The Passive Racism of Disney Era Star Wars: Silence is Complicity

Written by robotical712

I owe Finn fans (henceforth, “the Finndom”) an apology.

It started with the advertising for The Force Awakens. Everywhere there was advertising for TFA, Finn was the only character shown wielding a lightsaber. Every billboard, every TV ad was John Boyega’s character confidently wielding the Jedi weapon. The implication was clear: he was to be our Jedi character in the Sequel Trilogy. With that, many people went into the theater expecting to see the first Black Force sensitive main character. What they got was a cruel bait and switch, the white female character was the Jedi character and Finn ended in a coma. No matter, many of them believed; he’d be revealed to be a Jedi in the next movie. Afterall, there were hints of his Force sensitivity throughout TFA and JJ had called John the co-lead.

Unfortunately, to those paying attention, there were already disquieting signs. While #WhereisRey was raging, it was actually Finn who had the least toys available (#WhereisFinn actually made its debut during TFA’s release). Poe (originally slated to die in TFA) almost immediately received his own comic series; the existence of which only became more glaring as time went on without meaningful Finn content. Finn (31:45) had the most screen time after Rey (43 min), yet it was Adam Driver (19) who was submitted for the Lead Actor category at the June, 2016 Saturn Awards. The most egregious minimization of all, of course, was when his size was greatly reduced on the Chinese poster. Unfortunately, most, including myself, took little heed of these warning signs.

Coming to an American poster near you!

It was Celebration of 2017 that the wider fandom should have realized his character was being shoved aside. Despite being clearly setup and advertised as the male lead opposite Rey at the start of the trilogy, he was absent from the teaser poster and only had one scene in the teaser trailer. His absence in advertising only became more conspicuous as we got closer to The Last Jedi and the people trying to point it out became more frantic. For Finn’s Black fans, this was all too familiar and many were already heading for the exits, all too aware the Black character was going to be cast aside in favor of the white characters. It was thus little surprise when The Last Jedi did exactly that.

I wish I could say I had listened to those who warned of how John Boyega and his character were being treated, many of whom knew from their own bitter experience. I wish I could say I had spoken up to say it was wrong. Unfortunately, I cannot.

Instead, I thought they were overreacting and told them to wait for the movie. Finn was popular after The Force Awakens and surely The Last Jedi would do him justice. I defended his absence from the marketing, both to myself and to others. I thought I knew better.

Even after The Last Jedi, I concentrated on Rey, even with people calling me on it. ‘I was only analyzing the Canon information available and there was very little for Finn’, I would explain. In the end, this was an excuse as I should have wondered why there was so little Canon information for Finn. I should have asked why he was systematically being underrepresented and minimized in marketing, merchandise and media. I wanted to be seen as a ‘positive fan’ and failed to listen, much less speak up, for those who are so often ignored and minimized in our media and society.

I did not listen and therefore I did not lend my voice to the voiceless. I was complicit in the stereotyping and erasure of yet another Black person and for that I am truly sorry.

#WhereisFinn

4 comments

  1. Wow I didn’t know Finn was advertised to be the main character … that’s terrible this is happening. I would have loved to see a stronger Finn character arc than what we were given … thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was a clear break somewhere between when Abrams submitted the film as a finished product and when LFL began prepping for more movies and material; Boyega was front and center with Ridley for most of TFA’s marketing, was announced as the male lead, and then had a film where he was *undoubtedly* the male lead – and for a film that made over $2 Billion at the box office.

      But there already seemed to be a lack of support at LFL and in Hollywood for Boyega’s position and the character of Finn; award organizations flitted between Boyega, Ford, and a Driver for who to nominate as male lead. Ford won that Saturn award mentioned in this article, while Boyega was officially nominated; I hadn’t heard about Driver being submitted, but given later actions, I’m not shocked.

      The Force Awakens wasn’t perfect, and in hindsight I’m probably guilty of brushing over the complaints about Finn’s story there as well. But it was still a male lead’s story, his character arc was still central to the film, and his personal antagonism with Kylo and his Met relationship with Rey were great. He became my favorite character, and frankly he remains the best developed character of the ST because of that film.

      But it looks like all LFL saw were the flaws in his story, and with a dismissive attitude as well. Reading some of Johnson’s comments on making TLJ and hearing a rather loud *silence* from LFL, I don’t think anyone beyond Abrams, Kasdan, and Boyega had ever really invested in Finn as a the male lead – their focus seems likely to have been on Kylo instead.

      Which was why whatever systemic and accidental racism Boyega and Finn suffered wound up being aggravated and exacerbated by LFL playing favorites at Boyega and Finn’s expense. Boyega still has the largest accumulated screentime in the Sequel Trilogy by far, and Boyega was an all-star of the press events and marketing for most of the three films… yet by the time The Rise of Skywalker came out, it was all but explicitly Lucasfilm’s goal to reject him as male lead – they even explicitly submitted Driver as their preferred potential “Best Actor” to awards season again.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. God bless you. This is the type of article I have been waiting for since the release of TFA if I’m being honest.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s