I’ve been thinking about black people in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Spoilers ahead.
It’s great that one of the leads is Finn, a black guy — but during his time in the First Order, he worked in sanitation. Did the movie’s only black guy have to be a janitor?
John Boyega did a fine job as Finn. The other prominent black actor in the film was Lupita Nyong’o. A terrific actress, but she appeared only as a non-black character, the CGI-generated Maz Kanata.
And where was Lando Calrissian? The film brings back Admiral Ackbar, who was in only one movie and had only one memorable line. It brings back Nien Nunb, who had no memorable lines. But Lando, the charming and shrewd and daring? Where’s he?
Now, I’ve seen sensible reasons for the treatment of these characters.
About Finn: There’s nothing wrong or demeaning about working in sanitation. It’s messy, but it’s important. Besides, anyone who’s new to military life, as Finn seems to be, might naturally be assigned to it; it’s just normal duty.
About Maz Kanata: Lupita Nyong’o didn’t want to be onscreen as a black human: “I got to play a character that wasn’t limited by my physical circumstances, and that was something I wanted to do.”
About Lando: Billy Dee Williams, who plays him, was apparently not in great physical shape during THE FORCE AWAKENS’ shooting schedule — the man is 78, after all — and that could be why he wasn’t there.
And about me: As a white guy, maybe I shouldn’t bring up race in STAR WARS at all. I’m not The Noble, Heroic Defender Of All That Is Black, and I don’t want to present myself that way.
But in the wake of OscarSoWhite exposing the weak representation of African-Americans in movies, I can’t help but ask: What’s going on with the black janitor, the hidden black actress, and the missing black swashbuckler?