Politics & Policy

The Twitterverse Strikes Back against the Phantom Menace of Anti–Star Wars Racists!

According to my Twitter feed, gullible people are complaining —

I should just stop right there and wrap it up, right? After breaking news like that, where could I possibly go? But to be clear, they were complaining about people complaining about a black stormtrooper in the new Star Wars movie. I thought this was done. I thought this was debunked. Oh, there might well be people complaining that there is a black stormtrooper in the new Star Wars movie. There is probably a fellow somewhere right now in a grocery store complaining about ethnic monotony in the Rice Krispies cereal-box characters. There is certainly someone on the Internet banging out a complaint that the Pillsbury Doughboy embodies Caucasian privilege because he’s whiter than white and never gets put in the oven. Some people will always be mad at something for not being something else, and mad at you for not being as mad as they are. Every day is a festival of fuming. It’s fun! Gives you the illusion of purpose.

The “black stormtrooper” controversy exists mostly in the minds of people who know it must be true, because it would confirm what they know about evil dude-bros who watch NASCAR and cannot pronounce “macchiato.” They’d certainly expect that reaction from Southerners, whom they imagine sitting on the porch, whittling sticks into guns, silent except for the occasional shout to the child-bride: “Brandeen, dog’s got the baby agin I tol you to tie it up. No, tie up the baby.”

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Sigh. Pause. One speaks:

“Ah tell you, Cletus, ain’t no place for a white man no more. First they take away the Dukes of Hazzard collectible models down at the Walmart on accounta the flag, and now that new Star War movie there got a Negro innit.”

“You don’t say.”

“I do say. Saw it right there in the trailer.”

“You got a Star War movie in the trailer? I thought your TV’s broken.”

“I mean the movie trailer. On the Internet. Fella takes off his helmet? Black as the ace-a spades.”

“Cain’t be.”

“‘Tis. Imagine that. A naygro inna future, what does that tell you?”

“Seems downright uppity.”

Damn straight. [whittles bitterly] I mean, it was one thing for Lando Calrissian, played with cheerful duplicity by Billy Dee Williams, to show up as a figure from Han’s roguish past who’s now the leader of a vast suspended city, and later revealed to be a canny player of Imperial politics who did the right thing at the end when the nature of the Empire’s tyranny was revealed. Y’all could buy that, and I could buy Samuel L. Jackson’s turn as a somber Jedi whose final battle with Palpatine gave the Emperor the physical disfigurement that mirrored his inner evil. It often made me wonder whether these men came from a planet that was all-black, or whether other planets had a range of racial types like Earth. I think Star Trek deftly answered that question with the character of Tuvok, a black Vulcan, which suggested that other civilizations had incremental variations among the dominant species — but he’s on the poster, Cletus. I tell you the black stormtrooper is on the poster.”

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“The official poster? Damn. Well. [Pause.] You votin’ for Trump?”

“Yeah. Or Carson. I don’t know.”

It’s fun to tweak the outraged anti-Empire types, and ask when they became anti-government Posse Commitatus folk who would argue that the citizens of the Empire had a right to blasters to defend themselves.

Social media also lit up for a day with the (hoax) news that someone actually killed himself over the black-storm-trooper issue. Some people believed it. Or just passed it along for laughs. Or thought it was fake, but it revealed an actual truth. The Weekly Standard engaged in some tongue-in-cheek defense of the Empire, and my Twitter feed filled up with correctly arrayed individuals who took it seriously, because of course a neocon rag would justify blowing up an entire planet to show off its hot new weapon. I mean, these are the same people who sided with Israel in the Gaza war. It’s fun to tweak the outraged anti-Empire types, and ask when they became anti-government Posse Commitatus folk who would argue that the citizens of the Empire had a right to blasters to defend themselves. But it’s a mug’s game. The politics of Star Wars are a bleary mess, and despite George Lucas’s leaden attempts to graft contemporary meaning onto a story about men fighting each other with glowing fluorescent tubes while riding a rock in a river of lava, Star Wars really isn’t analogous to anything.

#share#The good thing about the sequels: The story doesn’t end with Episode VI anymore. I remember the conflicting emotions I had watching Return of the Jedi when it first appeared. I felt as if I should be stirred by the death of Darth Vader, who had just thrown his boss down a big hole. He did it for his son, whom he never knew, and whose hand he’d chopped off, but at the last minute he had followed the script. Sorry, his heart! He followed his heart. (Because the script said so.) When his helmet came off he looked like your thumb after you’ve been in the bath for an hour. Then he said something fatherly and died. The next time we saw him was the end of the trilogy, when Obi-Wan and Yoda showed up as glowing ghosts in the Force Afterlife while teddy bears did the Hustle. Apparently you can be the worst guy ever and kill billions of people, but throw the ultra-bad guy down the well, and it’s priority boarding for Heaven. It’s like Göring shooting Hitler in the bunker and getting a ticker-tape parade for it.

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Anyway. If Luke comes out in the new film wearing the Leia slave bikini; if Chewie marries Groot; if Han makes a big speech about how the end of the Empire means they can rebuild the galaxy along the lines of, say, Denmark; if the main villain is named Ben-Ghazi — then you might complain that you’re being Force-fed some political drivel. Even then it wouldn’t matter. Back to the guys on the porch:

“I can’t believe they had to put in that plot line ‘bout galactic warming.”

“I know.”

“And then Jabba the Hutt shows up all thin and makes a speech about high-fructose death syrup.”

“I know.”

“But that shot of the speeder goin’ past the crashed capital ship . . . that TIE fighter swarm—”

“I know.”

“Man, just seeing the Millennium Falcon again.”

“I know.”

So do I.

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