this, they’re only confirmed outside of their respective series. It still feels like these queer couples are being hidden away like they’re shameful.
What can be done about this?
Well unless we get more Resistance content (please give us more. I love that show), Orka and Flix are probably going to be stuck in this coding limbo for a while. But Andor has a chance to put some stellar queer representation on screen. It needs to be clear and obvious. There should be no lingering questions about whether or not Vel and Cinta are in a relationship.
It’s so easy to do too. If either Cinta or Vel calls the other their girlfriend, actually saying the dialogue out loud, then it’s good. It’s that simple. Ideally, I want a big gay kiss. Or if the heteronormative relationships of Bix and Timm or Cassian and the woman he was with on Niamos get a bedroom scene, then why can’t Vel and Cinta get one too?
But really, all it takes is one line of dialogue to make it good queer representation. That simple thing is why it is so maddening to me that Orka and Flix aren’t good queer rep. If one of Flix’s cousins said, “I see why Flix dates him,” their representation would have been perfect. I hope beyond hope that Andor doesn’t follow the trappings of Resistance and actually gives us good queer rep on screen with Cinta and Vel.
Everything is set up for them. The creators just need to follow through.
Follow all of our Andor coverage here at Dork Side of the Force.