A lot has been written recently about certain online roving gangs and their decision to ‘boycott’ the new new Star Wars offering The Force Awakens. Their reasoning apparently being that without a white man in a central heroic role the series is ruined, ruined I tell you!!
How have they missed the critique of white patriarchy so clearly, but imperfectly, structured into the first trilogy? How have they come to a definition that heroism is about a white man’s lone triumph?
In the original Star Wars trilogy, white men make up the Empire’s leadership and armed forces. Those Death Stars are manned entirely by white guys. They hire bounty hunters and aliens, whom they obviously consider to be of lower rank, and consider them expendable. The prequels reinforce this notion, particularly with the construction of the clone army of utter expendables from Jango Fett, who is clearly not a white guy.
Now look at the rebellion. As the original trilogy progresses, it gets more and more diverse. The rebels start out in A New Hope represented by a woman – Leia – who is quite capable of participating in her own rescue from the Empire’s forces, and is soon directing the male members of the team. By the third film, Return of the Jedi, the final attack on the new Death Star is a coalition arrangement between humans and aliens of every variety. Are there enough female or black x-wing pilots? No. Is Lando the only visible person of colour with a speaking role? Yes. I said it was imperfect. However, the Rebel Alliance is a group of diverse freedom fighters putting aside their differences to work together to defeat an Empire interested only in maintaining ‘order’ and their own power. Gee, I wonder what that looks like a metaphor for? (tip – SJWs!!)
Now let’s look at Luke’s heroism. What does it actually mean for Luke to be a hero? In the first film he simply establishes himself as brave, with the potential to be talented. He helps in a rescue mission and a successful military attack – always as part of a team – and he shows leadership potential. So far, so singular. Yet, as the perspective of the films’ broadens, so does Luke’s. In The Empire Strikes Back he must overcome his inherent prejudices to recognise the worth in Yoda, and overcome his own fear and propensity to give up on hard work. In Return of the Jedi he uses his new abilities to work as part of a diverse network in a rescue mission against slave owner Jabba the Hutt, in which we must remember Leia kills her captor with her chains, how much more symbolism can you take?? During the final battle around Endor, Luke is actually on a singular diplomatic mission as part of a wider attack plan involving an entire fleet and guerrilla ground troops. And, as we have seen in the new sequel, it didn’t end the Empire’s influence when he managed to help end the Emperor. Structural inequality and power dynamics don’t disappear because the lead bad guy dies – his visible power and influence has already inspired other power-hungry wannabes. Luke resists the urge to this power, THAT is his heroism – that he uses his privileged status to support others, not rule them.
Basically, Luke not Rey is the Mary Sue. He is a slightly dweeby white guy, who is encouraged and befriended by a diverse group of SJWs and becomes valued and a hero amongst them. Because, as I have said before, white guys in popular media must be given a reason to fight. They must be encouraged to join causes whose worth is inherently obvious to those on the receiving end of tyranny.
Basically, anyone complaining that they have no one to identify with in a heroic role in The Force Awakens is Kylo Ren. There’s a reason he is depicted as a whining manchild, and played by Adam Driver from HBO’s Girls. Go worship white male power in the form of Darth Vader if you must, but try not to have too many light-saber temper tantrums around the expensive equipment on your way.