No one in the new Star Wars film looks like me


At a big Star Wars fan I was very excited to learn about the upcoming film, Rogue One. It's a war film, involving the exciting mission to steal the plans to the Death Star (the first Death Star, not the second or the third one.)

But as more details came out, I was saddened to learn that there was no one in the film who looked like me. Not a single white male among any of the numerous protagonists. When I saw the cast list I swooned, feeling like a precious snowflake, melting under glaring cultural oppression taking places in theaters all over America. Even though I was not in any of these theaters, even though I did not see what was happening, the fact that I knew it was happening, somewhere, was more than I could bear!

The main protagonist of Rogue One is a very thin woman named Jyn Erso whose weight looks to be only in double digits, even though she effortlessly beats men twice her size. But as a man of white color I could not relate to a female protagonist, even a "sista" of similar hue. Then I looked at the rest of the cast list. So many protagonists! There has to be one who looks just like me, right?

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Wrong! Jyn's love interest is a Hispanic alien named Cassian Andor. He's of a different race, so naturally I can't relate to him. One of Jyn's supporting rebels is an Asian alien named Chirrut Imwe. Forest Whittaker plays a black alien named Saw Gerrera. Riz Ahmed plays an Arab alien named Bodhi Rook. And Alan Tudyk stars as a character called "K-2S0". Tudyk is a man of white color, just like me! For a moment my heart soared. And then I learned that Tudyk was only used as a voice actor, to play the role of a black robot. Even the robots in this movie aren't white!

The only place in this movie to find a white man is in the villain who is building the Death Star, Orson Krennic, or the ethically confused father of Jyn who designed the Death Star. That's some choice! What this movie is doing is telling young men of white color that the only role open to them is that of villain. What a terrible message! Imagine all the young boys of white color flocking to see this film, and then leaving, disappointed to find out that they have no positive role models. Is this really 2016?

When major cultural phenomenon, like Star Wars films, neglect men of white color, they are showing that they don't value diversity in the community. They are saying that people from all spectrum of white color, whether they be ivory colored, cottage cheese colored, or white copy paper colored, have no place in our polyglot melting pot society. It's a very hurtful message and one of the least likely I would expect from Disney.

I have a young friend who loves science fiction. He has beautiful skin tones that remind me of freshly popped popcorn. I am afraid that he and other people of white color like him will get the wrong message when they go to this film and see that the only men of white color are those who blow up planets. I am concerned they will think that if they want to be the good guys, they will either have to change their race like Rachel Dolezal, or dress up in womens' clothes and start using girl's bathrooms, like Jyn does.

I think the film, in addition to being racially problematic, is gender biased as well. I am afraid that young men of white color will be intimidated by 95 pound girls like Jyn who effortlessly beats up much larger stormtroopers (men) in this film. Her boyfriend, the Hispanic alien, acts cowed in her presence, like he's been emotionally castrated. When Jyn talks to men in this film, she often talks down to them, as if she is "womansplaining" to them in a condescending way.

Since men of white color are simultaneously the most virtuous and the most oppressed segment of society, I would hope that the powers that be in the film community would pick up on this and the next time they make a film about destroying the Death Star, they show a little more sensitivity.

Exit questions:

1) Do you think white men of color are a large enough portion of American film audiences to justify more protagonist roles in Star Wars films?

2) Do you think it would help if Disney executives received diversity training to understand the value of having men of white color in their films?

3) The skin color of black people is often described glowingly in the media as "ebony" and "teak" and "mocha"; don't you think it's high time we started talking about white people with skin the color of "vanilla ice cream" and "mountain glaciers"?

[originally in AT]



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