Ever since 2009, I’ve conducted an ongoing study of diversity in Star Wars fiction—first (and still) at the Jedi Council Forums, then here at Eleven-ThirtyEight. Over time, I developed a means of “diversity scoring” various stories based on the demographics of their casts, and began looking for trends and precedents in the franchise, for good or ill. One huge thing I’ve learned from this process is that it’s very, very hard to quantify diversity in a useful way; people inclined to argue with me will often yell “Quotas! One of everything!”, which is an easy logical leap to make but hardly a solution. Not all roles and stories are created equal, so simple math is at best a limited measure of work’s value.
This became especially clear to me a year ago, when scoring the first several works of the new Star Wars canon. While at first glance these stories had established a number of remarkable things like an all-female stormtrooper unit, a black main character for a middle-grade series, and several LGBTQ characters in a single book, these bold steps weren’t showing up in the scoring—if anything, the raw figures were slightly worse than they had been in my studies of Legends material. While the average score has ticked down a little over the last year—from 67 to 60—that feeling has mostly held up. » Read more..
Not only was Force Friday our first big taste of the sequel era, it was almost the exact one-year anniversary of the release of A New Dawn—and thus, the new Star Wars canon (or NEU, as some are calling it but I refuse to). I celebrated A New Dawn‘s release by officially launching The Minority Report, Eleven-ThirtyEight’s loose ongoing series of diversity-focused articles by myself and others. While the tag has been a useful umbrella for a variety of pieces, up to and including new staff writer Sarah Dempster’s recent (and hugely popular) piece Star Wars’ Intersectionality Problem, as I originally envisioned it, the series’ main recurring feature would be a discussion of my longstanding diversity scoring system. Diversity scores, according to my initial conception, are quite simply the percentage of a story’s cast that is anything other than straight, white human men—WHMs, for short. In practice, though, they’ve become anything but simple.
To wit: on the whole, this first year of the new canon has been like a breath of fresh air. While A New Dawn‘s diversity score wasn’t exactly a mic drop, the series it led into, Star Wars Rebels, has been nothing short of miraculous. While there have been a fair amount of WHMs among its Imperial cast (and it could definitely use more women in this area) the main cast of heroes doesn’t contain a single one—as confirmed on this very site by Pablo Hidalgo. Their ranks of our heroes have grown since the premiere to include aliens like Old Joh, Tseebo, and of course, Ahsoka Tano, and people of color like Lando, Bail Organa, and Commander Sato (and soon, at least a few aging clones). For one of the most heavily child-facing elements of the franchise, Rebels is guaranteeing that the newest generation of Star Wars fans will finally have no shortage of heroes who look like them, and it’s been thrilling to see. » Read more..
The biggest piece of Star Wars news from this year’s D23 Expo was the reveal of the rest of the Rogue One cast as well as a first look at all of them in costume. Like the rest of the Star Wars blogosphere I was extremely excited by the news and immediately set to over-analyze every scrap of it. My first thought was “wow, what a multicultural cast!” Followed shortly after that was “…but why is Felicity Jones apparently the only woman?” It seems once again that Star Wars fans are being asked to choose between ethnic diversity and gender parity.
The original trilogy movies are, frankly, lily white and heavily male. Leia is the only woman with a significant presence across the three movies and Lando’s the only significant nonwhite character. The prequel trilogy fares a little better, with the addition of strong secondary characters such as Mace Windu or Bail Organa (both male) and Shmi and various handmaidens (all white). But the fact remains: a Star Wars character can apparently be either nonwhite or nonmale…but not both. » Read more..
With the dawn of the sequel trilogy less than a year away, 2015 has been a year of relitigation: new and old segments of Star Wars fandom, maybe even subconsciously, attempting to settle old scores and nail down our history one way or another so what we might all move forward together into whatever the hell The Force Awakens ends up being.
Most recently, this could be seen in last month’s brouhaha over two “Slave Leia” stories: first, a parent taking issue with the character’s presence in the toy aisle, where she was discovered by his young daughter. Then, just a couple days later, the new issue of GQ magazine featured a cover and photo spread with Amy Schumer involving the slave bikini, the droids, and pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Some people loved it, some were offended, and some (hi) just found it boring.
That was a couple weeks ago and people are still talking about Slave—excuse me, Huttslayer Leia and whether that scene was good, bad, or just plain unnecessary. For my money, Tricia Barr covered all the right bases and then some. But way before Leia ended up in the news again, 2015 began with the relitigation of, perhaps, an even more controversial element of Star Wars: the death of Padmé in Revenge of the Sith. » Read more..
Star Wars Celebration Anaheim was a rousing success by most metrics: it set attendance records, the media coverage was 24/7, it had an unprecedented livestream, and fans emerged energized and excited for the new Star Wars films. We had a great time at Celebration, and we propose another metric for the great success of Star Wars Celebration Anaheim: the growth of Star Wars by leaps and bounds into a truly universal community.
To be sure, Star Wars always had near universal appeal (that’s how we all became fans, after all). But Tricia Barr – who hosted the “From a Certain Point of View” panel that we were honored to be part of – said it best: this Celebration was perhaps the most diverse yet, even considered in terms of the people who were on that very panel. Kathleen Kennedy made a great and very well-received statement about Star Wars finally recognizing its female fan base and striving hard to have that recognized on-screen (as it’s starting to be recognized on the page). Many attendees expressed surprise at how well-attended the convention was, both in absolute numbers (something like 60,000 people) and in the geographic representation of the audience. We saw many people who had flown in from Europe, Latin America, and Asia. We saw small children, teenagers, adults, and older folks.
Anyone who thinks that Star Wars is just for a certain demographic, whether a younger-skewed age group or exclusively males, should come to a Star Wars Celebration and realize that Star Wars is for everyone. It always has been, but Celebration Anaheim really drove the point home (and here we hear echoes of “Chewie, we’re home,” the Celebration mantra in more than one way). With the welcome diversity in the novels/comics, Rebels, and now the films it’s become absolutely clear that Star Wars has finally recognized that it is for everyone. Some might ask why this kind of representation matters, if Star Wars already had that universal appeal – well, read on and we’ll tell you why it’s so important.
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