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Pansexual Characters In Film — And Why There Needs to Be More Pansexual Movies!

Pansexual Characters In Film — And Why There Needs to Be More Pansexual Movies!

Out of all the movies released by a major American film studio last year, only 20 featured a single LGTBQ+ character. This is according to an annual analysis and report put together by GLAAD (the organization formerly known as The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation but now known just by its initials). 

This report, which researches whether or not queer representation in film is increasing or decreasing year over year, is incredibly fascinating and worth reading in its entirety. However, in the end, GLAAD and their Studio Responsibility Index essentially present hard data for what the entire queer community already knows intrinsically — that there are not nearly enough LGBTQ characters in Hollywood. 

We now have a wealth of LGBT TV shows, lesbian films, and gay rom-com’s to choose from (though, personally, I don’t think we will ever have ‘enough’) but one area in which this is particularly evident is in the portrayal of characters who identify as pansexual. Pansexual, according to GLAAD itself, is defined as being attracted to people of all gender identities or being attracted to people regardless of their gender. 

Pansexual Characters In Film — And Why There Needs to Be More Pansexual Movies! - pansexual movies

Unsurprisingly, the number of pansexual characters in film is incredibly low — so low, that even putting together this list of five pansexual movies turned out to be more difficult than you’d think. As you’ll see farther down the list, pansexual characters are frequently not named or identified as being such within their actual film, and it’s only after the fact that creators confirm their sexuality one way or another. 

This isn’t always the case though, and regardless, this list of pansexual movies is a good place to start looking, especially if you’re searching for a film to watch that has pan representation. 

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1. Harry Turpin (The Thing About Harry)

The first movie on this list is one that wouldn’t even be considered for GLAAD’s report, as it was made for TV and not a major studio. The Thing About Harry premiered on the Freeform TV network last year, but don’t let its low budget deter you; the film is one of the best representations of a pansexual character that one can find right now, and it’s number one on this list for a reason. 

The film is a romantic comedy that tells the story of Sam (played by Jake Borelli). Sam, a young gay man, was bullied in high school by Harry (Niko Terho). However, in adulthood, the two are reconnected, and Harry, who now identifies as pansexual, begins to fall in love with the very boy he used to bully. 

The film does not shy away from its rom-com center; it’s light and mostly silly, and the stakes are never really that high. The quality of the writing and acting is about on par with other made-for-TV movies, and, while enjoyable, the film certainly isn’t going to be winning any awards. 

However, while The Thing About Harry leans into its rom-com tropes, it steers fairly clear of LGBTQ stereotypes. The characters fall into familiar boxes, sure, but none of them are based on their sexuality. The fact that having a character who explicitly identifies as pansexual onscreen is so boundary-breaking is unfortunate, but it’s why Harry is at the top of our list. 

2. Rhiannon – Every Day

Based on the 2012 David Levithan novel of the same name, Every Day (2018) is a film that tells the story of Rhiannon, a sixteen-year-old girl who falls in love with a soul who wakes up in a different person’s body every day. Fans of the Netflix series Sense 8 may see where this is going — the film really is the perfect setup for a pansexual character, and Rhiannon is just that. 

Every day when the spirit, who is simply named A, wakes up, they are inside of a different body, but Rhiannon falls in love with them just the same. The word pansexual is not used in Every Day — in the book or the film — but the movie is a fantastic example of a queer character who is defined by things outside of their sexuality. 

Rhiannon is pansexual, or, at the very least, she identifies under a similar umbrella. Her character is multi-layered and interesting — because of her sexuality but also for a number of other reasons — and the film is certainly worth checking out for anyone looking for pan representation in film. 

Now, the first two characters on this list are indisputably pansexual. However, there are a number of other characters who, while not explicitly identified as such in their respective films, have been confirmed to be pansexual after the fact by the writers who created them, the actors who played them, or someone else altogether. 

This kind of retroactive “assignment” of sexuality is usually controversial; however — just ask J.K. Rowling. This after-the-fact “appeasement” of sorts raises the question of what representation really is and whether or not the multi-million dollar corporations producing these films are interested in anything other than queer-baiting their LGBTQ audience. 

On the one hand, letting fans know about a character’s sexuality after a piece of art is complete adds an interesting and relatable dimension to what may be a well-known and familiar character. If viewers go into a film experience with prior knowledge of anyone character’s sexuality, then it may allow those fans to interact with the media and the character in a new and different way. When done right, expanding on a character’s sexuality outside the text can open up new perspectives for audiences who are watching or rewatching a film. 

It should be mentioned here too that, once a fictional character is out of a creator’s hands, how others see, perceive, and relate to that character is no longer up to the author at all. As different fans interact with a piece of art, they take away entirely different things. Two fans can have two different interpretations of a character’s sexuality, and, for the most part, this is relatively harmless. 

However, this performative ret-conning turned queer-baiting is less so. If a character is pansexual, but it never comes up in the plot of the film or the character’s scenes, is that really representation? If a character is queer but only when there are no shareholders to please, are you really serving the LGBTQ community?  

We’ll let you decide – most of the time; it’s on a case-by-case basis. Either way, though, the rest of the characters on this list are ones who, while not explicitly labeled as pansexual onscreen, have been confirmed to be so after the fact. 

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3. Mal (Descendants)

In October of 2020, Disney Channel star Dove Cameron took to Twitter to confirm and explain the sexuality of a number of the characters she’d played on the network in the past. 

It began with a fan tweeting that they didn’t believe that Liv, Cameron’s character on the Disney Channel sitcom Liv and Maddie, was actually straight. Cameron clearly agreed, and tweeted back at the fan, “Maddie was definitely gay.”

When prompted further, Cameron gave a series of tweets that outlined what she imagined the sexuality of her other characters would be. Notably, this included Mal, Cameron’s character on the Disney Channel Original Movie series The Descendents. Mal, the daughter of Sleeping Beauty villain Maleficent, is, according to Cameron, pansexual. 

“mal is pan,” she tweeted on October 7. Simple and clear, the tweet currently has more than 39,000 likes. 

Disney, unsurprisingly, has not confirmed or given a comment on this information, and it’s unlikely that they ever will. The entertainment company is notorious for its queerbaiting, and besides, as fans of the Descendants films may know, there’s little evidence in the movies themselves to suggest that Mal is canonically pansexual. 

However, the fact that Cameron imagines her as such is not insignificant. It likely changed the way in which Camesheron portrayed the character, and it certainly will change the way that audiences view it. For a film and a character aimed mostly at younger audiences, representation, even in this way, is welcome. 

4. Deadpool (Deadpool)

Deadpool, a loud-mouthed, hyper-violent, fourth-wall-breaking vigilante, is a Marvel Comics character who was introduced to the world in 1991. In the comics, Deadpool is unequivocally pansexual, flirting with the likes of Thor, Spider-Man, and more. A number of the writers who’ve worked on Deadpool over the years have confirmed, in their own ways, that they considered the character to be pansexual as they worked. 

Co-creator of the character Fabian Nicieza has also signaled as much, though his answer, which attributed the character’s sexual fluidity to his ever-changing regenerative cells, has been criticized for misunderstanding pansexuality as its own sexual identity. 

For our purposes, that hardly matters because the real question is whether or not the character is pansexual in the two Deadpool films, which were released in 2016 and 2018. In those films, which star actor Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, the character is in a heterosexual facing relationship with a woman named Vanessa, and this relationship is the impetus for a number of events in the film. Reynold’s version of the character can and does flirt with almost anyone in sight (especially in the second film), but his known pansexuality never takes the forefront. 

No, instead, it’s the butt of a few jokes that are, at best, in poor taste, even for Deadpool. Any references to Deadpool’s orientation as pansexual are framed more as “Deadpool wants to have sex with anything that moves” than they are “Deadpool identifies as this real, valid sexuality.”

Ryan Reynolds has expressed that he’d be interested and willing to explore the character’s sexuality in a more real way (a way that doesn’t involve animated unicorns hidden away in the credits, but whether or not future Deadpool films follow through on this wish is certainly left to be seen. 

Remember: the Deadpool brand is now also under the Disney banner (do you see a recurring theme yet?). With the Mouse’s…hesitancy to include any LGBTQ+ characters in its properties, it’s probably unlikely that we’ll see any sort of nuanced take on Deadpool’s sexuality any time soon. 

That being said, though, the same situation applies here as with The Descendants. If audience goers are able to identify with Deadpool because of his sexuality, then they are more than encouraged to do so. If moviegoers can relate to Deadpool at all, then more power to them. 

5. Lando Calrissian (Star Wars)

We’ve talked princesses; we’ve talked superheroes — now let’s talk Star Wars. 

In the weeks leading up to the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, there were a number of reports that claimed Lando Calrissian, the smooth-talking smuggler first seen in The Empire Strikes Back, was actually pansexual. 

These reports were primarily based on the words of Jonathan Kasdan, co-writer for Solo, who claimed that he viewed Lando as a pansexual character (notably, Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan’s co-writer and further, was much less specific in his answer). His words are worth taking a look at, if for no other reason than to see how this issue keeps coming around.

“There’s a fluidity to Donald and Billy Dee’s [portrayal of Lando’s] sexuality,” Jonathan Kasdan told The Huffington Post in 2018. “I mean, I would have loved to have gotten a more explicitly LGBT character into this movie. I think it’s time, certainly, for that.” 

You can see here that even the writers who claim to champion these queer characters know that their answers are a bit of a cop-out. 

“He doesn’t make any hard and fast rules,” Kasdan continued later in the interview. “I think it’s fun.” 

This part, too, is somewhat troubling, as, similar to Deadpool, pansexuality here is once again being conflated with promiscuity or sexual deviancy. It’s a step in the right direction for sure, but a cautious one, to say the least. 

Deadpool was canonically pansexual before his film. Lando was not. But what both have in common is that neither is shown to be anything but heterosexual in their respective films. I watched without the context of these interviews or tweets; these movies have blink-and-you’ll-miss-it queerness, if they even have that. 

That fact, on its own, should signal something. Almost all of this conversation is happening on social media and not in the movies themselves, and this is a sign that there is much work left to be done in the film industry when it comes to pansexual representation and queer representation at large. Much of the chatter regarding these characters are just that — chatter—lots of noise with little to show in the end. Simply put: Jonathan Kasdan can say whatever he wants to HuffPost so long as Disney can still ship Solo into Chinese markets. 

Films like The Thing About Harry and Every Day show that pansexual representation can be done thoughtfully and realistically. Those movies are far from perfect, but they don’t have to be perfect – they just have to be thoughtful. If they are, the number of characters on this list should continue to grow year after year from here on out. 

Have we missed any you can think of? Send us a message on Instagram and we will take a look and add to them here!

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