Films

Why Star Wars Proves There Is Success In Diversity In The Movie Industry

By Kelsey D’Auben

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has become one of the most successful films in modern movie history.

It had the most successful opening weekend in history, grossing over $200 million in box office sales worldwide. This past week the highly anticipated Star Wars sequel broke yet another box office record, passing both Jurassic World and Titanic to become the second most grossing film of all time. And with this after only 19 days of being in theaters, Star Wars is also expected to pass James Cameron’s Avatar and claim the number one spot shortly.

A new trilogy means one sure thing in the Star Wars world- a new trio set to save the galaxy from the dark side.

First came Luke, Leia, and Han Solo in episodes IIV, X, and XI, then Obi Wan, Anakin, and Padame in episodes I, II, and III.

In The Force Awakens we are introduced to the new team- Rey, Finn, and Poe.

This new group of leading characters is much different than the ones before them. They are made up of a Black man, a Hispanic man, and a woman. This is a significantly more diverse cast than the saga’s previous films that had casts that were nearly all white.

Not to say that this film doesn’t have a largely white cast as well. Rey, the female lead of the film, is white and so are Leia and Han Solo, previous lead characters brought back from the original saga.

Star Wars has always been sure to include strong, kick ass, fighter women in their films.

But this time the role wasn’t of the girl who fell for the Jedi, or the princess who needed saving.

Rey isn’t either of those tropes. Rey is (spoiler alert) the young Jedi discovering her powers – a role traditionally only given to the white male characters.

This kind of representation is a crucial aspect of film and television that often is ignored, especially in big budget blockbuster movies. Nearly every other film on the most-grossing films list alongside Star Wars have all-white, mostly male casts.

Titanic, Jurassic World, and Avengers to name a few. For films that are meant to make money and sell a lot of tickets, they seem to only be marketing towards a select few.

That is one reason why Star Wars is gaining more success over it’s competitors. A wider and more diverse cast is more attractive to wider and more diverse audiences.

More people will be willing to go to the movies and spend $15 dollars on a ticket because they see there is a character there for them, someone they can watch and relate to.

This representation is even more important to younger audiences. Seeing a hero who looks like you, up on the big screen, can mean the world to a child. It gives them someone they can look up to.

Star Wars is the first in what will hopefully become a new wave of representation in television and film, opening doors for new actors and audiences of all genders and colors and creating an industry where everyone is represented and welcome.

Cover Photo Credit: DAVID HOLT/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

No, Star Wars Is Not Racist

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.

Harris-Perry said:

“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.”

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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)

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