Will Star Wars Be a Tiny Baby Step in Black Film History?

Happy Star Wars Day everyone, and May the Fourth be with you!  Expectations for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens are already stratospherically high, but I’m going to set them even higher.  After all, I’ve been a devout Star Wars Fanatic all my life and I deserve this entitled moment to make some demands.

It’s really not that simple though.  This is a necessary step the film industry needs to make.  Hollywood is notoriously bad at casting people of color (POC) and whitewashing period dramas, the most egregious recent example being Exodus: Gods And Kings.  As far as anyone can tell from the two trailers and released information, it appears that John Boyega will be the lead protagonist.  In fact, the two main heroes might be a woman and a British-Nigerian, which is actually a very big deal.  Some figures help show how big this may be.  All information provided by Box Office Mojo.

Top Ten Grossing Films Ever Worldwide and (Domestic) With POC Cast in the Lead Role

45 – Independence Day (46)

89 – Hancock (113)

90 – Men In Black III (199)

97 – Life of Pi (412)

102 – Men In Black (88)

106 – I Am Legend (81)

175 – Men In Black II (170)

185 – Django Unchained (242)

221 – Slumdog Millionaire (314)

238 – Hitch (198)

Pause for a moment and reflect on Will Smith.  He is in 7 of the 10 movies on that list.  SEVEN!  He is also the only Black lead who has ever been in the top 100 grossing films all time worldwide or in the US.  But come on, Will Smith isn’t the only Black actor in this world.

Now, if John Boyega is indeed the lead, then all three films in the upcoming Star Wars trilogy will fall under the above category, and all will most likely crack the top ten.

Star Wars Franchise Worldwide, (Domestic), [US Adjusted For Inflation] Box Office Gross Spots

Phantom Menace – 17 (5) [17]

Attack of the Clones – 84 (43) [87]

Revenge of the Sith – 40 (22) [60]

A New Hope – 52 (6) [2]

Empire Strikes Back – 124 (61) [12]

Return of the Jedi – 151 (45) [15]

So casting John Boyega is a pretty big deal for Black box office numbers, but of course Star Wars is a franchise that can afford not to pamper to white, subconsciously racist audiences.   And the cast is still almost all white.  The highest grossing film where a majority of the cast is Black is Coming To America, which is absurd and culturally offensive.  The most successful and/or profitable Black films almost always portray people who are in submissive roles (12 Years a Slave) or solidify insensitive and absolutely messed up stereotypes (Big Momma’s House).  There are reasons why Selma did not receive Best Actor or Best Director nods, and those reasons are triumphant Black role and Black Woman director, respectively.


First and foremost, let’s put away the pessimism.  George Lucas did not write the script and–okay hold on a sec.


Nor is he directing.  So no trade disputes and no static, completely lifeless attempts to create political intrigue.  These reasons alone are enough cause for celebration.  The other reason for pessimism is that when Disney acquired Lucasfilm, they announced they would do away with the current canon and expanded universe.  Therefore those of us who are sad we won’t see the alien race who’s gods name I just invoked, we’re going to have to deal.  I however, am really happy that those stories won’t get a movie adaptation, because my childhood imagination and memories of them will remain uncorrupted.

Nothing is ever going to match the original trilogy, and why waste breath bemoaning the prequels when you can look to the promising future of one of the best franchises in cinematic history?

May the Force Be With You,

Sincerely, Deej*

*Deej was an Ewok wind spirit that gave her life to teach the Ewoks the secret of music.


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