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Rogue One: A Diverse Star Wars Story

    Some of the lines from “Black America Again,” the title track of Common’s latest album, are “You put a n**** in Star Wars, maybe you need two / And then, maybe then we’ll believe you.” These lines refer to the fact that the casts of each of the three Star Wars trilogies contain only one black character in a prominent role, surrounded by mostly white characters. The characters to which Common likely refers are Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams in the last two films of the original trilogy, Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu in the prequel trilogy, and Finn, played by John Boyega, who was first introduced in The Force Awakens and is set to reprise the role in the two upcoming sequels.
    Common’s verse continues this thought with, “See black people in the future / We wasn’t shipped here to rob and shoot ya.” As Common implies, the problem with having such slight representation lies in the fact that the single character then has the full responsibility of that representation. While this reality is certainly not ideal, the danger exists that if audiences see a character who has the full representational responsibility on their shoulders act a certain way, it is subliminally understood that that is how people whom the character represents also must act. In his explanation of the lines, Common argues, “If you look at a lot of the movies that deal with the future and saving the world and who saves the world, you don’t see a lot of Black characters that are the protagonist or the hero.” Depictions of the future should reflect present realities in representations of who can be a hero, not imagine a perpetuation of privileging white characters well into the future.
    With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Lucasfilm presents their most diverse cast to date, hopefully indicating the beginning of a trend for the studio. Rogue One is the first entry in what Lucasfilm calls its “Anthology Films,” films that take place outside of the main series of Star Wars Universe films. The film, which takes place immediately before the events of the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, concerns how the rebellion obtained the plans to the Death Star, a key plot device unexplained in the original film. The core group of rebels which the film follows is made up of a multiethnic cast with only one white character, the group’s singular female member, Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones. Alongside Jones is Mexican actor Diego Luna, playing Captain Cassian Andor, Chinese actors Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, playing Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus respectively, and British Pakistani Riz Ahmed playing Bodhi Rook. In addition to simply having characters of multiple ethnicities, the characters also display differences in sexual orientation and religious belief, and even have different accents. Despite the quick pace of the film and the extensive cast, Rogue One spends enough time with each character for audiences to at least superficially understand their personalities and develop attachments to them, providing the galaxy with a more colorful cast of heroes not relegated to the sidelines.
    One story of Rogue One’s diverse representation positively affecting viewers was retweeted by Diego Luna a few weeks after the film released. According to the original post, after seeing the film for the first time, the poster decided that she needed to take her father to see it because of Diego Luna’s retention of his Mexican accent, which sounded to her like her father’s. She reports that during the film, he remarked about Luna’s accent, then again once it was over. It made him “so happy” that a main character in a major film like Rogue One represented him. Hopefully, with stories like this and the positive reactions to the characters of Rogue One, Lucasfilm will continue to cast diverse performers for future entries in the series. With one film, audiences have seen that the future can be diverse. If Lucasfilm and parent studio Disney want us to believe that they do truly do care about representation, maybe they need two.

Whisk Review: Mabuhay Oriental Food Store

Whisk Review: Mabuhay Oriental Food Store

AU's Got Talent. Period.

AU's Got Talent. Period.