Diversity in Star Wars

I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi a few weeks ago in theatres and ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT OH MY GOODNESS PEOPLE THAT WAS AMAZING. I fangirled pretty hard on the ride home with my two siblings, it was way too much for my poor nerves to handle. 

Instead of sharing a film review (because I wouldn't be able to get anything out other than dying flamingo noises of happiness), I thought I'd write about something that's been on my mind recently. Namely, diversity in the Star Wars franchise. 



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(Full disclosure, I'm as white as white can get so obviously I don't have any real-life experience with being a person of colour (PoC) beyond what I've read. If you're a PoC I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! (And I will mostly be talking about racial diversity, because otherwise we'll be here all day.) Also please note I know this post is only skin-deep but this is a topic that deserves an essay, so I tried to keep it short.) 

When researching the representation of PoC for this post, I became aware of how much cultural coding I've accepted without noticing. Alien races in Star Wars aren't so alien when you consider races such as the Neimodians, who speak with an East-Asian accent and wear clothing very similar to Chinese and Japanese traditional clothing. Plus they’re the bad guys. Cultural coding. Not great. 

In terms of human (or human-looking) PoC, both the original trilogy and the prequels majorly sucked. There were only two black characters in six movies with any speaking time, said characters being Mace Windu and Lando Calorissian. 

(Personally, they’re two of my favourite Star Wars characters (how freaking cool is Mace Windu? He took on Darth Sidious alone and totally would have beat him if Anakin hadn’t stabbed him in the back (metaphorically (he more slice his arm off (not metaphorically))). 

That being said, they were still minor characters. And two black characters for six movies? Really? How many Latino characters were there? Asian? Biracial? The list goes on forever and none of them are in Star Wars. Racial diversity in the first six Star Wars movies sucks, the end. 
Enter The Force Awakens. Oh my goodness. Someone catch me, I’m going to faint from happiness. There was a female lead and a black lead. WHAT. They were both fully fleshed-out characters with autonomy and kick-butt skills and epic hilariousness and oh my, my heart is way too happy. Rey, Finn, Poe? There were female Asian pilots (the originals had only white men) and tonnes of extras were PoC and it was just beautiful. 

The following movies followed in The Force Awakens’ footsteps.  Rogue One had a Mexican character with his accent (yay!), Asian characters, black characters, and Middle Eastern characters (who wasn’t a terrorist!). The one gripe I had with this movie was that the engineers who worked on the Death Star were all old white men. (In case you didn’t know, I’m a young white female engineering student.) A bit annoying, but I can swallow it. 

We had the addition of Rose in The Last Jedi, an Asian-American character who was decidedly fantastic (although I like Poe better, sorry Rose). (There are people out there who think The Last Jedi treated its PoC characters poorly (take a read of this article). I personally think that’s people looking into having non-white characters too much and scrutinising every move, but as I said I am white and I did grow up with PoC being erased from or poorly represented in my media.) 

I know diversity has been talked to death. I know a lot of people are sick of hearing that we need more diversity because it shouldn’t be a big deal to have a black man as the lead character in a major franchise. It shouldn’t. It should be normal, but it isn’t. We still need to talk about it, still need to champion for more PoC to be well-represented in our media. 

It’s been a pleasure to see the franchise grow up alongside me, and I pray the future Star Wars movies will continue down this path. The last three movies have been a step in the right direction, something I am so thankful for.

The world I live in is varied and diverse and beautiful. I want the worlds I immerse myself in to reflect that, and for people to finally see themselves on adventures, no matter who they are. 
Are you sick of talking about diversity yet? What did you think of the latest Star Wars?

Comments

  1. Of the new characters in this movie, Rose was by far my favorite. :)

    Lauren @ Always Me

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    1. I loved Rose as well, and I'm excited to see where she goes in the next movie. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Lauren!

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  2. I only get sick of talking diversity when it becomes we *have* to have x number of such-and-such characters or else you're (insert label here--racist, sexist, bigoted, etc.). Or, needing a remake of something with all (insert opposite of whatever original character was here) and then if you like the original better you're a (insert label here) because the remake was better because we cast (insert ethnicity or sex). That's not solving the problem. The problem's solved when we have people talking about what a great performance it was, regardless of race, while simultaneously having some fair representation across the board (without painfully forcing the point).

    I was blessed to grow up in a fairly diverse school. My best friend from middle-school/high school is African-American and my best guy friend through high school is Asian-American. As such, I didn't really "notice" the diversity in Star Wars per say. It was there. And it felt normal and practical--like it should be.

    The latest Star Wars wasn't my favorite. I was hesitant about Rose at first, grew to like her, then wanted to bang my head into the wall when she pulled the stunt with Finn at the end. I was disappointed that Rose and Finn's side adventure ended up being so, well, pointless. Like, here we have the perfect set up for Maz Kanata to explain some things, but nope...we're going to go on a random sidequest that's going to get de-railed and end up being relatively useless except for character development. It had so many good opportunities, and then it just...ended.

    I enjoyed the plot with Rey, Kylo, and Luke quite a bit, so that was a nice redeeming quality, though it did have a few awkward moments that felt distinctly un-StarWars-esque to me (Green/blue milk scene comes to mind). As someone who really roots for Poe (and wanted to see more character development with him in this episode), I was bummed when Commander Holdo was bent on bashing him excessively when she could've communicated and created a better team environment. (She also inexplicably annoyed me for no good reason).

    Also, I was disappointed with how they handled Leia in the movie. The had two perfectly good, heroic death scenes available, and neither was used. Instead, we lost someone who could have (in spite of my dislike for her) become an intriguing character, as well as the Space Mary Poppins incident. I now cringe to think how she's going to make her exit due to Carrie Fisher's death. Furthermore, I think they wrapped things up too neatly for a second in a trilogy. I really think they could've seriously spiced things up by having Rey take a certain person's hand.

    Anyways, that's just my cynical two cents about it. I liked Finn's character arc pretty well, I wish I could've liked Rose more, I thought they did an (overall) good job with Luke (still not sure how I feel about how he appears in the climax), I thought Kylo's character development was great, I enjoyed Rey's story, I enjoyed the opening bombing sequence, and I thought the speeder scene at the end was visually stunning, so it wasn't a total loss. I've talked to several people who really enjoyed it, and I think it comes down to being what Star Wars is about for you whether you enjoyed this one or not. I don't think people who liked it are crazy, it just didn't hit the right notes for me.

    Ahem. Anyways, that was a long rant. Sorry about that.

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    1. I agree, I feel like we got a lot of that with the newest Fantastic Four movie, where people were fighting over the casting of the Human Torch instead of pointing out that the script was kind of awful.

      I'm glad you were exposed to diverse cultures. I was as well, but I never really starting thinking about it until the past few years. I never noticed the diversity in anything (including real life) until I was exposed to more opinions online and realised my world didn't match the media one. Even though I thought it did. So yeah. Go me. So ever since I've been made aware of diversity in media I've paid much more attention to it.

      I know! I wasn't a fan of that thing at the end with Rose and Finn but to be honest I was expecting it, thanks to years of being disappointed by movies. And that was my major issue with the movie, that Finn and Rose's subplot thing was a bit useless. (However I didn't want to get into that because this wasn't a review, but I completely agree with you.)

      I liked the interaction between Rey and Kylo, it was nice to see them have an actual conversation. And honestly one of my favourite parts was when Kylo randomly didn't have a shirt on and Rey called him out on it. So funny, especially because most movies expect you to accept random shirtlessness. I'm not sure what I think about Commander Holdo yet. I might have to see the movie again to make up my mind. I enjoyed it while watching it, and can see why she wouldn't want to deal with one pilot when there are bigger, more stressful issues at hand.

      I'm not sure about how they're going to handle Leia. I kind of wish she died instead of having the Space Mary Poppins thing, but I'll refrain from judgement until I see the next movie.

      I suppose I know there were issues in the movie, but I didn't really care? I still enjoyed it anyways, despite its flaws. That might change when I see it for a second time but I liked how they took a step away from rewriting the original trilogy (*cough* episode 7 *cough*) and tried to do something new. I loved the characters and the plot, despite its issues, and I'm interested to see what happens next.

      Don't be sorry! I was very interested to see what you thought of the movie. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment :D

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