Star Wars, and its parent company Disney, is facing sharp criticism following a Black History Month tweet featuring actor John Boyega, who plays “Finn,” in the most recent Star Wars trilogy, who was nearly scrubbed from Star Wars’ Chinese promotional materials, allegedly over concerns that a black actor would not be well received by the Chinese market, and who was “pushed to the side” in later films.
Disney, it turns out, is not woke enough for the woke.
“Storytelling is at the heart of being human and black representation in all media gives us the opportunity to feel like we are a part of the world we are living in. To be seen and heard more gives us a chance to feel like we are understood by those consuming our stories,” Star Wars’ noted on its official social media feed, above a stylized representation of Boyega’s character, Finn.
“Stories can show how a character can overcome struggles and conflict and to see someone like yourself in that story is a springboard for the imagination,” the Twitter thread continued. “Introduce that to an eager mind of a child and you inspire the next generation of storytellers and beyond.” —Mel Milton, artist of this Finn illustration for #BlackHistoryMonth #BlackHistoryAlways”
But fans and commenters, many of them leftists, quickly pointed out the irony in Disney’s and Star Wars’ use of Finn to promote racial harmony. In 2015, just ahead of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” release in Asian markets, entertainment media noticed a surprising omission from the film’s marketing materials: images of John Boyega were minimized on movie posters.
“Fans are in an uproar because new franchise star John Boyega, very prominently featured in all the marketing for the film, is all but gone from the China poster,” Entertainment Weekly reported. “Boyega’s character Finn has been shrunk so significantly that’s he’s very easy to miss in the alternate version. As a result, fans have accused Disney’s China office of wanting to downplay an actor of color in the film.”
EW and others cited a number of situations in which black actors and other actors of color have been minimized in Chinese promotional materials. Disney did not comment on the matter, according to CNN. Chinese state media hit back, claiming that audiences could not draw broad conclusions from a single incident.
“Since the poster is merely a promotion method and an individual case, it would be unfair to criticize Chinese audiences for discriminating against the black actor,” the Beijing Film Association said.
In an interview in 2020, Boyega seemed to acknowledge the issue, according to the Associated Press. “Black characters have been ‘pushed to the side’ in Disney’s ‘Star Wars” franchise,'” the outlet quoted Boyega as saying. “In June, the star made an emotional speech on racism when he joined Black Lives Matter protests in London.”
Woke fans of the Star Wars franchise have also long complained that Disney used Finn as a way of checking a progressive box, shoving the character out of the limelight and into the background before he could fully develop.
Fans were quick to point out Disney’s issues in response to the Star Wars tweet — and even criticize the typically woke Disney over leaving Boyega and other characters of color on the cutting room floor in Star Wars films.
“If only he wasn’t turned into a joke and pretty much a side character in the second and third film of the trilogy. Quite sad, but I’m glad the Lego holiday special treated him right,” one critic said.
“Good, if you believe this then there should be something big in the works for this character that you threw away. Talk is cheap, Lucasfilm. I don’t know how many time we have to tell you that before you stop slapping us in the face,” said another.
“You want to talk representation? John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran deserved SO much better than what they were dealt in the sequel trilogy. John existed to be the token black character while Kelly’s roll (sic) was reduced to a mere background character in ROS,” added yet another.
A handful of fans even referenced Disney’s decision, made last week, to fire “Mandalorian” star Gina Carano allegedly over a number of tweets, calling the incident evidence of the company’s fake woke-ism.
“I love how they do this racist ass sh*t but then want to seem all great by firing Gina Carano,” one fan said.
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