“Star Wars, half the movie is aliens and robots, and a black guy is what set people off?” —Patton Oswalt
Yes, Patton, it sure did. The edgy comedian went on an epic rant about the controversy over the casting of John Boyega, a black British actor as a Stormtrooper in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie.
It almost seems preposterous to use the word “controversy” with the words “casting” and “Star Wars.” Star Wars movies have characters ranging from Admirals with calamari heads to green-skinned ladies (remember Oola, Jabba the Hut’s slave girl? She was played by black actress Femi Taylor–guess there is not as much controversy so long as black skin is painted an inhuman color and when acting as a slave).
The latest Star Wars movie actually has three black actors: Boyega, academy-award winner Lupito Nyong’o as Maz Kanata–a mysterious pirate, and Crystal Clarke as Rachel. Yet, it’s the casting of Boyega as a Stormtrooper that has bunched up the Internet’s panties. Some of the Twitter tears of outrage:
#BoycottStarWarsVII because it will be ghetto garbage.
Star Wars is “White Culture” just as much as Jazz is “Black Culture.”
So why is there a black storm trooper in the new Star Wars movie? They’re supposed [sic] be all white. I’m tired of this political correctness [expletive].
I remember the original Star Wars. It was unlike anything I had ever seen and I was mesmerized. The Stormtroopers were so fierce and so cool (although the World War I history from which they are based is horrifying). You never saw a Stormtrooper’s face. Perhaps many assumed under the helmet was a white male face. Admittedly, I, as a little black girl watching the first Star Wars movie, would have thought that a Stormtrooper unmasked would reveal a white man.
I was conditioned, as was so many others, that white males’ faces were faces of authority.
Interestingly, Star Wars sequels have had black actors in prominent roles: Samuel L. Jackson, as a Jedi master in Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Yet, those characters did not cause as much backlash? Why?
The current political climate and the perception of power–that’s why.
Those who have been at the upper echelon of society for generations are currently feeling threatened in a way that has not happened since the turbulent 60s. With minorities rapidly becoming the majority; with calls for diversity and inclusion; same-sex marriage; demands over the protection of women’s rights; etc. … Middle America has been significantly disrupted and awoken from its sleepiest suburb to its most cloistered, homogenous rural acre.
Add in a shaky economy over the last decade that gives spoils to the already wealthy and punishes those with more meager means; top it off with a President of color, and that is the recipe for an extraordinarily angry segment of the populace who consider themselves a soon-to-be extinguished breed.
The level of outrage over a black Stormtrooper is directly proportional to the news: Black Lives Matter, minority college kids protesting, demands for diversity in the workplace, equal pay for women, etc., are all jarring to the majority.
The reason why Donald Trump is heralded as the symbol of the majority is the same reason why there is controversy over a black Stormtrooper. It’s the sentiment of: They are usurping our power. If they succeed, what happens to us?
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