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Star Wars and activism

Contributed by
Jun 5, 2020

Welcome to STAR WARS WEEKLY, the SYFY WIRE series that rounds up the most important news of the week from a galaxy far, far away.

Things will be a little different this week. With the ongoing protests against police violence and calls for racial equality mounting around the world, we wanted to shine a light on what people related to Star Wars are doing to raise their voices, and take action.

STAR WARS

One of the most high-profile shows of support came from the official Star Wars Twitter account.

Though this statement mirrors the statements made across the Walt Disney Company, it was a meaningful first step. Some argued that if Star Wars believed in this statement, it would have hired more black filmmakers and actors by now — or more explicitly stood by actors of color like John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran when they faced racist backlash — and those are fair points.

Others criticized Star Wars for getting political, but it's important to remember that Star Wars was always political and reflected the times in which it was made. According to George Lucas, the classic trilogy was an anti-authoritarian rebuke of the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War.

The prequel trilogy was an allegory for how democracies fail, wilted from the inside by demagogues and monied interests, a theme that felt relevant during the George W. Bush years — and still feels relevant now.

It's striking that the sequel trilogy opened with a scene of what could be viewed as police violence. The stormtroopers pour out of their craft and are ordered to open fire on civilians. Only one stormtrooper refused: FN-2187.

In The Rise of Skywalker, we learned that those small rebellions happened all over the galaxy. Stormtroopers, inculcated to hate since their youngest days, rejected their programming when they knew it was wrong. A cogent message in a world where one person could make a difference in stopping brutality.

JOHN BOYEGA

Perhaps the actor with the highest profile discussing the issues of the day is John Boyega, who played Finn in the sequel trilogy. In The Force Awakens, Finn told Han Solo that he was a big deal in the Resistance, and Boyega is proving it in real life.

Boyega, in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, fully transformed his Twitter presence into a platform to talk about racism and starting conversations with his followers. None got more attention than this tweet:

Boyega was convinced that he would lose his career in Hollywood for leading a protest and speaking as frankly as he has, but the show of support from all sectors appears to be overwhelming.

Some of Hollywood's top actors and filmmakers chimed in to support him as well:

Not to mention Luke Skywalker himself:

AHMED BEST

Ahmed Best, the actor behind the (in my view) beloved Jar Jar Binks, has also used his platform on social media to speak out, as well as support Boyega. Best is a producer on the new show Jedi Temple Challenge, which was supposed to premiere this week. As reported by SYFY WIRE, Best requested, in light of the ongoing protests, that the show be postponed a week. Lucasfilm granted that request.

Best had already been on the promotion circuit for the show, including this heartfelt interview on Good Morning America.

And he noted how difficult it was to post anything during these trying times, but his son convinced him that hope was needed:

OTHER STAR WARS LUMINARIES

Other Star Wars luminaries have chimed in to add their support to the Black Lives Matter movement. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some highlights.

First is Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian in three Star Wars films, most recently The Rise of Skywalker.

Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in six Star Wars films, chimed in, and has been very active on social media boosting other voices.

Dave Filoni, the mind behind Star Wars: The Clone Wars and one of the chief architects behind The Mandalorian, also took to social media to show support for Black Lives Matter.

Writers in the Star Wars Universe have made their feeds resources for activism, like E.K. Johnston, whose new Star Wars book, Queen's Peril, came out this week.

Even the legendary Star Wars poster artist Drew Struzan made a statement.

It's natural for a cultural phenomenon like Star Wars to be used to help us understand the world in times of stress. Generations heard its message loud and clear: Stand up for what's right, and stand together — even if it's just one person, everyone can make a difference.

"The First Order," Poe Dameron said in The Rise of Skywalker, "wins by making us think that we're alone. We're not alone."

"There are more of us, Poe," Lando tells him later. "There are more of us."

Until next week, stay safe and may the Force be with you.

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