As featured on Medium
Dear younger me,
Merry Christmas! You’re what, 10 now? 13? I can’t remember if you’ve just seen the first Star Wars prequel or the second, but I do know the disappointment you feel. You don’t quite know why, but you are certain what you just watched was not Star Wars, not really. Now you’re wondering if you ever want to see another Star Wars movie again.
You probably don’t have the words to explain your distaste for Jar-Jar Binks yet. Today, I’m going to give you those words. Those words are blackface and minstrelsy.
I really wish I were breaking the space-time continuum for the first time to tell you something else, something bigger. How to avoid dark futures. What to invest in. Whether that girl thinks you’re cute.
But for now, there’s only one thing I can tell you. It’s going to be alright. You think this Star Wars trilogy is your only hope. No. There is another. And it is everything you want and more.
With the prequel trilogy you have been made abundantly aware of something you didn’t even notice when you watched the original trilogy: the utter lack of black characters.
Fine, there were caricatures, like Lando Calrissian looking like he’s the creeper ghost from the Ghostbusters music video, or Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role in every movie: Samuel L. Jackson.
But character depth or development was pretty much a whites-only club for 6 movies. Hell, there were aliens given more screen time than the black characters in Star Wars, which may be fitting as aliens and other species often fill the metaphorical role of people of color in science fiction and fantasy (Nemoidians and Toydarians come to mind).
In Star Wars — and in the bulk of cinema — black characters are far too often one-dimensional. They may have strong positive and negative traits, but rarely are they allowed to change or to grow, relegating them to the role of mentor or sidekick or comic relief.
I’ve made no secret of my hype for Finn in The Force Awakens, and he fully lives up to those expectations. He shows insecurity and conviction, fear and bravery, isolation and camaraderie, and grapples with those traits en route to becoming a hero.
It’s a wild ride, and you’ll love it every minute of it.