By Nick Anstett
On Oct. 19, the final trailer for the highly anticipated sci-fi epic “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” debuted during Monday Night Football to uproarious support and applause. According to the official “Star Wars” website, the trailer was viewed a total of 128 million times worldwide in a single day, making it one of the largest media debuts of all time. That same night pre-release ticket sales crashed notable online venders such as Fandango. Excitement was in the air and response was overall positive.
Unfortunately, not all reactions were positive. While not all fans were satisfied by their latest look at the Galaxy Far Far Away, a vocal minority made headlines through their support of a controversial hashtag. Twitter user @genophilia is accredited with starting the web movement “#BoycottStarWars,” which lambasted the latest entry in the franchise for its supposed support of a white genocide. In particular, ire seems directed at the casting of British actor John Boyega in one of the lead roles.
This is not the first time that Boyega’s race has faced a negative reaction from individuals online due to his involvement in the franchise. Numerous faceless critics on the internet took to posting racist comments and jokes on the debut of the film’s initial trailer. One comment in particular mentioned that Boyega’s appearance in the video made the poster double check to make sure that his wallet had not been stolen. Boyega would go on to mention to “V Magazine” that these comments don’t deter him. He said, “I’m in the movie, what are you going to do about it? You either enjoy it or you don’t. I’m not saying get used to the future, but what is already happening. People of color and women are increasingly being shown on-screen. For things to be whitewashed just doesn’t make sense. All the films I’ve done have had a secret commentary on stereotypical mentalities. It’s about getting people to drop a prejudiced state of mind and realize…we’re just watching normal people.”
This comment came before the recent resurgence of criticism directed at “The Force Awakens” and its cast. While both Mashable and Vox.com have highlighted that the spread of the hashtag itself was mostly due to the backlash to the movement itself, the fact that the movement exists in the first place is still disconcerting. The Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at University of California Los Angeles’s 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report found that despite the fact that over half of media viewers represented constitute racial minorities, racial minorities are still underrepresented in leading film roles on a two to one basis with the disparity increasing when behind the scenes talent and gender divide are taken into consideration. The fact that simply casting a black lead in a major franchise is a sign of “Cultural Marxism,” as @genophilia puts it, shows a disturbing trend. It politicizes actors of color and women for simply existing and hints that their involvement in media in and of itself is an indication of an underlying leftist agenda. The idea that “The Force Awakens” is even emblematic of this trend in the first place is ridiculous when the cast itself is taken into consideration. Of the 13 names billed as starring in the film on official film marketing, only three are people of color and only three are women. While the recent fervor of debate regarding concepts of political correctness is apt for discussion by both left and right moving forward, the simple casting and hiring of underrepresented populations does not constitute a political statement. Even if it did, it is one that the industry needs to hear.
In the end, “Star Wars” director JJ Abrams in a comment to “Entertainment Tonight” summed up the issue the best. Abrams said, “It’s always hurtful to see anyone speak out in that way, but what was beautiful was to see how many people were immediately on that very small fringe group of haters, and in support of everyone. It was a beautiful thing. They turned something ugly into something beautiful. Everyone belongs, and there is nothing more important than embracing. When you think about the Force, [it’s] about embracing everyone.”