By Kate Sims
In a millennium not to too far away, a generation of progression and acceptance is making a rebel alliance to vanquish the evils of archaic beliefs. Despite every victory, one foe, far more foul than Darth Vader, still shows its ugly face: racism. On Oct. 18, a startling trend began to take over Twitter just before the new Star Wars: the Force Awakens trailer premiered during the Monday night football game. The trend was, #BoycottStarWarsVII, for it is “anti-white propaganda promoting #whitegenocide”, as tweeted by End Cultural Marxism. What could have possibly sparked such an absurd comment? That night it was reaffirmed that the protagonist of the latest Star Wars episode was going to be John Boyega, a British actor taking on the role of a stormtrooper turned Jedi. Oh, did I fail to mention he’s a man of color?
While it shouldn’t matter, it apparently does to the tweeters like End Cultural Marxism, Critical Spooking, and the hashtag’s leading tweeter, Lord Humungus, whose username is ironically displayed as @DarklyEnlighten. Tweets like “if white people are not wanted in Star Wars, than our money must not be either (@OfficialCritDis)” and “give a Jew control over anything and he will make it so there are less white people in it (@AskiTan),” flooded the feed that night, only to be responded to by a movement of rebels posting memes of drinking “white people’s tears” and (a personal favorite) of Yoda saying “Ignorant you are, breed you should not.” Within a handful of hours, racial discrimination and ideology bashing stormed Twitter. It did come to light that the hashtag was a troll, meant to ignite racial tension regarding the film, as told in CBS News the next day, but it didn’t excuse the comments of the boycotters and anti-boycotters.
I believe the only civil comment to the “protest” was the #CelebrateStarWarsVII, started by the director of Selma director Ava DuVernay, where posts like @afroeccentric’s “my lil bro is OBSESSED w/ Star Wars [and] now gets to see more diverse cast” surfaced.
Now, this isn’t the first time people have lost their minds over Boyega’s part in the film. Back in early 2014 when the first trailer appeared, outcry over a “black stormtrooper” brought us the memorable quote from the 22 year old actor, “get used to it.” It’s over a year later, and people are clearly not over it.
Anais Maurel, a senior international student with dual-citizenship in both France and the U.S. said:“I was surprised about it, but didn’t see it as genocide against white people. If you watch the other [Star Wars] movies, there are barely any people of color which is a total misrepresentation of the USA [and] the world.” I couldn’t agree more. The most powerful African-American voice in the industry, James Earl Jones, voiced Vader but was never seen, and the other films seem to have more of a token attempt at diversity. “Minorities make up nearly 40% of the population in the United States, yet [they] only represent 16% of the roles in Hollywood. 94% of film executives are white, which may explain the lack of diversity in movies” according to a Buzzfeed article that showcases a gallery project where they recreate iconic movie posters with actors of color.
I see this same vision in J.J. Abrams, director of the new Star Trek movies and the upcoming Star Wars: the Force Awakens. Abrams said he revels in the “opportunity to do anything [he] wants” like having a “show with actors of color,” when it comes to his casting decisions. It’s not an anti-white movement, it’s simply recognizing that the white-washed Hollywood needs to get with the times.
I am so excited to see what he does, for more reasons pass the diversity factor. I first say Boyega in his performance in the British science fiction film of Attack the Block, which I loved. I firmly stand by that some of the best actors come out of Britain, like Idris Elba (Pacific Rim), Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead), and Simon Pegg (Mission: Impossible III). If anything, that opinion is the only reason I look forward to seeing Boyega’s performance. Secondly, I sympathize with @afroeccentric’s tweet for her little brother. “Next to a president and a Disney princess, my younger siblings of mixed race have a galactic hero they can relate to.”
To play the devil’s advocate though, @MrJohnQZombie posed some decent food for thought, saying, “Riddle me this, if race, gender, and orientation [doesn’t] matter, why does everything need to be less white, less male, and straight.” He has a great point. It makes me think back to a Josephine Baker quote saying that “brotherhood should be nature,” but it “has to be taught”. The ideal of staying with your own “kind” is hammered into children so young, when we are all just human beings. We shouldn’t have to make the conscious decision of having a “diverse” cast. It should be natural. But until that day, I will salute the works of J. J. Abrams and media makers alike. No matter what is on the outside, whether mechanical mask, clone armor, or fur, we are all pink on the inside.