Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Edit: The trailer is now out, and I will be doing  a video and blog post with my thoughts on it later today.

Star Wars Celebration Orlando is now underway, featuring panels with the stars and filmmakers of the Star Wars franchise. Director Rian Johnson is present, and it is expected that the trailer for The Last Jedi will premiere online tomorrow. With that said I thought I would share some of my hopes for the next film.

1) No death star.

We have had three death stars over seven films, and even the original trilogy didn’t have two death stars back to back.  I didn’t mind seeing the original death star again in Rogue One, since it was a prequel. With that said, death stars should simply be retired for the saga as a whole.

2) More development for Finn as a capable warrior.

John Boyega has hinted (via Instagram) that Finn will have a more physical role in The Last Jedi. He has also hinted that the character would be boring if he started off as a  skilled warrior, instead of realistically developing to that point. Since Rey is often accused of being a Mary Sue to her skills as a pilot, mechanic, and her skill with the force and the lightsaber, maybe Boyega has a point. I have previously discussed the Mary Sue argument, although I believe detractors may have a point I simply have to question if a male character with the same skills would be criticized as much. After all, Luke had the same skill set in A New Hope.

Finn was marketed as the franchise’s next Jedi, and his fate in the film came across as a cruel bait and switch. First, one of the few black main characters in the franchise is reduced to comic relief for the most part. Second, he’s unconscious at the end of the film while Rey goes to train with Luke. Boyega is a great actor, if his performances in Attack The Block and Imperial Dreams are any indication and I hope he gets more room to shine.

3) More new locations and people.

Rogue One and the announcement of various spin-offs that deviated from the “Episode” series initially seemed like a cash grab. However, Rogue One ended up being a breath of fresh air. Star Wars is the story of a galaxy,  and it was great to be separated from one family and one set of characters for a few hours. We got memorable new characters and places that still relate to the “Episode” series while also showcasing how vast the universe really is.

If the trailer is released tomorrow, I’ll be fanboying like everyone else, with these hopes in the back of my mind.

RIP Carrie Fisher

Hello everyone,

Hope you all had a great Christmas break and hope that the New Year will bring greater things for us all. I never liked the commercial aspect of Christmas but I have always loved the opportunity to see more of my family. It’s a sad truth that there are people out there who will be experiencing the season without the company of a loved one. Not due to work or travel, but due to death.

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016) passed  away today at 8:55 AM after complications from a heart attack she experienced on the 23rd. There were early reports that she was in stable condition, but those were taken from more ambiguous statements from her brother. There was an official statement from her mother yesterday stating that she was stable. Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, later confirmed that her mother passed.

2016 has been a grave year for celebrity deaths, taking greats such as Muhammad Ali and Prince. I am not familiar with Fisher’s work outside of Star Wars, although I hear she is great in her other roles. She’s served as a writer for films and television shows as well. However, her role as Princess Leia was enough to make her a true icon in popular fiction. Leia is not only a main character of one of the most popular series of all time, she is also one of the most popular heroines of all time. Whether you are a proud Star Wars fan, a causal one, or someone who thinks they’re too cool for it, you knew Princess Leia. Either you’ve heard the name or you recognize the clothing and the hairstyle.

Fisher’s death brings up a lot of questions, but I didn’t want to write this post to delve into those. She apparently finished filming Episode VIII already so there are no worries about the next installment. Episode IX is another issue, since Leia was allegedly supposed to be in the film.  However, it seems callous to focus on that right after her death. For now, let’s wish her family and friends the best as they get through this time.

Episode VIII

Spoilers for Rogue One and Episode VII

Rogue One is still on my mind, and feel free to check out my review. While Rogue One managed to be a prequel that had its own style, Episode VII was pretty much a remake of Episode IV. We follow a young orphan, Rey (Luke) who must come to terms with her Jedi powers and combat The First Order (The Empire). We get Kylo Ren (Darth Vader) , who is revealed to be related to one of the protagonists. We even get another death star (Starkiller base).

I discussed all the similarities with a friend and he argued that J.J Abrams would be hesitant to deviate from the original trilogy much, after the backlash that the prequels received. Episode VII played it safe, relying on the return of the old cast to generate hype and satiate the droves that turned out to see the film.

The prequels had some great moments, with Episode III being the strongest. However, the prequels left much to be desired. The performances by Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, the overuse of CGI, pod-racing etc. With that said, the prequels were not bad simply because they did something new. Rogue One is a great example of how the new star war films can respect the past and continuity, while also giving us fresh characters, locations, conflicts etc.

Kylo Ren’s character seemed like a metaphor for Abrams’s fears of not living up to the original trilogy. Ren is a character who wants nothing more than to live up to Darth Vader (the original trilogy) and is worried that he is seen as nothing but a unworthy imitation. One oft-cited piece of wisdom is that one should not try to replicate something that is deemed as great or untouchable. Sometimes, the only approach is to try something new.

Let’s hope we can see something new with Episode VIII.

Rogue One Review

After I saw Episode VII: The Force Awakens I took some time to analyze the film before launching into a  review. I was initially committed to doing the same thing for Rogue One, but since I got back I have been re-watching any scenes I can get my hands on, visiting IMDB and fighting the urge to watch Episode IV. I figured I would put this mood into something more productive.

I liked Episode VII, especially since it showed us the old cast again, but was disappointed that it was a rehash of a New Hope. Rogue One could have been a rehash as well. A prequel can seem like a money grab but the film may be my favourite Star Wars film, showing us new characters and new worlds that we don’t see anywhere else in the trilogy. Episode IV began with an opening crawl that tells us that rebels stole the plans for the Death Star, which is what led to the rebels knowing about the Death Star’s weakness.

Rogue One takes place only a few days before (with the exception of flashbacks) and tells us how the rebels acquired the plans. Firstly, I will say that the squad of new characters do not get that much development. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the central figure and gets the lion share of backstory. Diego Luna’s Captain Cassian Andor comes the closest to Erso’s level of backstory. With that said, the film still managed to make me attached to this new crop of characters. Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe is sure to become a fan favourite and is one of the highlights. Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO is also a scene-stealer and is my favourite droid in the Star Wars universe. After his performance as Sonny in I,Robot it’s pretty clear that Tudyk is a chameleon. Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook and Wen Jiang’s Baze Malbus bring up the flank for our main rebels and are both highly competent in their roles, even if they may not be as memorable in comparison to their partners.

Jones and Luna both carry the film well as two morally grey characters attempting to navigate their mission. They are also supported by Ben Mendelsohn, who plays the villainous Krennic.

Krennic reports directly to Grand Moff Tarkin (Guy Henry), which brings up one issue with the film. Peter Cushing originally played Tarkin in Episode IV but since he passed away, his face was digitally added to Henry’s body. The friend I saw the film with didn’t realize Tarkin’s face was digitally created but since I knew going in, it did bother me at times. The film did a much better job with this task than Tron: Legacy did with Clu, but it could have been improved as well. Most of the special effects in the film are amazing, with Tarkin and one scene in particular being the only stand out for subpar effects.

Forest Whitaker plays Saw Gerrera, a militant rebel who is at odds with the rest of the rebel alliance. He is also a central figure in Erso’s backstory, which makes him a pretty important character for the film. Whitaker’s performance is somewhat hampered by an accent that affects his line delivery, making some lines clunky and harder to make out. The character was also in the Star Wars: Rebels series and the character doesn’t have a similar accent in the show. With that said, I will say that the film left me wanting to find out more about the character.

Saw was involved in over a decade of combat with the empire, and this film brings some exciting combat of its own to the screen. Yen’s fight scenes are an obvious stand out but the film also creates great aerial and ground battles throughout. The last act is especially riveting and helped to clear up one of my biggest concerns about the movie.

When there was news of rewrites, it was rumoured that the rewrites were being done to lighten up the script. I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney truly did that since Thor 3: Ragnarok was changed for that same reason. The last act makes it clear that the writers didn’t care about making the film light-hearted. Since the old trilogy never showed us the characters who stole the death star plans, you can guess what happens to them. Rogue One shows us. One issue from the rewrites is that a lot of scenes appeared to have been cut. Some of my favourite shots from the trailer were conspicuously absent from the film. There may be an extended cut but it is likely that some scenes were simply removed all together.

The Death Star’s weakness has been lampooned mercilessly, but Rogue One actually clears up the reason for the weakness. Rogue One also has several easter eggs and nods to the rest of the franchise. At one point Erso bumps into the same duo who accosted Luke in the bar in The Cantina, and we see Erso’s parents drinking the infamous blue milk. By the end of the film you’ll also want to watch Episode IV since Rogue One ends right where that one starts.

Speaking of the franchise, we see its most famous character in all his glory once again. Darth Vader is in the film for less than ten minutes, but every minute is glorious. There has been some criticism online for one of his lines, which many people saw as a corny joke. Maybe I was just happy to hear James Earl Jones again, but I didn’t mind the line at all. One thing that definitely wasn’t cheesy was Vader’s final scene in the film. It is filmed like a horror movie and deftly shows why he is such a feared figure.

Rogue One may not give us the most fleshed out characters but I give the film credit for making me care about the characters anyway. I also appreciated how well it tied in with the series’ continuity. I enjoyed it from start to finish and it leaves me wanting to watch the old trilogy all over again.

Rogue One

I have missed out on seeing Arrival, which was one of my most anticipated films due to the director’s previous work with Prisoners and Sicario. A big issue has been my schedule so far but I am hoping to have more free time later this month to see Rogue One, ideally during opening weekend.

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The original Star Wars trilogy wasn’t perfect by any means, with episode IV featuring some weak acting from Mark Hamill. However, his and Harrison Ford’s skills developed as the series progressed. The story was creative and executed better than the prequels, with less time devoted to a tepid love story between Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman), played terribly by both parties. The effects for the original trilogy have obviously aged, but many of them were groundbreaking for the time. With the prequels, we got cartoonish special effects in many places where sets, actors and makeup would have been better. I have no problem with special effects, but the prequels overused them and also had poorly rendered special effects in numerous places.

The special effects were much improved in Star Wars: Episode VII and the filmmakers made better use of motion capture to create more realistic CGI characters. Episode VII was also aided by better performances from its entire cast. Less Jake Lloyd, less Hayden Christensen, less Natalie Portman. Portman has been great in other roles but Star Wars was not one of them.

Getting to see the original cast and characters again was pretty much worth the price of admission for episode VII and was probably the greatest appeal. I also loved Daisy Ridley and John Boyega’s performances. Kylo Ren wasn’t as great as Darth Vader but I did like him as a villain, even if he was slightly disappointing. I expected the world, and the character fell short of that, but was still a good villain. As I look back on the film, or watch parts of it on Netflix, I empathize with one of the main criticisms: It is a rehash of a New Hope. Finding a young orphan on a desert planet (Rey) who comes to grasp with her Jedi skill to help defeat an evil empire. We even got our third death star and another revelation about unexpected familial bonds.

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Once I finally quieted the fanboy in me, and looked at the film more subjectively, I was disappointed by all of the rehashed material. Rogue One could obviously end up being the same since it is a prequel, but the trailers already show us some interesting new characters and new worlds. There are also other star wars spin-offs in the works such as Han Solo, with Donald Glover cast as the lead. Initially, I saw these films as a sign of greed and excess by Disney. They still could be, and obviously money is a factor even if it isn’t the main one. After Episode VII I do appreciate the chance to see a new crop of characters, new villains, new plots and new worlds. Maybe even some heroes and villains who aren’t related to one another.

I won’t begrudge Disney their profit if they hire a team that brings new, exciting and skillfully crafted Star Wars stories to a hungry audience.

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Hetero-normativity in Star Wars and The Walking Dead

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Three months ago JJ Abrams announced that his new Star Wars trilogy would include gay characters.
I actually found out about this development through a friend and was reminded of it later when an Instagram user I follow commented on it. He criticized Abrams’s choice, saying it was an unnecessary addition. This user even said they don’t support gay rights. Sadly, I respected him for being able to admit that since many people choose to disguise their bigotry with more veiled language. I still unfollowed the account and I’m not giving the name of the user because I don’t want more people to check out his page.

As expected, this was met with plenty of criticism who accused Abrams of pushing an “agenda” and forcing homosexuality on audiences. This reaction is another example of the bigoted reactions I have discussed before. In this age of supposed “colourblindness” and equality for all, people realize that there is a stigma associated with expressing discriminatory ideas. Therefore, they come up with ways to change their language, without eliminating discrimination. People won’t say they have a problem with gay people, they will just say they don’t like it if it’s “forced on them” or if it’s part of an “agenda”.

Notice that this language is only present if minorities get representation. When a case of whitewashing pops up in a film, people will always argue that it is just a movie and that there is no need to bring politics or ideology into entertainment. Yet when you give a minority more representation on screen, politics and ideology are very important. As one comment on the included link says, “I mean, you can’t have ONE gay character in a blockbuster movie FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER that these guys will start saying they’re being FORCED into sucking dick, lol”.

Pretty much. The sad truth is that many people view straight as normal, as a default. That is why many people don’t complain about a heterosexual agenda in films.

If we have a new character in a film, and his sexuality is not revealed, many of us will assume he is straight. Of course, there are characters depicted as fabulous stereotypes but this example excludes those kinds of characters. For example, Paul Monroe, or Jesus, of The Walking Dead Comics is introduced in the series and is revealed to be gay several issues later. I assumed Jesus was straight. Jesus became part of a sexual minority that has been, and still is discriminated against when he was revealed to be gay. Straight people do not have to worry about their family and friends rejecting them due to their sexuality. That is a fact and no victim complex by the dominant group can change that.

Abrams never said the series will push the star wars lore aside and have their own version of Brokeback Mountain. He only said some characters will be gay. We may hear a male character say he loves another one, we may see a male character show affection for another male character. If you see that, for maybe a few minutes at a time, and let it ruin your enjoyment of the film: That’s your problem and not JJ Abrams’. Star Wars spans several planets and peoples, and you think it’s ridiculous that someone in the world might not be straight?

The Walking Dead TV show provides another example of bigotry. One of the gay characters, Aaron briefly kisses his partner after they reunite. One poster took to IMDB to complain about homosexuality being forced down his throat (no pun intended I guess?). The poster even says that he has no problem with gay people. Since this post was an older one, it has now expired and been removed to make way for newer ones. Realize that the heavy-handed homosexuality this poster was complaining about was a three second kiss between two male characters. If that is heavy-handed homosexuality, are all the kisses and implied sex in The Walking Dead heavy-handed heterosexuality? Didn’t think so.

My faith in humanity was restored a bit seeing that many others users called this one out on his thinly–veiled discrimination. I remember one user saying (Wording might be slightly off) “What’s with you modern bigots and not being able to own up to your discrimination?
That is the most important question.

Hollywood Brainwashing: Political Correctness and Agendas

Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most creative, entertaining and memorable films I have seen in the past few years, if not ever. The acting, writing and of course, the action and visuals were all amazing. The title character, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), has few lines and in many ways isn’t even the main character. I didn’t find this jarring or bothersome since this was similar to Mad Max 2, where the plot revolved around one of the communities Max came across in the apocalyptic landscape. Like Fury Road, Mad Max 2 also focused more on the community and the villain.

However, this fact appears to have been lost on some people. Fury Road has received widespread acclaim and was even nominated for best picture at the golden globes and the Oscars: a huge achievement for an action film that is basically a two hour car chase (albeit a beautifully crafted one). Then again, the loudest voices can often stand out best, even if they are the fewest.

When discussing the film online it seems that praise for Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is closely followed by criticism of “feminist propaganda” or a “feminist agenda”. Searching “Mad Max Fury Road Feminism” brings up numerous articles from outlets such as The Guardian and The New York Post. The presence of strong female characters is hard to ignore, but I think it is a problem when we view strong female characters as indicative of an agenda.

Any discussion of ideological messages in films is often derailed by those who proclaim “It’s just a movie”. Yet as I’ve indicated many times before in blog posts and YouTube videos, this logic does not apply when the ruling class in Hollywood (white men) is affected. We are so used to seeing strong male characters, that seeing a strong female one comes across as “forced”, or “politically correct”.

I was interested in seeing Batman: Bad Blood, one of DC’s animated films. Before I looked into it I thought I would go to IMDB and see what other users thought of the film. One conversation in particular caught my interest:

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Unfortunately the text came out blurred but I figured it would be good to have proof of this conversation. I know people always like to say that people who express discriminatory ideas online are just trolls, but I think that simplifies things far too much. There are definitely people who get amusement from inflammatory comments, but I don’t think that explains every single discriminatory comment online. The internet is an arena where people can express their true feelings anonymously or with a pseudonym.

The person who started this post seems genuinely upset at being called a troll, his words are his “honest thoughts and opinions.” Perhaps the honest opinion he would not reveal in class or at work?

Bad Blood focuses on batman’s sidekicks and their efforts to fight crime in Gotham after his disappearance. While Nightwing and Robin are in the story, Batwoman is too. According to the person who started this conversation, the film would have been better without Batwoman since her sections felt “forced” and her homosexuality felt “heavy handed” (the newest Batwoman is Lesbian) . As another poster points out, this heavy handed homosexuality plays out with one scene of Batwoman flirting with a woman at a bar.

Some people reading this may agree with the original poster, but that brings up the issue I am trying to tackle. If one scene of a woman flirting with another is a heavy-handed depiction of homosexuality, would the scenes of Nightwing flirting with another woman also be heavy-handed heterosexuality? For decades, Hollywood has fed the world a steady diet of entertainment. Most of these characters fit a certain mold: white, male and straight. Years of seeing most heroes fit this mold can then lead to this becoming normalized (Dyer, White, 1997). When whiteness and masculinity becomes normalized in film, it is then easier for women and people of colour to be viewed as subversive. People who are outright bigots can also disguise their prejudice and aversion to seeing minorities and homosexuality on screen by saying that they simply don’t like it if it’s “heavy handed”. As the example above demonstrates, it does not take much for these elements to be viewed as heavy-handed.

A recent example of this which I have discussed before is the reaction to Rey in Star Wars: Episode VII. Rey has been relentlessly criticized for being a Mary Stu, a female character who is often overly skilled and is often viewed as the worst example of “feminist influence”. While it is reasonable to look at Rey’s progression in the film as being highly unrealistic, I just wonder if fans nitpick her progression as much as they nitpick Luke’s in Star Wars: Episode V or any male character’s in pretty much any movie. Can we all say that we have never seen a film where a male character ends up being a prodigy at whatever is important to the plot? Can we honestly say that we tore that characterization apart because it seemed too unrealistic, or did we embrace it and rejoice in how badass the character is?

With all of the bitterness and anger directed towards women on screen it seems that any female character who is on screen to do more than hook up with someone or be a damsel in distress is now viewed as unnatural and unwelcome. The same logic applies to minorities of any kind. If a black character is portrayed as heroic, intelligent and articulate, the movie is too politically correct. If a religious minority is represented as a fleshed out, sympathetic character then it is “propaganda”. Even better, the film is “pushing an agenda”. God forbid, if the film actually discusses discrimination of any kind openly, whether it is racism, sexism or homophobia . As another poster on IMDB said, he hopes The Revenant can win best picture since it is the movie that is a “non-agenda” movie.

Note: This post barely scratches the surfaces of all the things I want to say on this topic, so I will probably revisit the topic and get in the habit of blogging about other examples of this trend.

Works Cited

Dyer, R. (1997). White. London, UK: Routledge.

 

Star Wars: Episode VII-Not Life Changing, and a little disappointing (SPOILERS)

I took a while to start writing this post, mostly because I honestly didn’t know where to start.

Firstly, I would consider myself a pretty big star wars fan. I love the lore, the universe, the characters and I have seen all six movies. Like most, I do agree the acting and writing of the prequels is generally inferior, thanks to Hayden Christen and Jake Lloyd, but I still liked the world they created.

The Force Awakens is on track to potentially be the highest grossing film of all time (unadjusted for inflation) and it is easy to see why. Hype was unavoidable for Episode VII. Not only was it another Star Wars movie, but we were getting some of the most iconic characters back, along with their original actors. How could we not be excited?

I find that having high expectations for a movie can result in two extremes:

1) mindless praise since subjectivity becomes overshadowed by excitement

2) severe nitpicking because the movie couldn’t live up to very high expectations

This is why I always wait at least a day before truly sharing my thoughts on a film as hyped as Star Wars. After taking a day to collect my own thoughts and scour through news and comments online, I think I am finally ready to add my voice to thousands of others. Some might think, what is the point? I do this for my sanity and to quiet the debate raging in my head over the film’s merits.

1) General Thoughts

I didn’t get to see the film until Wednesday, by which time some of my friends shared their thoughts on how amazing the film was. Maybe that got my hopes up further.

Overall, I believe the film is a solid start to a new trilogy, a 7/10. In true nerd fashion I felt chills seeing the star wars logo on the big screen again, complete with the iconic music and text filling us in on what has happened since Episode VII.

Adam Driver was a standout as Kylo Ren, a character with emotional conflict and rage that truly resonated on screen. This was my first time seeing Driver and I look forward to checking out more of his work.

After Ex-Machina I was looking forward to seeing more of Oscar Isaac’s work but this role is a much smaller one in comparison. Although Isaac does well with what he has, his character does not have that much screen time and doesn’t get that much development. Here hoping that the sequels can better flesh out the ancillary and main characters.

Another Ex-Machina star, Domnhall Gleeson also appears and makes a speech at one point that truly stood out.

My biggest issues and the main reason I felt the need to write this post, were due to the two new central characters, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega).

I was happy to see that Abrams opted to use lesser known actors, which mimicked the casting practices of the original. Ridley’s first acting credit was in 2013, with a few episodes in different tv shows. Yet I couldn’t tell from her performance in this film. She is amazing in her role. Women will like seeing a strong female lead, while Ridley probably has a lot of new fans just due to her looks.

Next, is Finn. I loved Boyega in Attack The Block and I was very happy to hear that he got this role. When it was announced, I immediately saw this role as one that could help catapult his career. However, it looks like Ridley will benefit from it more. Her character has a bigger part in the film and her skin colour doesn’t bother some fans of the trilogy. It is a fact that Boyega was subject to hundreds of racist tweets when he was cast, and I think it is highly unlikely that every racist tweet came from online trolls who simply wanted attention. Racism is widespread online when discussing Boyega and his character. Hollywood has brainwashed audiences into seeing an all-white or mostly-white cast as a natural one. Hollywood has done this so well since its inception that inserting a black character into an intergalactic story comes across as forced. I would hate to know what the disgruntled racists think of blacks being cast in other movies.

As this movie confirms, Boyega is not meant to be a clone of Jango Fett. By this point in the story, a lot of troopers are no longer clones. So with worries of a black stormtrooper satiated, people still complain simply because they don’t like seeing a black character on screen. These are probably the same people that defend whitewashing since they are “colour-blind”. When a black actor is cast, there is no assumption that he got the role because he was the “best actor for the part”. People assume that the actor has no merit and was selected as some form of “reverse-racism” or “political correctness”.

Some people are arguing there was no need to change the race of characters, but nothing is being changed here, something is being added. If aliens don’t bother you, then black skin shouldn’t. I was discussing the film with a friend on thursday and although I know he is not a racist, he still said something that made it clear he was brainwashed by the whiteness of the mid-century originals. In his own mind, he thought all Jedi were supposed to be white. Although the originals never said or implied this, the on-screen presence of only white Jedis crafted this image. By the time A New Hope begins Jedi are nearly all dead, with Obi-Wan and Luke being the few ones left. We see a more diverse group of Jedi in the prequels, encompassing many human and alien races. Meanwhile, the only black character we get in the original films was Lando Calrissian.

I am not disappointed or angered at seeing a black character. I am disappointed that the black character is reduced to comic-relief and sidekick for the white protagonist (Rey). Boyega is a great actor and was best in the films during his character’s serious scenes. However, those scenes feel relatively scarce. Tie-in material reveals that he is a skilled soldier and marksman, but this is downplayed (emphasis on the word downplayed, we do see some of this) in order to provide a foil for Rey and her skills with the force and mechanics. While Rey is the capable, white heroine, Finn often comes across as the bumbling black sidekick. This comes after a marketing campaign that featured Boyega holding a lightsaber and facing off against Kylo Ren, almost making it look like he would be a Jedi. He is not and I think it was the marketing’s bait and switch that leaves me more disappointed with Finn’s role. While his character is brave, he ultimately is wounded and rendered unconscious by Kylo Ren. At the end of the film, after being saved by Rey numerous times, he is unconscious and in intensive care with the rebels while Rey flies off to meet Luke and presumably train with him.

Some people may not see what the issue is, but that is probably because they lack the proper perspective. There is nothing wrong with comic relief in itself, Han Solo was beloved comic relief in the original films, but black people have a record of disproportionately being used as comic relief in films. They are also routinely used as a supporting actor for a white lead. I was hoping to get something different from Finn, the first black lead in a Star Wars film. I have no doubt that racism plays a part in some of the criticism of Finn and Boyega, but I do believe some criticism of the role he was given is warranted. Yet I still have to ask: Would Boyega’s casting and his character get as much vitriol (i.e. comparisons to Jar Jar Binks) if he was only another white male lead in star wars? Or does his skin colour already indicate to some people that he does not belong?

I also have no doubt that sexism and the manosphere mentality that “sexism is dead and feminism is the enemy” contributes heavily to the criticisms of Rey. Hollywood brainwashing is at work again. Men rarely question the merits of the male hero who is good at whatever the plot requires him to be, and who is irresistible to the opposite sex. Why would they question this hero? It is the ultimate form of wish fulfillment. In contrast, seeing a strong female character, and one who does not hook up with anyone at the end of the story, renders their fantasies null and void. While a strong male character is pretty much taken for granted these days, a strong female one is often regarded as a Mary Sue, a female character who is “usually characterized by unprecedented skill in everything from art to zoology, including karate and arm-wrestling.” The term comes from a 1973 article by fanzine writer, Paula Smith, and is now used to refer generally to lazily-written female characters who are loved by all men and are special due to or in spite of their skills (I’m looking at you Bella Swan).

While I have to admit that Rey’s proficiency with the force seemed way advanced for a beginner, I think it is important to ask whether her character’s skill would get picked apart as much if she was a man. After all it is the fact that a woman is doing so well that leads people to criticize the character with terms like Mary Sue or “pc”. We don’t hear people venting over how much of a Marty Stu James Bond is and it seems that people are content to either justify or ignore these double standards.

Another part of this post that I initially struggled with, was how to end it. The paragraph above seemed like too abrupt an end, and I was tempted to continue with a deeper analysis of racism and sexism as it relates to film. Yet I couldn’t bother with that. I wrote my Master’s thesis on racism in film, I have written numerous blog posts and poetry pieces on racism, and have explored racism numerous times in my YouTube videos. I do not discuss the topic only for views or hits, but I still get tired of repeating the same arguments and repeatedly seeing them fall on deaf ears. For every comment that I get applauding my work, there are usually five from people whose defensiveness and anger causes them to resort to straw-man arguments and various other terrible arguments that ignore facts and help people feel more comfortable with the way they see the world. I have yet to experience someone commenting on any of my writing or videos, saying that I changed their mind and helped them see an issue in a different light. I have even had a (formerly) respected family friend accuse me of racism for using the term “my fellow blacks”, in the context of saying that it is a shame films like Joyride 2 and Barbershop 3 are expected to do well at the box office while ones like Selma face relative struggle.

If my point failed to get through to a lot of people with all the other pieces I have done I do not know if it is worth it to preach yet again. Hopefully people can understand where I am coming from.