Diversity Hype will be a series of articles that follow the ongoing representation of minority groups in pop culture.
The original Star Wars trilogy first premiered almost 38 years ago and has since grown to become one of the biggest science fiction universes ever created, spawning 5 other movies along with numerous books, tv series and video games. However, all six movies suffer from the same problem, a lack of representation. In the original trilogy, Princess Leia was the only women with a prominent speaking role throughout the series. In the original trilogy, a series that spans 368 minutes of run time, only 1.03 mins were Non-Leia female speech. This trend also translated into the prequels as well.
Sadly, the under representation does not stop there. In the original trilogy there were only two actors of colour. Billy Dee Williams(Lando) and James Earls Jones. James Earls Jones, who voiced one of the most iconic villains went uncredited for the first two movies. In a series where the setting literally spans galaxies, it’s hard for me to believe that this galaxy far far away only consisted of white people.
Being a long time Star Wars fan however, when I heard the news that Disney had bought Lucasfilms and thus confirmed a new trilogy, there was now “A New Hope(I had to)” for a diverse Star Wars trilogy. One in which the universe represents the fanbase it is trying to reach to. Through various casting announcements, the hype started becoming real.
After the second Star Wars VII trailer released, my excitement for a new Star Wars film was set in stone. I had seen both my favorite characters make a return and new, unique characters become introduced. This would be the first Star Wars film which featured both a black protagonist and a female hero. This is not only a big deal for Star Wars, but for the sci-fi genre in as a whole.
For years, people of colour have lacked characters they could relate to in popular geek culture, and now with John Boyega playing Finn, we finally have a light-saber wielding ex-stormtrooper badass we can relate to. Daisey Ridleys character, Rey, now means that little girls have another hero they can look up to in excitement when they go to the movies. One who isn’t a secondary character or hypersexualized in a genre known for doing so(Re Slave Leia).
The character I am most excited to see however is Poe Dameron, played by Oscaar Isaacs. Although his origins are unknown in the movie, what is known that he is one of the best X-Wing pilots in the galaxy. Seeing him alongside Han Solo will make for what i hope will be entertaining banter.
— Mario Lopez (@MarioLopezExtra) December 6, 2015
Representation means nothing if it’s just one or two characters and The Force Awakens makes sure of that. The film will also feature Maz Kanata played by Lupita Nyong’o and Captain Phasma played by Gwendoline Christie.
If you’ve never noticed the lack of representation in Star Wars, it is most likely because you were actually represented in it(Aka a white male). Not noticing the lack of diversity in films such as Star Wars is a product of the sci-fi genre and the media as whole molding our expectations to the point where we see an all white-male cast as being normal.
The diverse cast of The Force Awakens has been 80% of the reason why I’ve been so excited to see the film after exams. While one diverse film cannot fix an entire genre, Star Wars VII seems like it will be a step in the right direction for future Sci-fi films to come.