While the vast Star Wars universe has depicted all manner of aliens, robots, and everything in between, it was, until recently, utterly devoid of representation for people who identify as gender non-binary. There had not been a single non-binary character onscreen in any Star Wars property before the release of EA’s Star Wars flight simulation game, Star Wars: Squadrons.
Keo Venzee is a Mirialan pilot who uses they/them pronouns and flies alongside players in Star Wars: Squadrons. They are a wise-cracking joker, often making light of serious situations, much to the chagrin of their squadmates. They have “semi-pro racing” in their background, which explains their hard-nosed, daring flight style. Keo is also revealed to be Force-sensitive, which is obviously a big deal in the world of Star Wars. Keo, however, is not convinced of their power and dismisses it entirely. It’s an interesting character quirk – ignoring a great power in favor of being modest. Star Wars: Squadrons leaves Keo’s storyline unresolved, leaving fans to hope for a sequel or spin-off.
It’s disappointing that it has taken this long for Star Wars to depict a non-binary character onscreen, considering the many decades of movies, shows, and games within the franchise. A non-binary character hasn’t even graced the pages of a Star Wars comic book. There have been two non-binary characters – Taka Jamorees and Eleodie Maracavanya – in Star Wars novels, however, according to Wookieepedia. Both were introduced recently, making their debuts in 2018 and 2016, respectively. Hopefully, the current Star Wars High Republic comic book series will include more firsts for positive representation.
Keo Venzee isn’t the only move towards gender-identity inclusivity Star Wars: Squadrons makes. The game’s player-controlled pilots have body types divorced from both faces and voices. During Star Wars: Squadrons‘ character customization process, players can choose to have a traditionally masculine body with a feminine voice and face, for example. These choices are not gendered within the game, either, and are instead listed as “body type 1” and “body type 2.” The system isn’t perfect for representation, but it is a good step in the right direction.
In addition to Keo, Star Wars: Squadrons adds several new characters to the Disney-era canon. There’s Feresk “Frisk” Tssat, an albino Trandoshan marked for death by the Empire, as well as Gracalia Vatara Sienar, whose family invented the Imperial TIE Fighter – a wrong she would very much like to right. The Imperial Intelligence officer LT-514 is a cybernetically enhanced human with a mind built for numbers, and Shen is permanently sealed within his TIE Fighter pilot suit after sustaining serious injuries from being shot down.
Star Wars: Squadrons is full of memorable characters. The multiplayer-focused game has a surprising amount of depth when it comes to storytelling and character development. The introduction of Keo Venzee is truly a historical first for the Star Wars franchise, and it’s one worth recognizing.