By Chris Beacham
MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry on Saturday insinuated that she had issues with the Star Wars series because of, in her view, racially motivated subtext related to the character of Darth Vader.
“While he was black he was terrible and bad, awful and used to cut off white men’s hands, and didn’t actually claim his son. But as soon as he claims his son, goes over to the good, takes off his mask and he is white — yes, I have many feelings about that.”
Harris-Perry also said that the fact that actor James Earl Jones voiced the character, and is black, is important for framing her views as well. As a casual Star Wars fan, I can testify that Ms. Perry has no real understanding of the mythology she is so offended by.
Perry also seemed to feel that wookies, like Chewbacca, are black. This is nuts.
First of all, the moment she is referencing where Vader is unmasked is from Return of the Jedi, the third film in the original trilogy and the sixth episode of the saga.
If one were to analyze the films in the order they were released, the second film of the originals, The Empire Strikes Back, is when it was first revealed that Darth Vader is really Luke Skywalker’s father.
In the chronological order, the audience would know from the prequels that Darth Vader is truly Anakin Skywalker, the father of Luke and Leia Skywalker.
Darth Vader claims Luke as his son in The Empire Strikes Back, in which he is not unmasked. This makes Perry’s claim that the moment Vader claims his son he “becomes white” completely false. One can also assume Vader wanted to claim his son throughout, but did not have the opportunity to confront Luke until this moment in the story.
It is also important to look at diversity throughout all six films. Using Perry’s twisted views on color, race, and implicit meanings in storytelling, we can use multiple instances that prove her views to be false.
Throughout the original three films, every person who works for the empire is white. For one, the stormtroopers, soldiers of the evil fascist empire, have white suits and masks. Darth Sidious, the true mastermind behind the rise of the empire, who Vader also answers to, is white.
Darth Sidious was once Chancellor Palpatine, a corrupt politician in the galactic senate, and he was white then, too. Although there is a minor skin tone change once he becomes Sidious, he is still caucasian, and arguably more evil than Vader. Yes, Vader does cut off a hand, but so does the evil Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones, and he is white.
The character Lando Calrissian, who originally betrays Han Solo and Princess Leia as part of a deal with Vader, develops a guilty conscience and assists in saving Han Solo from his imprisonment from carbon freeze in Jabba the Huts lair is black. He also aids in destroying the second Death Star. Lando stands out as one of the great heroes of the original films.
“The facts do not support her views. Dark and light representing good versus evil are established storytelling motifs that have been around for centuries.”
In the prequel films, arguably the coolest and most powerful Jedi is Mace Windu, played by none other than Samuel L. Jackson. Mace Windu fights valiantly in the Clone Wars, kills the evil bounty hunter Jengo Fett, and is the first Jedi to confront Palpatine about his corrupt intentions.
It is also worth mentioning that he is one of the few Jedi who is suspicious of Anakin Skywalker and his future allegiance to the Republic. In my opinion, this makes him one of the most intelligent Jedi. Windu’s demise is at the hands of (the white) Palpatine and (the also white) Anakin Skywalker, as he fights for justice and the Republic.
Last but not least, Anakin Skywalker turns to the dark side before he becomes Darth Vader. With this, he is not wearing a black suit or mask. Even with the Vader suit, since we know beneath it is the father of Luke and Leia, we know that he is white.
The Star Wars films, which George Lucas has admitted were originally made for children, is about as pure as you can get (even for those of us who believe Gredo did not shoot first).
To state that there are malicious racial intentions with this story, which is about morality and good versus evil, continues this ridiculous trend in this country to be offended by as much as possible. It is unfortunate that our culture is so politically correct and hyper-sensitive that people seem to be insulted by everything.
One can respond: “It’s her opinion. It’s how she sees it and she can be offended”. I disagree.
There is no valid justification to be offended by something as pure and child-like as Star Wars, especially now with one of the heroes of the new film The Force Awakens being a black character.
The facts do not support her views. Dark and light representing good versus evil are established storytelling motifs that have been around for centuries. The PC police needs to leave this one alone.
As for Chewbacca being a black guy, just give me a break.
Cover Photo Credit: JD Hancock/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)