About That Dumb Star Wars Boycott

*pinches bridge of nose*

*exhales noisily*

Of course there’s a Star Wars Episode VII boycott. And there’s a hashtag to boot. Because of course there’s a hashtag. One-click buffet-style serving of shittiness, coming right up.

(Behold, the Mary Sue article about it.)

Apparently people are mad because blah blah black dude protagonist with a lightsaber, or girl protagonist, or Latino X-Wing pilot protagonist, and not enough straight white dudes. And folks are mad enough to join in on the hashtag and — nngh. Bleh. Meh. Gnarrgh. I mean, what version of Star Wars did you watch? The one where Luke Skywalker is a racist hick shitbird? The one where the Empire are the good guys because yay oppression and fascism and totalitarian chic?

Okay, first, let’s talk about the efficacy of such a hashtag, which is to say, it will have literally no effect at all. You’re throwing pebbles at mountains, bro. Boycotting Star Wars is like boycotting the sun. It will do nothing. The sun will keep on shining. Its heat will remain radiant and globally present. It will remain at the center of this space and we will continue to orbit it in an elliptical manner. Your efforts will have no meaningful result except to reveal yourself as a cruddy dingleberry dangling from fandom’s ass-hairs.

My greatest desire is to yell at you. To just rant and gesticulate and do the internet dance of anger all over you, because what special dumbness, this is.

But instead I’m going to try to talk to you, in the assumption that somewhere out there in the seething throng of crappy people exists some who are not yet all the way gone to the Dark Side.

There is good in you. No, not you. Not you either. YOU. Right there.

I’m talking to those who can be reached.

As one straight white dude to other straight white dudes, let’s talk.

You are clearly consumers of sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, which is at least a little bit suggestive that somewhere under that stormtrooper mask is a brain with an imagination.

I want you now to imagine along with me, Mister Rogers-style.

Let’s imagine that you are, as you are now, a straight white dude. Except, your world features one significant twist — the SFF pop culture you consume is almost never about you. The faces of the characters do not look like yours. The creators of this media look nothing like you, either. Your experiences are not represented. Your voice? Not there. There exist in these universes no straight white dudes. Okay, maybe one or two. Some thrown in to appease. Sidekicks and bad guys and walk-on parts. Token chips flipped to the center of the table just to make you feel like you get to play, too. Oh, all around you in the real world, you are well-represented. Your family, your friends, the city you live in, the job you work — it’s straight white dude faces up and down the block. But on screen? In books? Inside comic panels and as video game characters? Almost none. Too few. Never the main characters.

It feels isolating, and you say so.

And as a response you’re told, “Hey, take what you get.” They say, can’t you have empathy for someone who doesn’t look like you? Something something humanist, something something equalist. And of course you can have that empathy because you have to, because this is all you know, because the only faces and words and experiences on-screen are someone else’s so, really, what else are you going to do?

Then one day, things start to change. A little, not a lot, but shit, it’s a start — you start to see yourself up there on the screen. Sometimes as a main character. Sometimes behind the words on the page, sometimes behind the camera. A video game avatar here, a protagonist there. And it’s like, WOO HOO, hot hurtling hell, someone is actually thinking about you once in a while. And the moment that happens, wham. A backlash. People online start saying, ugh, this is social justice, ugh, this is diversity forced down our throats, yuck, this is just bullshit pandering quota garbage SJW — and you’re like, whoa, what? Sweet crap, everyone else has been represented on screen since the advent of film. They’ve been on the page since some jerk invented the printing press. But the moment you show up — the moment you get more than a postage stamp-sized bit of acreage in this world that has always been yours but never really been yours, people start throwing a shit-fit. They act like you’re unbalancing everything. Like you just moved into the neighborhood and took a dump in everybody’s marigolds just because you exist visibly.

You have 100 toys, and someone comes along and asks for a toy of their own, and you start screaming about DIVERSITY SJW GENOCIDE REVERSE RACISM SEXISM AAAAAAH.

That’s fucked up, right?

That’s what’s happening, except it’s not happening to you.

I was at NYCC this year and last, and a friend — the artist known as Joey Hi-Fi — pointed out quite correctly that the audience at NYCC is incredibly diverse. And they are at NYCC consuming media that is incredibly not-diverse. I saw it in my own signings. The people who came up and had me sign books at 47 North or for Star Wars? Not a bunch of straight white guys. A lot of women. A lot of faces that were not my own. And some self-identified LGBT folks, too. That’s awesome. Awesome in a lot of ways. Awesome because the audience is bigger than anybody expected. Awesome because it’s expressive of a world that is not singular, not simple, that is far-reaching and full of variety and tons of people who don’t look or act at all like each other but still find common ground in cool stuff like Star Wars. And it’s also sad because, y’know, the content is not equal to the audience. The stories have not yet caught up to reality. That’s true on the page, on the screen, and behind the scenes with the creators and the executives and everything.

Listen, I get it — this problem is not my problem. Inclusion isn’t for me. I’m covered. I am already included. Luke? Me. Han Solo? Me. Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Anakin, Wedge, me, me, me. And it’s not just Star Wars. John McClane, Harry Potter, Frodo, Iron-Man. All a bunch of white guys saving the day. Hell, Santa Claus. Or damn near every painting of Jesus, who was clearly not a white guy but is often depicted as a white guy. We do our level best to paint ourselves as the heroes of our own narrative. It’s white guys all the way down. I’m golden over here. I don’t need more representation. I have had my fill to the point where my pop culture belly is a-burstin.

In fact, I’m so glutton-fed I figure it’s time for a diet.

Which is why I’ve tried very hard to vary my reading. Which is why in Aftermath the protagonists are: a Mom, a gay dude, a lady bounty hunter. It’s why the Imperial antagonist is a powerful woman of color. (I’m no culture hero here, to be clear — I did the bare minimum in including different characters. It’s not like I have Sinjir engaging in sweaty man-love with Wedge Antilles. He is gay and he is present and he is visible and that has been enough to conjure  100+ negative reviews and an unholy host of comments, hate mails, and social media ‘interactions.’ Don’t believe me? Here’s four pages of reviews — 1, 2, 3, 4 — and that’s just me searching for the term “homosexual” across the one-star reviews. It’s just the tip of that septic shitberg.)

Point is, I don’t need to see me on the page as often as I have. And while I wouldn’t want to steal someone’s voice and make it my own, at the same time, in a sci-fi novel, I think we’re okay. And writers of any salt or stripe are expected to know how to write beyond the singular experience of being who you are. And readers should be able to read just as capably. What, you can get behind a protagonist who is a dragon, or a Wookiee, or an animated monster, but you can’t get behind another human being who looks different? You gotta have some empathy. No one can make you understand different people. You have to try. You gotta draw the bridge between you and other humans. It exists. But you have to see it. You have to believe in it. You have to be the one to reach out and look for the similarities of experience, not just the differences. (But differences matter, too. And it’s important to grok why that is and not erase those differences or those experiences.)

You gotta realize the world isn’t for you.

It’s for everyone.

And that needs to start happening in media, too.

Nice thing with Star Wars is, it is happening. Look at the protagonists of The Force Awakens. Look at Lucasfilm. They’re openly committing to finding a woman director for Star Wars. Kathleen Kennedy notes: “Fifty percent of our executive team are women. Six out of eight of the people in my Story Group are women. I think it’s making a huge difference in the kind of stories we’re trying to tell.” Some of the story group are also people of color. It’s a start. Especially when it’s starting in one of the biggest SFF franchises ever. Perfect? No. Nothing is. But it’s nice to see changes happening. It’s nice to see some equity there between the audience that consumes this stuff and the people who make it. Stories matter to people. Characters matter. Creation matters. Nobody should be excluded. Inclusion is awesome.

And if you oppose that — you know, hey, fuck you. Go on and throw pebbles at mountains. Go on and boycott the sun. Let me know how that works out for you.

Meanwhile, I’m gonna be over here enjoying what’s to come. I suggest trying it. Loving stuff instead of hating it. Accepting the world as it is, not the world as you mistakenly hope it will be.

To everyone else: may the Force be with you.

And hey — NEW TRAILER TONIGHT.

*teeth vibrate with sonic joy*

*fingers become lightsabers*

*wampa roar*

129 comments

  • Well said.

    It’s not like I have Sinjir engaging in sweaty man-love with Wedge Antilles.

    Suggestion: Have more that to get -5 star reviews on Amazon. ;) Though, I suspect Disney would put their foot down with a firm and hard (heh) “NO.” Given they’re “family friendly” and this is a “family friendly” franchise. Can’t have kiss-a-roony’s between same-sexes every five pages. Gotta make sure Timmy doesn’t see that, you know?

    (Of course, most of my dislike of Disney currently is their licensing stuff. They’re slowly coming around, but it’s still frustrating)

  • It turns out it was one of those 4Chan “trolling ops”. They don’t actually care about boycotting the film. Not to say that their racism isn’t fake though. It’s 4chan, after all.
    They do and say everything that a group boycotting Star Wars over racial inclusion would do, except they don’t “mean it”, so they believe that any reaction to what they’re doing/saying is someone “falling for a joke”, including journalists decrying the movement OR racists not “in on the joke” supporting it. And they feel powerful because it’s provoked a reaction across the internet.

    Yes, they set the outrage bar very low.That’s just the kind of shallow thinking that 4chan culture encourages. Their “achievements” seem petty to us because they are petty, created by petty people.

    I’m not sure how they’re going to benefit from this kind of bullshit in the future though. It doesn’t even serve the whole “Anti-SJW” mentality channers have in the long run…

    “SUCCESS!!! We made people believe that there’s a large amount of racists and misogynists on the internet! That’ll show those SJWs who believe there’s a large amount of racists and misogynists on the internet!”

    • There’s no shortage of racists and misogynists online. I’ve kicked and banned plenty, and deal with others daily I can’t remove from sight.

      I actually remember being annoyed at the Green Lantern movie because the main GL I remember was John Stewart who is definitely black.

      • Well to be honest, Hal Jordan has been THE Green Lantern since he was introduced. I wouldn’t be opposed to having a Stewart-centric Lantern movie, but if they were going for recognition, Hal Jordan was the one to pick

        • No actually, he was exiled for a while during the 80s (which is the period I remember Stewart from predominantly), and in more recent years John has been the GL as often as Hal in the various DC media including in New 52. As DC’s first black super it was a real silly thing to overlook, especially given when I talk to my mates about which lantern their kids know and it’s always the Justice League that comes to mind, which was Stewart.

    • “I’m not robbing you. I’m just pointing a gun at your head and asking for money. Anyone can see I’m doing it ironically.”

  • I’m a white woman writing space opera (and historical fantasy). In my psi-tech series I have a brown hero, a white heroine, an Asian best friend, a gay action-hero, a Downs Syndrome character, and a competent older woman (with one arm) holding things together. Five out of eight of my team leaders are female and of my three antagonists, two are straight guys (skin tone not specified) and one is a bisexual white guy. I have some humans genetically engineered to live in specific planetary envoronments and might be anything from purple to stark white with grey marbling, or they might even be silvery and have gills and scales. I figure that 500 years in the future what planet/colony you come from might be more important than what colour skin you have, and your abilities might be more important than your gender when it comes to job selection. Back on Earth a meteor strike knocked the USA and China back into the stone age for a while, allowing Europe to prosper and an African alliance to rise to prominence, If you think about the far future, there’s no way it’s going to be white/cis/male dominated.

    • :D I love this comment, just as I love this article. I want to read that story.
      I’m a white woman – my main protagonist is a brown woman. She has a vast array of different supporting protagonists of varied ethnicities, genders, ages, sexualities and abilities….
      It’s called *diversity*, boycotters. You know, like the real world should be/ is? Heard of that?

  • This is such a ridiculous hot button and sadly all sides tend to fan the flame. If gender or race or sex or even sexual orientation is neutral to the story,then really who cares? Unfortunately there are too many that get hung up on this and miss great story telling. On the other hand, don’t change any of these factors because it’s politically correct. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see a Miles Morales Spidey, however I feel female Thor is selling out the name and identity to draw a niche crowd. There are plenty of female heroes who could be invigorated with new life. Hell even Valkyrie from the same Thor world is a great character. At the end of the day, does it lend itself from the story? I’m one of those ‘Be a Writer…’ Chuck Wendig followers. I started a project this year I want to finish….NO….I need to finish. When I went back and looked at my first chapter…I yelled out loud and then said fuck it and started over. In the stroke of my pen my protagonist went from being an Englishman to a Spaniard. And it works and I love the change. I could have kept him English. History would have supported the logic. But it was the wrong decision for my story. Then I realized that my African supporting character had such a promising backstory, I’ve started to pen notes to tell his tale in another book. What fits the story? What tells the world what you want to say? If it indeed does not matter, than mix that shit up a little.

    • The reason it’s an issue is that, today, right now, if a role doesn’t *specify* that the character is a person of color, everyone involved simply assumes that the character is white. Actors of color aren’t even sent to the audition, and quite often, if they show up anyway, they’re dismissed and told that they “don’t fit the vision”. (Yes, I have friends who are actors of color. This happens to them ALL THE DAMNED TIME. They *only* get auditions for roles that are specified to be POC–and how often do you think that happens?) Same thing for women–if the character isn’t specified as female, it’s assumed to be male (and white), and they only get auditions for roles that are specified female.

      And you know what? White people don’t even know this is happening to actors of color. Men don’t know this is happening to women actors. They see a screenful of white males, they see main characters/heroes/protagonists who are all white males, and it never occurs to them that it’s because, even though the screenwriter didn’t specify that those characters were white, and male, everyone else assumed they *must* be… and then made it happen that way.

      So people aren’t *fanning* the flame by talking about this… they’re pointing out that the entire house is on fire, and has been for decades (centuries).

  • “I mean, what version of Star Wars did you watch? The one where Luke Skywalker is a racist hick shitbird?”

    Wait, you didn’t know? What did you think Luke was talking about when he bragged about bullseyeing womp rats in his T-16? That’s Tatooine slang for minorities, dude! #WompRatJustice

    In all seriousness, this was a great post. Thanks for spreading the word and the love and the angry, ranty, juicy indignation. The world is better for it!

  • All these people with their “oh, not enough white guys or tie fighters or what have you” are ridiculous. It’s OUTER SPACE! There’s a walking gold English accented robot for crying out loud, and one that speaks in bleeps and bloops! People with tentacles, and blue people, and creatures that looks like giant slugs…How is this boycott even a thing?

  • I wish I had a good way to respond with how much I agree with this, but at the moment… yeah. Got nothing. Tragically, the part of my brain where my writing voice kicks in and I sound super smart is out for the count because reasons, so all I can say right now is that I agree.

  • As one completely devoid of caring about the masses, and honestly this past year in my life I’m finding myself struggling to care about other people in general. When it comes to the new Star Wars movie I don’t give a flying fuck about racism, sexism, social media or any of you imaginary internet people. I care about one thing….The story. If the new main character is represented well in the stories time line then great. If he is Luke’s son they better show his wife and explain the lineage. If he is the long lost son of Mace Windu who is standing in for Luke while he is on a mission (honestly don’t know I have been ignoring previews and posts about this as much as I could) The main character should not be a black male just so a brother can represent. Star Wars again is bigger than your stupid social causes. it’s bigger than Disney it’s bigger than Lucas. It spans generations and has been developed into a massive universe. That is what happens when you create a fandom. but hash tags and supporting minorities and empowering women and down with this and up with that and anger and bashing and justice and FUCK YOU TAKE THAT SHIT OUTSIDE THE MOVIE IS STARTING and you have just dropped from my priority queue.

    • I hate to point this out (no, I don’t), but by posting this, you have done precisely what those you criticize have done as they “support minorities” through social media. You are using the Internet to voice your opinion. Watch what’s going on: They voiced opinions. You voiced an opinion. Chicken. Egg. Chicken. If you can talk, why can’t they? You may say you’re replying to them, but they may feel that they’re reacting to you or others like you. So, who’s really posting while the movie’s starting?

      I just always find it hilarious when people rant online about how they hate people who rant online.

      Carry on.

  • You liberal douchbag. The sad world of political correction is killing us. You must be a racist if you don’t like a black stromtrooper. In star wars lore stromtrooper are a clone of fette a white guy. End of story. Don’t fuck around with lore. Hey next movie we go opposite Malcom X 2 played by Bradley cooper, first movie had too much color. Fucking tards.

    • I’m going to approve your comment because I feel like tackling the supremely dumb assholeish shit you just said.

      First, including people in fiction and storytelling is not “political correction.” It’s called being a good human who isn’t blind to the world around him. It’s called acknowledging people, which is awesome.

      Second, yes, you are a racist if you disapprove of a black stormtrooper. Oops.

      Third, the name is “Fett,” not Fette, and Fett is not a fucking white guy, he is played by a Maori, who is a POC. Oops!

      Fourth, in Star Wars lore, *clonetroopers* are clones. Stormtroopers are not clones. So — ta-da, OOPS AGAIN.

      Now go play somewhere else, ding dong.

      — c.

  • I’m upset there is a black man lead. Not because of why you make think.

    Disclaimer, yes I am a white male. But my issue is that when Hollywood looks to represent people of color in roles, it is always a man. Where are the women of color being represented? A black female lead in Harry Potter? Hunger Games? Star Wars? Avengers? LoTR? Nope. All ‘cute white girls’. While I don’t particularly enjoy her music, Nikki Minaj has a point. There are no positive women of color, particularly black women, being portrayed by the national media and arts. All we got is Oprah, Holly Berry and maybe Queen B. That’s about it that comes to mind when I think of a black women that might inspire young black women to do great things with their lives.

    Again, not to disparage what Ms. Minaj does for a living, but as a parent I would rather have my daughter look up to Oprah than Nikki. If only for that fact that O is known more for her thoughtful opinions on matters and while Nikki is a great artist, she is also just as well known for her shapely figure, promoted by the media. (Which I am a fan of, for the record) She has every right to do what ever the fuck she wants with her body, but I would just prefer my daughter emulate Oprah.

    But is that really all they have as role models to choose from? Look at the sheer number of white female stars for a young white women to look up to. It’s embarrassing and Hollywood and the arts should be embarrassed.

    Thank God for Michelle Obama.

  • Having not even realized there was a shitstorm brewing about this — as I gaze longingly at my ticket to a 17 December showing — my first inclination is to ignore these idiots. Highlighting their “boycott” just gives them a platform (see above) and really adds nothing to the discussion about the hurricane of awesomeness that is about to happen.
    I do have to chuckle when they get their panties in a twist about “empowering women” as if there wasn’t this minor character named “Princess Leia” in this whole business.
    Good grief.

  • I’m way late to this thread, but as a black female (who’s lived and worked all over the world and nabbed fluency in a couple of languages spoken naturally and daily by people not like me), please let me tell you Chuck that you NAILED this.

    My two cents (hell, one cent): Our differences aren’t necessarily the primary definition of who we are juxtaposed to one another. My protag in my first novel is a 15-year-old white male with three black friends who are much older. The 15-year-old was in some ways easiest to write because he was just a tad younger than my own son. I could seriously relate to my protag. Like, I could just look across the room at my son and see teenager-ness and write it into my protag’s life. The 30-something black guys? Not a stretch to get it right, but I “noticed” the process more. I’m the mother of an only son. A 15-year-old of just about any ilk would be a more fluid write.

    Shame some folks are so busy focusing on the differences that that’s all they see. Or, there are true differences, and they hate instead of celebrate that fact. Whatevah.

    Great post.

  • I was just watching some teasers for “The Force Awakens” on youtube and something in one of them really stuck out for me. There was this short sequence of tiny crumbs of footage edited together and the audio seemed to be pretty much nothing but really subdued background music (way in the back) and some narration from Luke Skywalker on top. Skywalker says, “The force is strong in my family. My father had it. My sister has it. I have it. You have it too.” And as that last sentence – “You have it too” – is being spoken, you see kind of a close-up of an old light saber being passed from one person’s hand into another person’s hand.

    That last image accompanied by Skywalker’s voice suggests Skywalker handing the role of hero off to our new (sadly demonized) protagonist. It’s pretty awesome, but the awesome gets way bigger. The context of “You have it too” created by the preceding narration in addition to the notion of Skywalker handing off his light saber heavily suggest that Skywalker just called our new protagonist his brother. That is fuckin beautiful. The sum of it all comes across, to me at least, that Skywalker himself believes that it is not explicitly visible genetics that make you a member of his family, but instead a common inherent passion and drive to fight for love, peace and freedom against the legions of Dark Side assholes who seek to destroy such things.

    It’s fuckin beautiful.

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