So, Star Wars is pretty racist
Just yesterday, South African radio “personality” Gareth Cliff made this comment on his twitter account: “Interesting how white people think I was racist just for MENTIONING that the blacks did better and we’ll have a black winner on Idols…”, and that got the gears turning. Then, last night, I ended up in a conversation about Star Wars (it happens) and the whole thing just click-clacked into place in my head: Star Wars is pretty racist.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Star Wars films (prequels? what prequels?), but that doesn’t mean I’m unable to poke fun at them or see their 5-by-5 meter-wide plot holes. And, of course, I’m not the only one who does. Now despite all these really overt examples of racism being apparent in the original films, I think most of us who saw them were more enthralled by the wonder of the whole scenario. Dogfights in space, exploding shit, lightsabers; you know, guy shit.
And I’d probably be totally cool with all the problems inherent in Star Wars if they had remained cult properties of the 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, George Lucas has continued to bombard us with product in the form of toys, cartoons, t-shirts, Adidas sneakers and – ugh – prequels. There’s an animated series airing at the moment, and a live action show in development. This means that no matter how far you run, you’ll never be able to escape the Star Wars juggernaut. And just wait till Lucas croaks. His kids will no doubt inundate us with his “creative legacy” in the form of sequels and remakes (in 3D!). So since Star Wars is everywhere, the racism is everywhere, and that was never more evident than in the Episode 1, 2 and 3 trilogy starring Ewan McGregor and some other people. The prequel trilogy bashed our heads in with so many stereotypes that even Hitler might’ve tuned out. And while some of them may have been accidental…
Aw hell, look at him. Let’s face it. None of them are accidental.
The above character, Jar Jar Binks is the bane of the Star Wars universe. A walking stereotype, Binks spouts garbage while trying to endear himself to the viewing public with his slapstick antics and utter ineptitude when it comes to all matters of modern technology. He’s basically a minstrel character; a blackface cliche from a strange race of natives who don’t like to mix with the rest of their homeworld’s advanced population for fear of being swallowed into their bizarre world of politics, economics and, you know, dogfights in space. And when Jar Jar does finally make the transition to the “civilized” world, showing up briefly in Episode II amongst Natalie Portman’s posse, he’s dressing like her people and keeping his mouth conspicuously shut (a welcome change, to be sure, but a drastic one nonetheless). Suddenly, spirited wildman Jar Jar Binks is a house nigger, and even though I can’t stand him, it pains me to see another brother put down by The Man.
Whenever Star Wars’ main characters grace the debauchery-riddled desert planet Tatooine with their presence, the films devolve into a showcase of how many racist stereotypes the designers can cram into a shot. Most noticeable is Watto, a sleazy businessman who keeps the young (and annoying) Anakin Skywalker in servitude. With his hooked nose and his grave desire to swindle everyone else out of their every penny, he’s more Jewish than Anne Frank.
The desert is filled with such stereotypes, from Anakin’s opposing pod racer Sebulba (who, as my friend put it, “if you told me he was voiced by Danny Trejo, I’d say ‘ok’, sure.”) to Episode IV’s Greedo, who gets into a miniature Mexican standoff with Han Solo. The Jawas are a bunch of drunkard arms dealers who roll around in a big metal caravan, selling droids (read: slaves), and the Sand People are Bedouin-style nomads who shoot randomly as passersby.
Oh, and let’s not forget infamous alien crime boss Jabba the Hutt. Obese, living on the backs of the poor in his desert palace, filled with its dancers and harem girls alike. I bet if he wasn’t killed in ‘Return of the Jedi’, he’d have grown a mustache, donned a beret and hidden out while the rebels bombed the desert looking for weapons of mass destruction. And he smokes a freakin’ hukkah!
Okay. I’ll admit. Maybe I’m missing some cases where diversity can be argued for, where Lucasfilm gave a nod to post-post-modern diversity and didn’t slip Star Trek’s Enterprise crew the finger. I mean, there’s the Jedi Council, right? They have a pretty much all-alien membership, including Yoda and Sam Jackson. What’s more diverse than that? But then, in the third prequel, they all get killed off by a group of soldiers dressed all in white. Nevermind that the Clone Troopers are all New Zealanders under their helmets, they dress in white and roll ten-deep to go shoot people of other races. Hmm. What does that remind me of?
But maybe I’m being too harsh. I mean, it’s not like the white folks are any better off than the aliens, are they?
Six movies, and it’s generally a ragtag group of white people who unite everyone, fly off into the heart of danger, and destroy the crazy old Emperor’s plans. Oh, them and a big hairy guy who may be a Mexican.
We’ve got Ewoks, who are wild forest-dwelling cannibals. There’s the Gungans, whose boss (Boss Nas, mind you) is some kind of blubbering Jamaican. I think C3P0 gets more respect for his role as the Rebel Alliance’s go-to for whining than Lando does for actually helping to destroy that second Death Star. The Death Star, whose construction is being overseen by a black man (Darth Vader). An evil black man who only becomes good when he takes off his helmet to reveal he’s a white guy on the inside. It’s disgusting. Distressing. Devastating.
But what about Yoda, you say? He’s an alien, and he makes it out alive and then gets to die in peace. Yeah, but he’s Asian. Everyone knows white people like Asians.
Then again, maybe I’m just reading too much into all this?