Some Thoughts on the STAR WARS: EPISODE VII Casting Announcement and the Reaction To It

Some Thoughts on the STAR WARS: EPISODE VII Casting Announcement and the Reaction To It

After a year spent sucking the marrow from every stray casting
rumor and meager scrap of information, we finally know who the principal
players will be in Star Wars: Episode VII
– A New Menace
(which is what I personally believe the film’s going to be
called). LucasDisneyFilm has announced that, as suspected, the original cast
will be returning, and that they will be joined by “John Boyega, Daisy Ridley,
Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow.” To
which I say: I’m severely disappointed by the lack of an Oxford comma there. And
to which I also say: there had better be a scene where Max von Sydow’s character
plays holographic chess (Dejarik!)
with Darth Death.

 
Two observations seem in order—indeed, seem repeating and
emphasizing, since many others have already made them. One. Billy Dee Williams has gotten the shaft. Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie, and those adorable droids 3PO
and R2 will be in the picture, but they won’t be joined by Lando? (And if he
does turn up, then he’s still not part of the core cast?) Well, I guess he
wasn’t really part of the gang, after all. What, did Lucas stick the fellow in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi purely because people
wondered at the time where all the black people in that galaxy were? I guess he
did. Consider another childhood illusion irrevocably shattered.
 
Two. The internet quickly whipped itself into a frenzy over
the relative dearth (get it?) of women
actors in the new cast. Annalee Newitz penned a sharply-worded critique
of the omission over at io9, and Empire Magazine’s Helen O’Hara wasted no
time decrying similarly on Twitter.
And: it does boggle the mind that each Star
Wars
trilogy now features so few central female characters—two of whom have
been princesses, no less!—surrounded by what are, for the most part, hordes of
white dudes.
 
Of course, newcomer Daisy Ridley might turn out to be the
main character in this new trilogy—the Luke Skywalker or the Han Solo—and she
might prove to be the most butt-kicking Jedi Princess of all time. Obviously,
we can’t say anything substantive about the artistry of the films, since they
don’t exist yet. If we’d seen the casting news for Alien and Aliens, would
we have been able to predict what a feminist icon Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley
would become? The Bechdel
Test
is important, in that it articulates very well a prevailing sexist
deficiency in Hollywood, but it can’t be the only measure of a film’s quality,
or even a film’s politics. And I want to be clear that I like all these
actors—at least, the ones I recognize (most of them). May the Force be with them.
 
But here’s the thing. Disney, J. J. Abrams, and Kathleen
Kennedy aren’t buying themselves much good will here, or rather aren’t
buying as much good will as they could. And you think they would be approaching
this—the most anticipated film of the decade—more cannily. Abrams, it should be
mentioned, is coming off something of a debacle. His Star Trek films have been criticized for having too many male
characters, and for sexually objectifying their female characters. And even he
has admitted that he bungled the lead-up to Star
Trek Into Darkness
, and the way he toyed with fan expectations.
 
Meanwhile, the Star
Wars
Prequel Trilogy remains without doubt the most traumatic thing,
creatively speaking, to have happened to the geek community since—well, since ever. Fans were disappointed in those
films for many reasons—an overreliance on CGI that looked nothing like the
beloved aesthetic of the original trilogy, relentless scenes of expository
dialogue about trade regulations, the jarring shift in tone that saw characters
stepping in Bantha poodoo. But a large part of the problem was that the Prequel
Trilogy was… how shall we say it? A
racist and sexist horror show
. Jar-Jar, Watto, the Neimoidians, Natalie
Portman’s endless parade of false eyelashes and pretty dresses—it was all so
baldly offensive that fans could hardly believe what they were seeing. “It has
to be ironic?” we all asked, and to this day we are still asking that, because
we can’t bring ourselves to accept the obvious conclusion.
 
People will point out that the prequels still made a ton of
money, and they certainly did, but they probably didn’t rake it in like they
could have. Only Phantom Menace
cleared a billion dollars at the box office (and did so just barely), and Attack of the Clones dropped off sharply
after that. Simply put, Lucas left money on the table, and a bad taste in the
mouths of a lot of fans. Disney should be doing everything they can to change
that.
 
Instead, they’re creating more bad taste. No Lando. Only one
central woman. No fan-favorite Mara Jade—in
fact, the Expanded Universe no longer exists. And—why? If I were the person
making these movies (something I only occasionally pretend), I’d be asking
myself, “How can I bend over backward to give the people what they want?” Sure,
sure, I’d try to be Very Artistic in my bending. But given that these new
movies are such blank slates, the opportunity to reposition Star Wars front and center as the most
beloved movie franchise of all time, I’d be doing my damndest to figure out how
to do something Very Artistic with Mara Jade, and Lando, and a few other
characters of color to boot.
 
Here’s another way of looking at it. Star Wars: Episodes VII–IX aren’t “necessary” the way the previous
trilogies were. Sure, they’re financially
necessary (for Disney), and, sure, fans feel the need to line up for more films.
(I’m a fan; I’ll be there.) But these movies aren’t needed to continue or
resolve the story that’s told across the first six films, which are complete
within themselves. Return of the Jedi
wraps it all up pretty nicely, no? We’ve seen how Darth Vader grew up and got
seduced by Senator Palpatine, and then was redeemed by his son, and tossed the
Emperor down a hole. The second Death Star exploded, the Galactic Empire was
overthrown, and balance returned to the Force. The End.
 
What comes after that? Anything and nothing. The limitless
potential of narrative means there’s no shortage of stories that can be told, but there aren’t any Star Wars stories that have to be told. Abrams et al. are
effectively rebooting the franchise, and paving the way for an endless stream
of movies set in that galaxy far, far away. Given that, why not seize the
chance to restore some other imbalances, and undo the mistakes of the past?

A.D Jameson is the author
of the prose collection
Amazing
Adult Fantasy
(Mutable Sound, 2011), in
which he tries to come to terms with having been raised on ’80s pop culture, and the novel
Giant
Slugs
(Lawrence
and Gibson
, 2011), an absurdist retelling of the Epic of
Gilgamesh. He’s taught
classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lake Forest College,
DePaul University, Facets Multimedia, and
StoryStudio Chicago. He’s also the
nonfiction / reviews editor of the online journal
Requited. He recently
started the PhD program in Creative Writing at the University of Illinois at
Chicago. In his spare
time, he contributes to the group blogs
Big
Other
and HTMLGIANT. Follow him on Twitter at @adjameson.

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Nikky

Daisy Ridley is a prominent jazz singer, dancer and strong swimmer with a native London accent and a few minor television credits gathered over the past year. C
Read More At: Star Wars Casts Two new Faces in it’s new Season | Daisy Ridley & John Boyega

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