Oh nerdom, not again.
Earlier this year, some silly men’s rights activists called for a boycott of Mad Max: Fury Road for being “feminist propaganda.” Now some angry, racist nerds are calling for a boycott of Star Wars: The Force Awakens for being “anti-white propaganda” that promotes “white genocide.”
Yes, because having people of color in the cast means “white genocide.” (It’s funny how in both cases, the boycotts are being called for by people who haven’t seen the movie yet.)
This off-putting, unhealthy side of Star Wars fandom first showed its ugly face in late November last year. Following the release of the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser, a bunch of angry and racist nerds threw a tantrum over John Boyega dressed as a stormtrooper. Because black people can’t be stormtroopers for some reason. The rhetoric went downhill from there, because the internet is a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
If Star Wars Rebels is even semi-canonical, the Empire seems to have switched over from Maori clone troopers to a multi-ethnic fascist fighting force; hence “stormtroopers,” not “clone troopers.” (You just read this in a nasally voice.)
While the hashtag derp could be written off as an isolated incident involving fedoras and neckbeards, it’s part of nerd culture’s dark side.
We saw it in Gamergate, where any grievances over ethics in games journalism were overshadowed by the movement’s pervasive misogyny, threats of violence against women, and a total lack of self-awareness or sense of humor in those who identified with the hashtag. It was there in the Mad Max: Fury Road boycott, in which a badass feminist action movie left MRA’s feeling emasculated and threatened simply at the idea of the story. And here it is again, with a strange lashing out by racist, insular Star Wars nerds at the mere appearance of a black person.
Maybe this all ties into a larger sense of global xenophobia and sexism. I’m thinking of the uptick in Islamophobia throughout the United States and Europe, or the Christian right’s fight against gay rights, or the insensitivity some have towards the transgendered. It’s as if the ethnic, cultural, religious, or gendered “other” is a threat to white male hegemony and homogeneity. Wesley Morris wrote in The New York Times that this was the year we obsessed over identity, and here in these various incidents are a series of pushes against the tide of change in order for a culturally dominant group to maintain control rather than cede some.
But you know what? The future is going to be more diverse, and that’s good for everyone.
Leaving aside a larger cultural conversation about the changing demographic makeup of the world and how women, people of color, queer individuals, and transgendered individuals are finding new roles in society and greater acceptance, let’s just come back to Star Wars. All films wind up being a reflection of their time, and what is the 21st century (or at least the possibility of the 21st century, especially in this decade) if not a more open and inclusive world, a continuation of the better parts of a tumultuous and violent 20th century. It’s harder to overcome a regressive mindset in the real world, but at least we can do it in our art and entertainment–you’ve got to start somewhere.
Kathleen Kennedy is at the creative helm of the series rather than George Lucas. We’re looking forward in the story rather than backwards, with new perspectives on the mythos and new talent taking the reins. There’s a more diverse cast for the new Star Wars trilogy as well as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and we’ll likely see the same casting approach to the other two Star Wars anthology films in development. Kennedy has apparently lobbied for a woman to direct a Star Wars film. While this hasn’t come to pass for a variety of reasons (at least not yet), six of the eight people who are instrumental in the development of these new Star Wars films are women.
We’ll have to see the films first to figure out if they’re any good, of course, but there’s something hopeful about this approach that makes this #BoycottStarWarsVII nonsense seem smaller and pettier than it already is.
This is the 21st century, and there’s only one thing to say to the angry, racist nerds using this dumb hashtag. To quote Star Wars star John Boyega: “Get used to it.”[via The Mary Sue]