Movies, Pop Culture

Why #BoycottStarWarsVII makes absolutely no sense

Somewhere out there, a contributor to The Onion is weeping because she didn’t think of this first.

A new Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser was released this morning, so of course there’s already a new controversy surrounding the film sweeping the Internet. In a nutshell: a select group of people are urging everyone to boycott the film because it is anti-white propaganda that promotes white genocide.

Somewhere out there, a contributor to The Onion is weeping because she didn’t think of this first.

The madness ranges from amusing to horrific (but usually the latter). People have been passing around racist caricatures of both Black and Jewish men (to represent lead John Boyega and director J.J. Abrams, respectively), memes, and throwing around the n-word like…well, like it’s still the 19th century. I’d prefer not to embed any offending tweets here, partly because I don’t want to spread that filth around, and partly because there’s a staggeringly large number of them.

[bctt tweet=”People have been passing around racist caricatures over this” username=”wearethetempest”]

The people who are pushing the boycott are exactly the people you’d expect; however, these accusations of anti-white sentiments are so baffling, you’d think that they haven’t seen a single Star Wars movie at all.

1. This is not the first Star Wars film to feature prominent Black characters.


James Earl Jones voiced Darth Vader in the original trilogy. Sure, he didn’t physically play him, nor was Jones seen anywhere in the films, but both Vader and Jones have one of the most recognizable voices in pop culture, ever.

Billy Dee Williams played Lando Calrissian in Return of the Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back, two of the films from the original series. He’s a badass who freaking blew up the second Death Star. Lando is not only one of the trilogy’s beloved characters, but also appears often in Star Wars comic books, video games, and is the protagonist of a series of Star Wars novels.

Samuel L. Jackson played Mace Windu in the prequels, and was almost universally loved (probably because he’s Samuel L. Jackson). Jackson is one of cinema’s most respected and idolized actors, playing iconic characters such as Jules Winnfield and Nick Fury. Mace Windu is yet another name down the list.

He’s also responsible for this gem:

Oh yeah, and Ahmed Best played Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace, but it’s best (get it?) we don’t speak of Jar Jar. Ever. For the uninitiated, Jar Jar Binks is one of the most hated Star Wars characters, and has been described as a character made up entirely of Black stereotypes. So yeah, he doesn’t count.

2. “What would George Lucas think?” is irrelevant.

Yes, Lucas wrote the aforementioned Jar Jar character, but I sincerely believe that it did not come from a place of overt, intentional prejudice. People have been calling on Lucas to condemn the “anti-white” message within The Force Awakens, which is stupid for a myriad of reasons, but I’m only going to bother with one.

I’m willing to bet George Lucas does not give a shit.

[bctt tweet=”George Lucas does not give a shit” username=”wearethetempest”]

3. This type of reaction to normalization of media is exactly why we need it.

One of my favorite quotes about the overwhelming whiteness of media comes from Shonda Rhimes, who said “”I really hate the word ‘diversity,’ it suggests something…other. As if it is something…special. Or rare. As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women and people of color and LGBTQ characters on TV. I have a different word: normalizing. I’m normalizing TV.”

The need for media that is more reflective of the world in which we live is amplified by racists like the #BoycottStarWarsVII folks. Their outrage is as intense as it is because Star Wars is a beloved, iconic franchise that they believe they own. You’re this upset about a massive pop culture beacon choosing a hero that doesn’t necessarily look like you, but this is what PoC, women, and LGBTQ people are forced to deal with regularly.

In theory, race and sex don’t “matter,” but we forget this applies only if you’re in a place of privilege. There are already six Star Wars films that reflect white men (female Star Wars fans had Leia); to PoC and women, the two protagonists of The Force Awakens are a victory.

Afrofuturism is important. Minority heroes are important. Star Wars is a cultural giant, and hopefully will inspire other major studios to take steps towards increasing the role of minorities in film. Until then, be glad that racist idiots won’t be in the theater with you during The Force Awakens.

[bctt tweet=”Afrofuturism is important” username=”wearethetempest”]

 

 

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  • Shayan Farooq

    Shayan was creating mini documentaries profiling Pacific Asian artists for the USC Pacific Asia Museum of Pasadena. You can follow her on Twitter, but not in real life.