In 2012, Star Wars: the Phantom Menace blew away the Hobbit: an unexpected journey and it even beat Avatar which grabbed $3.1 billion worldwide in 2009. And the last Starwars: the Force Awakens released on 14 Dec 2015 in the US did so well that it had international fans from Europe and Asia booking trips to the United States because they didn’t want to wait for the film to arrive in their countries a month later when everyone would have already been talking about it or reviewing it. And neither did the dread of a Batman-style shooting keep the crowds at bay. And perhaps if the fear of terrorism was removed from our present day terrorist concerns – as we don’t know where terrorists will strike next – movie goers would’ve shown up in Star Wars regalia like swords etc and sales would’ve climbed even higher, especially during the first couple days of its release in December 2015.
Such loyalty and crowd following for the Star Wars saga convince us why the film’s broad appeal to so many people made it a box office juggernaut into 2016. People went to see it through nostalgia, as they grew up on it, and some like me, who didn’t grow up on it, didn’t feel obligated to see it on the first or second day, but still wanted to see it, for other reasons. What really drew me to this Star Wars is JJ Abrams’ two lead characters: Daisy Ridley [the female warrior fighting the dark side that princess Leia never saw during her days] and John Boyega [a deserter from the first order]. I wanted to see this Star Wars for its story of two disparate orphans who discover each other and who discover that they can trust each other. But I especially wanted to see it because Rey [Daisy] and Finn [Boyega] are updated heroes – a female protagonist and a coloured male actor in a new gender and race-sensitive world. These two stars talk and behave the way they would have had they starred in the early Lucas movies, and both are seemingly ordinary people who don’t have plans to do anything extraordinary, but when thrown into the situation, they end up saving the world. Boyega’s role was heroic and great for young black and colored audience to identify with.
But despite this, some people criticized the trailer and even threatened to boycott Star Wars for showing a black actor in storm trooper uniform. Boyega’s interview 20 December 2015 with Dave Itzkoff in the NYTimes “Bracing for Impact of Galactic Fame” really explains racism in America and why #OscarsSoWhite.
When asked how he felt about the boycott Boyega responded that he was grounded in who he is : “A confident, Nigerian, black, chocolate man. I’m proud of my heritage and no man can take that away from me. I wasn’t raised to fear people with a difference of opinion. They are merely victims of a disease in their mind. To get into a serious dialogue with people who judge a person based on the melanin in their skin? They’re stupid, and I’m not going to lose sleep over people. The sale of tickets has gone through the roof- their agenda has failed. Miserably.”
Interviewer: you didn’t feel the urge to respond to these crtitcs?
Boyega: I just don’t get it! You guys got every single alien imaginable to man. With tentacle so, five eyes. Aliens, that if they existed, we’d definitely have an issue. We’d have to get them to the government and be like, “what are you?” Yet what you want to do is fixate on another human beings color. You need to go back to school and unlearn what you’ve learned. I think Yoda said that or Obi-Wan.
The interviewer made it known to Boyega that up to now there have been few black characters featured in Star Wars and asked Boyega if he wasn’t proud to “help add diversity to the franchise”.
Boyega: I dont know whether I’m proud or anything. I’m happy we’re able to mesh together in this ensemble and create a wonderful story. It’s Hollywood’s fault for letting this get so far that when a black person or a female or someone from a different cultural group is cast in a movie, we have to have debates as to whether they’re placed there just to meet a quota. I also understand , on the flip side, where thes mentalities arise. “He’s just placed there for political correctness”. I don’t hear you guys saying that when Brad Pitt is there. When Tom Cruise is there. Hell, when Shia Leboeuf is there, you guys ain’t saying that. That is just blatant racism!
This interview exposes not only the racist mindset of the white film industry, but it foreshadows the Oscars snubbing of non white nominees and is consistent with the seeing and recognizing of the only white star in Creed for example, but not the rest, who are black. Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith, as I mentioned in a previous blog, have boycotted the Oscars [https://crossingfrontieres.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/and-the-winner-goes-to-not-diversity/] and now Will Smith, Tyrese Gibson [Fast and Furious star] and possibly Quincy Jones. Jones has been asked to present an award and intends to speak for 5 minutes on the lack of diversity; otherwise he won’t present.
Some stars have reacted to #OscarsSoWhite: Clooney feels Oscars is going backwards; Michael Keaton told BBC reporters that Academy voters are maliciously prejudicial while Dustin Hoffman says Oscar nominations is “subliminal racism”. But Trevor Noah and Roy in the Daily Show sum it up best and “do the right thing”: