Star Wars may take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but its political parallels to our world have never been too difficult to discern. The overall premise of the saga thus far has involved a team of endearing rebels liberating the galaxy from the reign of a tyrannical empire. Furthermore, because the films are marketed towards people of all ages, the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are quite distinctive. So when Trump supporters called for a boycott of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” anticipating the film would contain strong political messages, they were already identifying with the wrong side of an easily differentiable struggle between good and evil.
The film’s director, Gareth Edwards, addressed the premature complaints, insisting there were no political messages to be derived from the story.
While “Rogue One” may not contain any obvious political messages strictly in its storyline, apart from its fundamental struggle between democracy and fascism, it was one of the most political films of the year in terms of the diversity of its cast. Of the eight characters who appear on the movie poster, only two are white – one of whom is the film’s main villain. However, very few complaints arose over the presence of a white villain, for Hollywood’s racial disparities lie primarily with its protagonists. When it comes to villains in Hollywood, the lines between affirmative action and racism are often blurred, resulting in staggering numbers of Muslim actors being cast as violent antagonists. In “Rogue One” however, a battle breaks out in the streets of a war-torn desert city. At this point the two main protagonists, Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, rush to the defense of turban-clad soldiers described as “extremists,” who generally appear to be of Middle-Eastern race.
This turning of the tables regarding Hollywood stereotypes received a great deal of acknowledgement by the internet in the weeks after “Rogue One” hit theaters.
Actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani tweeted, “The fight in [the desert city] stuck me. Ppl who looked like me & dressed like my ppl were good guys! … For the 1st time I really felt the importance of representation. I felt like a kid watching this movie. I felt like I could do anything.”
Nanjiani’s response to the movie received an overwhelming amount of positive attention and was featured on Twitter’s trending page.
Similar takeaways from “Rogue One” were trending elsewhere on Twitter. Diego Luna, who portrays Andor in the film, shared a Mexican fan’s response to seeing the movie with their father. Luna, who grew up in Mexico, kept his accent for his role in “Rogue One,” an infrequent practice by lead actors of color.
An excerpt of the fan’s response shared by Luna read, “When the film was over and we were walking to the car [my father] turns to me and says, ‘did you notice that [Luna] had an accent?… And he was a main character…’ And my dad was so happy. As we drove home he started telling me about other Mexican actors that he thinks should be in movies in America. Representation matters.”