Hyper-Tokenism: ‘The Force Awakens’ While the Black Man Sleeps

Hyper-Tokenism: 'The Force Awakens' While the Black Man Sleeps

From the moment the original trailer debuted earlier this year, J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the “Star Wars” franchise, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for its new owner, Disney, stirred controversy and curiosity with the sudden entrance of a Black man into the middle of the screen. As racists choked the internet with hateful comments regarding the sudden appearance of a Black man as the first human image revealed in what would be the triumphant return of this beloved global film franchise, those “Star Wars” fans who happened to be Black reveled in anticipation for the character we now know as Finn who is performed by London-born actor of Nigerian descent, John Boyega.

As a franchise known primarily for its careful placement of Black token characters performed by recognizable Black actors like, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Cairissian in the original trilogy and Samuel L. Jackson as Jedi Master Mace Windu in the subsequent prequels trilogy, the original “The Force Awakens” trailer seemed to suggest that, with Disney’s 4 billion dollar purchase of the “Star Wars” franchise, and the coronation of J.J. Abrams (handpicked and lobbied for by none other than blockbuster wunderkind, Steven Spielberg himself) as the new director at the helm, these profound changes seemed to suggest that the “Star Wars” franchise would shift into a mode of greater diversity in regards to the race and gender of its principal characters than ever before.

But alas, a curious thing happened on the way to a galaxy far, far away… The character of Finn as the penultimate symbol of racial inclusiveness for this franchise reboot is knocked unconscious during a climactic battle scene in the final act of the film, and he remains unconscious for the rest of the film. While this is not the first, nor will it be the last time that a character has been held in abeyance at the end or the beginning of a series installment, whether knocked unconscious, frozen in “carbonite”, abandoned or running away to a hidden land, world or fortress, robotic parts separated and/or power disconnected – the unconsciousness of Finn throughout the final act of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” as I shall discuss it here in this piece, reveals to us that, White Hollywood, as we near the beginning of the last year of Obama’s presidency, is ushering in a new and more powerful form of racial tokenism.

The Finn character, from the moment we saw him as the first image in the original trailer, to the moment he was knocked unconscious and remained unconscious throughout the final act of the film, is a manifestation of what I will call: Hyper-tokenism in the White film.

Hyper-tokenism in a White film can be defined as the marked increase in screen time, dramatic involvement and promotional images of a Black character in a White film, while simultaneously reserving full dramatic agency as the providence of White characters by the end of the film. (1)

Dramatic agency is measured by the ability of a character to change, influence, control and/or survive the circumstances within a story. White supremacy is maintained within a White film by the ability of a White character to change, influence, control and/or survive the circumstances within a story through the seduction of the spectator into not questioning this ability. The seduction of the spectator is primarily performed through costly CGI effects, high production values and skillful editing. (2)

If tokenism was an effective method of securing a Black audience for a single White film in the years before Obama’s presidency, then Hyper-tokenism is an effective method for securing a Black audience for a series of White films that are part of a film franchise during the Obama presidency.

Hyper-tokenism increases the profile of the Black character(s) within a White film with greater screen time, greater involvement with the circumstances, but – and this is very important – in the final act of the film, dramatic agency must be completely controlled by the White characters. Hyper-tokenism has a latent affect upon the consciousness of the Black spectator in that it allows the Black spectator to hope, imagine or believe that the Black character will be given more dramatic agency in the subsequent films of the franchise, and therefore secures Black viewer loyalty and Black money to fill the coffers of the White controlled studio with its massive profits gained from the reboot of beloved film franchises, like “Star Wars.”

But the films in these franchises will remain White films. In the context of the “Star Wars” franchise, full dramatic agency (the ability to influence, change, control and survive the dramatic circumstances within the story) is defined ultimately by a “selected” character’s ability to wield “the force” by intuition or training – the decision to not give Finn this final defining characteristic forces (no pun intended) this character into a supporting role for the Whites who are wielding this power. But when we add the fact that Finn is rendered unconscious for the final act of the film (not even able to applaud the efforts of his White cohorts) it can be said that we were not really following the heroic exploits of the Finn character so much as we were being led “by the nose” as it were, to a point where dramatic agency is ultimately still the providence of the White characters in the film.

Thus, Finn is really a “hyper-token” given more screen time than usual for a token and a modicum of dramatic agency (as long as he is aiding those other non-black characters), but rendered useless in the final act of the film because the White filmmakers were not capable of sharing equal dramatic agency among the White and Black characters. The film still resolves itself upon the emotional circumstances of its White characters, while simultaneously holding Finn’s circumstance in abeyance for yet another film where I would wager a similar manifestation of Hyper-tokenism will be followed. (3)

Another latent effect of Hyper-tokenism upon the consciousness of the Black spectator is that the White controlled studio can release tantalizing information concerning the future production of a singular film concentrating solely on the exploits or back-story of the Black character(s), release graphic novels that concentrate more on the Black character(s), or promise to increase the role or the roles of Black characters in subsequent films to keep the Black audience’s loyalty to the franchise, even as the subsequent films to be produced remain as White films.

Yet the most destructive aspect of Hyper-tokenism is not actually found within dramatic boundaries of the White films themselves, but instead in how Hyper-tokenism seduces the Black audience to remain loyal to White film franchises and White controlled film studios who are only exploiting that loyalty as a means of increasing the box office of their White films, with little to no intention of increasing the budgets, number of productions or worldwide distribution of Black films. Moreover, hyper-tokenism takes a toll on the creative consciousness of Black filmmakers and writers in the sense that it makes it even more difficult to breech the loyalty of the Black audience from White films that have Hyper-Tokens and get that Black audience to support Black films where Black characters can exercise full dramatic agency without the approval of White characters or the guidance of the “White Savior Trope.”

The battle for racial inclusiveness and equality in the cinema begins and ends with the degree of dramatic agency that is shared among characters of different races and genders within a film’s story. Black representation in White film must not solely be based on the presence of a Black actor or actors within that White film, but instead we have to understand that it is the degree of dramatic agency that the Black character wields within the context of the White film that ultimately determines whether that Black actor is used as a token or as a fully realized dramatic entity.

A few other critics have noted the lack of dramatic agency of the Finn character in nominal configurations such as: his inability to comprehend “droid speak”, “Wookie speak” and other languages that come easily to the White characters; inability to pilot spacecraft; lack of weapons knowledge even though he was a Stormtrooper; and finally his lack of knowledge of “the resistance” when in fact as a Stormtrooper he would have known whom the Empire considered its enemies. These nominal inabilities are contradicted by Finn’s ability to wield a light saber with no training; his courage in various battles; his decision to leave the Empire; his choice to return to participate with the rebels of the resistance.

The pointing out of such contradictions in the consistency and the ability of the Black character to wield dramatic agency in a White film is often seen as “nit-picking” from loyal fans – both White and Black – of a White franchise film because, as long as the film ends with full White dramatic agency, there is less spectator investment in questioning the loose ends or the problematic construction of the Black hyper-token. The White filmmakers have the noblesse oblige to say to Black critics, ”Hey, be glad that we even cast a Black in this film,” and Black loyal fans can say, ”Thank you for casting one of us,” by their ticket purchases, glowing reviews and repeat viewings.

One could say that the age of the Hyper-Token Black character in a White film franchise (and even the cable television series) is a consequence of the Obama presidency. Those liberal Whites who voted for Obama, of which many Hollywood studio execs, White writers, directors and producers are a part, could no longer justify the lack of diversity in their films with their “supposed” racial tolerance. But these liberal Whites cannot and will not concede full dramatic agency to a Black character, and nor will they share that agency equally between White and Black characters in a film; the Hyper-Token Black character is the compromise position that allows the White filmmakers the ability to feign racial diversity and tolerance, while retaining White control over the dramatic agency in a series of films.

But much like how the election and reelection of Barack Obama as the nation’s first Black president can do nothing to stem the violent injustices against Blacks around the country by law enforcement, racist terrorists, ineffectual Grand Juries, blind-eye prosecutors, hung juries and other sundry inequalities – because in the final act, Whites can insure that they can influence, change, control and survive the circumstances of their perfidy – so also is this political condition reflected within White controlled filmed entertainment as dramatic agency that supports a White supremacist illusion of dominance.

The need to “Make America Great Again” as Trump’s campaign slogan tells his White male supporters is really a discrete code to “Make America White Again” by returning the Hyper-Token Black male in the form of Barak Obama back to his subordinate place in the domestic and global racial hierarchy. That “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ends with a powerful White female returning a legendary light saber to an aged and seasoned Luke Skywalker, fulfills the both the slogan and the code in the minds of those spectators of a return to greatness as a return to Whiteness (read: White male hetero-normativity).

As the force awakens, it is no surprise that the Black man within the film remains unconscious during the final act because, in many ways, the Black man watching the White film is unconscious also…

But is he content to remain so?

***

Andre Seewood is author of  “(Dismantling) The Greatest Lie Ever Told To The Black Filmmaker.” Pick up a copy here.
***

NOTES

(1) For a full discussion of the definition of a White film and a Black film please see the article: Towards Defining the Black Film: The Genuine, The Compromised and

the Token.

(2) For a full discussion of other techniques of White supremacist illusions in cinematic narration please see the series of articles, Black Film Theory 1, 2, and 3.

(3) For a comparison discussion of traditional Black tokenism in a White film please

see the article: The Black Character in White (“Interstellar”) Cinematic Space

This Article is related to: Features and tagged


Comments

Roy

I noticed in the work of J. J. Abrams how black male characters are either conspicuously absent, or ineffectual. In Abrams most notable television work (Lost) the character Michael Dawson, played by Harold Perrineau is a father unable to successfully parent his child Walt. The Walt character is seldom seen, and builds a stronger bond with the John Locke character, played by Terry O’Quinn. In the Star Trek film series black male characters are seldom seen or heard. Star Trek: Into Darkness, a film that stresses the importance of family, and sacrifice for family features a diversity of male characters with the clear exception of even one Black male. I don’t point this out to suggest the Abrams is racist, although I do believe it is intentional. It is worth noting that J. J. Abrams is 5’7". A short man who by his own admission was seldom selected to play sports as a youngster. Black males are overwhelming portrayed in films and television as athletic and larger than life. I think Abrams marginalization of black male characters in his projects is a reaction to his marginalization from sports as a youth.

Dirk Diggler

If Finn is the penultimate symbol of racial inclusiveness, what’s the last symbol of racial inclusiveness?

Or should I just assume that you have no idea what penultimate means?

Brian McInnis

R.O.T.F.L.

CareyCarey

Andre, on second thought, I missed it. The question was "why are so many Whites (and non-White sympathizers) so obviously hurling greater racist insults, espousing deeper racist stereotypes and contradictory explanations as a means of rebuttal against my opinions and theories?" Simple answer: It’s a means of discharging their guilt and an act of "fronting".

CareyCarey

@ Andre Seewood, man, you’re working me this morning. However, it’s a good thing. It’s like the feelings of accomplishment, joy and relief I receive after a strenuous physical workout. So thank you! You might ask "Carey, how exactly did I take you there?" Well, first, you ran me to my dictionary. I had no idea what "cognitive dissonance" meant, now I do. In the context of this post/racial issue, you referred to it as a "racial catch-22". I’ll remember it as "a mind that’s stuck in the middle"… damned if I do, damned if I don’t. That said, in order for me – and assume others – to understand you a wee bit better, in the words of S&A’s Sergio, I had to break all this down to the level of a 5th grader. Com’ on now, you know you’re an intellectual whose critical study, thoughts and reflections about the realities of the film world, frequently flies over common folks heads. But all goodbye is not gone. I took my time to get it right. So, in layman’s terms I asked why have some rebutted your opinions/assertions in foolish ways? Again, in layman’s terms there’s an innate human desire to stay comfortable. I agree. I believe all humans seek a place of comfort which includes a peace of mind. Which explains the "push-back" when something or someone disrupts said comfort. In the case of some whites, in the context of this post, you’re saying their innate desire to stay in their comfort zone puts them in a catch-22, damned if they agree and damned if they don’t, so they blame others, and reject and deny your assertions. Because truth be told, as you said, whites who are not racist, nevertheless benefit from the oppression of people of color. And "benefits" is a means to attain and maintain comfort. OH MY, that’s so clear to me now. Thank you so very much for this conversation. Not only has it given me an abundance of insight into the mindset film-goers and filmmakers, it affirms what I believe is a serious problem with those stuck in the grips, the horrible world of drug and alcohol addiction… a subject I may know a little something about and is dear to my heart. Thanks again.

André Seewood

@Troublemaker, I’m not underestimating the intelligence of the Black audience, I’m saying that hyper-tokenism is a new and more seductive means through which White controlled Hollywood can secure the Black audience for White film franchises. Tokenism itself inspires and plays upon that hope that Black actors will get better roles, but in the words of Matt Damon they’ll never run "the show". More on come.

Troublemaker

@Andre Seewood I get where you are coming from but I think it is very important that you mentioned the black characters with the most significant roles in the film to prove your point. You can’t make a strong argument for hyper-tokenism and ignore the other black person in the film. You have to show how the other black character’s role plays in hyper-tokenism without getting into a discussion that it was more than hyper-tokenism.
Another thing I wanted to address is that you seem to underestimate the intelligence of the black audience. Most black folks know what they are in for when they go to see these films. I really think that most showed up to support both black actors in hopes that this worldwide exposure will lead to better roles.

Andre Seewood

@CareyCarey, That’s a great question: Why do I believe many White folks [and non-White sympathizers] are rejecting my opinions? First, everyone has a right to reject or accept a theory or opinion that has been put forth by me or anyone. But what your question really asks is why are so many Whites (and non-White sympathizers) so obviously hurling greater racist insults, espousing deeper racist stereotypes and contradictory explanations as a means of rebuttal against my opinions and theories? Here the answer is quite simple: Not all Whites agree with the systemic and institutional racism upon which this country is founded and maintained, but ALL White people benefit in some way, shape or form from these systems and institutions, whether they want to or not. (I’m paraphrasing a great truism from Charles W. Mill’s book, The Racial Contract.) This creates a large amount of cognitive dissonance within the explicit racists who know that they are benefiting from the oppression of people of color, but want to maintain a front of not being racist. It also creates a large amount of guilt in those Whites who are not racist but who are involuntarily benefiting from the oppression of people of color. The only way out psychologically from this racial catch-22 is to choose between two mutually exclusive "comfort" illusions: 1) To call anyone who cites racial inequities, injustices and differences a racist; and 2) To deny that race is a factor at all. Both positions only bring comfort to those who are benefiting from the racial oppression of people of color, but do nothing to solve, change or influence racial inequities, injustices and differences. Those of us (White, Black and others) who have a conscious and are striving to change things for the better of us all, must continue in our struggle at all costs, because if we fall asleep, grow bitter or lose our will, those who are merely comforting themselves will continue to do so without interruption- no matter how many Black lives are unjust murdered by law enforcement and no matter how many Ghettos are created and maintained by systemic racism practices within various institutions.

CareyCarey

"while simultaneously reserving full dramatic agency for the providence of White characters." @ Andre, lets go there. Well, I am sure… because of your many writings/articles on this issue, that you’ve covered the dynamics, goals, purpose and rewards of the above action, but since I and many others have missed the point, could you reiterate? But first, I’ll share what I believe you’ve been suggesting. Many are pushing-back at your central point that "color" matters in most films. And I’ve wondered why? Well, going back to your piece on "why whites don’t like black films" you suggested that one reason they didn’t enjoy black film was their lack of empathy for the black character and/or his/her struggles… or something to that degree. In this article many are pushing back at the suggestion that the black character (Fin) was added as an act of hyper-tokenism. I got it and I agree. But again, many have said this article and the latter are ridiculous… and again I wondered why they feel that way? Well, in my studies I’ve read that whenever a black character enters a story-line, great care, caution and research have been applied to find out how said character will affect the bottom line (read white and black viewership). And I can’t help but assume the great white minds behind the films in question is aware of such studies. Not only are they aware of the research, they "hear" and they’ve heard the feedback of those who reject the intrusion, if you will, of black images in roles that have been exclusively reserved for whites only. So again, why do you believe many white folks are rejecting your opinions? Granted, it can be argued that many producers/directors do not have a sinister, a racist or diabolical ulterior motive behind their casting of black actors. However, I am more than sure every directors knows "color blind casting" is a myth, a pipe-dream is you will. Every director knows color matters. To that point, I can safely assume every director gives great attention to how a character’s color may affect their bottom line. Again, I understand, but why can’t others? Are they unconsciously protecting or denying this–> "reserving full dramatic agency for the providence of White characters" in fear of being wrongfully accused of supporting unfavorable human relations?

Andre Seewood

@Troublemaker, The push-back discussions regarding this article are not centered on your assessment of the weakness of the argument being that I did not mention the caricature of Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata. The push-back is centered on an issue that I addressed within the article, but many fail to contemplate and that is that,…the most destructive aspect of Hyper-tokenism is not actually found within dramatic boundaries the White films themselves, but instead in how Hyper-tokenism seduces the Black audience to remain loyal to White film franchises and White controlled film studios who are only exploiting that loyalty as a means of increasing the box office of their White films, with little to no intention of increasing the budgets, number of productions or worldwide distribution of Black films." The fact that Lupita Nyong’o’s body was hidden behind an insipid caricature is something worse than tokenism or even hyper-tokenism, that has more to do with the problematizing of the Black female body under the White gaze. This is a subject that warrants are separate article to address and discuss. Also in comparing this article to the other article on INTERSTELLAR it must be noted that the piece on INTERSTELLAR addresses traditional tokenism in a White film, whereas this article addresses the new changes in tokenism in White films as a response to the election of the Nation’s first Black president which forces White filmmakers to find new and more seductive ways to enlarge the screen time and dramatic involvement of Black characters while simultaneously reserving full dramatic agency for the providence of White characters. This article traces these changes in tokenism that have the same affect as traditional tokenism, but with a greater seductive influence.

Troublemaker

@ Carey Carey Like I said before I didn’t watch the film so I didn’t know Lupita’s character was so brief in the film but I’m still surprised the author didn’t comment. In Interstellar, David Oyelowo’s character was in for only a half a second and the author gave that about 2 or 3 paragraphs. I don’t know how he got 2 or 3 paragraphs on that character but he some how did it. If he can get 2 or 3 paragraphs for that David’s character, he sure can get the same for Lupita’s character. I think it would have made his argument for tokenism more stronger.

bill

Star wars 7 is racist. Finn was useless.

Miles Ellison

"White people could care less about what color a character in a fictional character in a movie is?" I guess the anger about the black character in Thor, the black character in The Hunger Games, or the black character in The Pelican Brief were figments of some PC fever dream.

CC

OUCH!!!! Don’t hurt’em Andre. Yet, trite but true, no pain no gain. I’ve noticed that some of the folks behind the more ignorant comments are gaining an education via your replies. But apparently the cost, the pain of that education has them in deep contemplation while they lick their wounds, seldom returning to continue the discussion they initiated. Then again, maybe they’re simply ashamed or embarrassed at being put in check and made to look like a fool.

Andre Seewood

@Brian Williams, That,"…white people could really care less about what color a fictional character in a movie is," is really a confession of racial insensitivity, if not an expression of racism in an of itself. Such a declaration betrays a blinker perspective on race and culture that normalizes the White race in an effort to not see racial differences, inequities and cultural nuances that are always considered during the casting of a fictional movie, whether one wants to admit it or not. Your conclusion that "Whitie [sic] isn’t trying to belittle or hold the black man down by way of the film industry, the black culture of today has accomplished that all on its own," betrays your own racist perspective against Blacks and Black culture- so it should behoove you to "get a life" and realize that if there is any conspiracy it is the conspiracy of ignorance that gives you the confidence to express such nonsense as you have without conscience or moral authority.

Brian williams

I know there are a lot of black racist that think white people sit around all day long obsessing over black folks and trying to come up with new ways to bring them down. Hate to tell you racist, but white people could really care less about what color a fictional character in a movie is. The only racist people who obsesse over such things are black. Whitie isn’t trying to belittle or hold the black man down by way of the film industry, the black culture of today has accomplished that all on its own. Get a life, the world does not revolve around a conspiracy against black people.

Andre Seewood

@Kay, (Not)Passing for White is not the same as (hyper)tokenism. I’m sorry if you are confused.

Kay

Because apparently Oscar Issac is not latino and was able to speak to bb-8 and chewbacca nor was he the Resistance’s best pilot according to General Leia.

Yes, you were nitpicking, but at the expense of erasing a person of color that isn’t white passing in the slightest.

CareyCarey

Troublemaker, lean in so nobody else can hear this. I’ve seen the film… there are no other distinguishable black characters. The black actress Lupita Nyong’o played the part of a thousand year old thing, who most couldn’t even recall being in the film. Troublemaker, as I’ve told others, hold your wisdom until…

Troublemaker

@CareyCarey I hear you but the author’s argument is very weak and allow himself to be open to attacks because he chose to ignore the other black character(s) in the movie. I haven’t seen the film and I’m in no hurry because I already know how it goes down. When the author critiqued Interstellar he talked about both token black characters and their parts in the film.

Oh please

He’s a token black guy because he was pushed into a film saga that was all about skywalkers.. finn’s story was not written into the cannon previously. But hey we got stuck with him because of SJW’s and now we have to contend with idiots like the author that insist that it’s somehow convolutedly really racist…

Lynnette

(from a white girl) – I agree with all this, and it puts to words the feeling I got from the film. I don’t think I’d go so far to think it’s a conspiracy to hold blacks down from films, so much as doing what gets the best audience attendance and reaction (ie, $$). But another point that no one seems to be talking about is that Boyega seemed to play a very stereotypical black guy, sidekick role – he was more heart than head, overly enthusiastic, overly/fakely masculine, naive, simple-minded, and worked in sanitation (really??). in sum, he was a neutral, simple/uncomplicated football-player type character. I want to know when Hollywood is going to cast a complex, well-developed, smart/cunning black character that is a true leader. Then I’d be impressed. Until then, I agree it’s just tokenism (and stereotyping).

IG-88

Vader wore it for a reason but when this guy takes it off, we got ourselves a brooklyn hippie. I was looking for the hair bun. I think the bad guys actual goal was to gentrify the universe. Look at the struggle luke had pulling a saber out of the snow in empire strikes back, but this stupid a$$ young girl is an expert?

IG-88

Besides all the Finn issues there were so many other problems. You mention star wars and all the guys that still live with their parents chime in. I’ve had it and I’m giving up on these movies. First, you have a bad guy who isn’t scary. Well he was in the very beginning but then you give him temper tantrums. He can stop a blaster shot in midair in the beginning, but toward the end he has problems fighting two people not trained in using sabers? And why does this bad guy wear the mask?

CareyCarey

Troublemaker, I understand, so lets move on b/c there’s bigger fish to fry. The biggest and arguably the most relevant fish can be found in Andre’s comment Dec 28 1:43PM. Beyond that, look at how the white folks are venting on this post. Most are NOT attempting to refute Andre’s argument with supporting facts. They’re merely venting their frustrations. That reminds me, I’ve always believed that Shadow and Act is a perfect place to study human behavior. Anyway, what’s your opinion on why white folks are pushing back so hard against this post? I ask because they don’t come in hordes to share in our joy. They don’t comment when we are praising one of ours. So why now?

Said in LA

The greatest lie ever told is this article

Troublemaker

@CareyCarey I don’t understand what you are saying. "these profound changes seemed to suggest that the "Star Wars" franchise would shift into a mode of greater diversity in regards to the race and gender of its principal characters than ever before." I thought people thought that way when Samuel Jackson was added to the last 3 and look how that turned out. The franchise still made money. There was no black writer, director or producer on this new Star Wars. So why would folks think that this new Star Wars would be any different?

Zeddi

I think this is a major reach. This story is about a family, the Skywalkers. EVERYONE else will have less relevance. Solo got killed, an important android character was iut of commission for the majority of the film. I think that Asains have much more to be "concerned" about with this installment than the Black community.

CareyCarey

@Rod Diaz, I would suggest that you hold your wisdom because your logic is 180 degrees removed from the historical developments of this nation. Case in point, lets analize your comment—> "Circular logic as it may be, this sort of keenness to find, assign, and exaggerate perceived notions of "inequality" and "injustice" are a major part of why society has backslid in terms of "race" relations." Oh my! let me point out that two of the greatest orators, brothers of the struggle, champions of the cause, Martin Luthor King and Malcolm X, used their voices to fight "inequality" and "injustice" in this world. Without them painstakingly pointing out (analizing) said inequalities, would laws have been changed for the betterment of mankind? Without them voicing their opinion, would blacks, mexicans and other people of color been given their civil rights and afforded the opportunity to vote in this nation!? Rod Diaz, check yourself, don’t be so quick to show your peacock of wilful ignorance b/c history has proven your logic to be total poppycock. Lastly, you used the word "backslid". By definition that means "relaspe into bad ways". So I have to ask, what is your reference point? Are you one of those who champion the phrase "we need to take this country back to the good ‘ol days … Back to a day when people of color should be seen but not heard." I ask because your opinion that this article is baseless hyper-sensitivity seems to suggest such.

Rod Diaz

We’ll chalk this up to "hyper-sensitivity" rather than "hyper-tokenism" and a spectator being far too "Awoken" during a film which inherently demands suspension of disbelief. Every bit of your complaint can just as easily be explained by the Finn character being the audience’s (made up by members of any and all colors) window into the narrative. He isn’t a superman nor a jack of all trades, which subtly makes him arguably the most relatable character. My opinion of Boyega’s acting ability aside, that is a testament to his character’s place in the continuty – but only to those of us not viewing everything through the the lens of identity politics. Circular logic as it may be, this sort of keenness to find, assign, and exaggerate perceived notions of "inequality" and "injustice" are a major part of why society has backslid in terms of "race" relations. Respectfully, it will only continue and get worse so long as diatribes such as these persist within society, as part of a larger "empowerment" and "liberation" ideology being used to drive social engineering…much of which you will no doubt find most unappealing. However, victimhood is a strong impetus for polarizing and manipulating a demographic. Only as strong as one’s willingness to subscribe to it.

Andre Seewood

@Meee, Just because something has been done a hundred times before in films, doesn’t make it right, true or impervious to criticism and critique. The blind acceptance and defense of "something" that has been done a hundred times before can be thought of as a willful ignorance similar to someone saying that just because a few hundred unarmed Black people have been killed by Law enforcement in the past decade in this country doesn’t mean there is a problem because we now have a Black president. "But of course POC have to put their dark clouds on everything don’t they! Grow up!" To which I would ask,"Is ignorance really bliss?"

MEEE

This is such ridiculous hypersensitive crap. Give me a break!! As a person of color I am embarrassed! This character was a major character in the film and his unconciousness at the end was a teaser for the next episode where we are meant to feel for him and his future with the female lead! It’s been done a hundred times before in films! But of course POC have to put their dark clouds on everything don’t they!! Grow Up!!

CareyCarey

Thank You Andre. I,as a black man, hear your message loud and clear. Its concise and understandable. I also understand why some white folks may not hear and/or may deny the message. In regards to black screen images, as you so eloquently and continually have stated, they are looking through a totally different paradigm than most POC. Again, thanks.

Andre Seewood

@CareyCarey, Man, that’s a damn good question. But if pressed, I think the purpose here is to help us gather our strength to produce, direct, write and distribute our own works for people of color around the world and by people of color around the world. Concomitantly, Whites can better educate themselves to on how to cure themselves from their sickness of White psycho-pathology and realize that the world is a better place when doors of perception are no longer white washed, but can be opened to see humanity in all of its colors, shapes and cultures as all of equal merit and importance. But the real target of my writing is help encourage us to overcome that self-doubt which murders some of the best ideas, strangles our ambition and often forces us to give in to the dominant as the only will and way. It is a tough row to hoe, but it has to be done- because the uplift must start from within- it cannot solely be done from without. I think that only by careful study of what is oppressing us, can we fully understand how we may have unwittingly internalized that oppression which leads so many to give in to it as the only solution. So we must map our enemy, study his terrain, his motives and his changes so that our work can inspire others to break free, if you will. Break from from this illusion of White supremacy in all of its permutations and institutions. Take nothing for granted; challenge everything because there is always a blind spot and a voice unheard that needs to be heard. As French filmmaker Robert Bresson once said," Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen."

CareyCarey

Hey naysayers, hold your wisdom, don’t be so quick to share your thoughts. You may have misdiagnosed in a moment, ultimately finding out (and shouting to the world) you’re not as smart/wise as you think you are. Hopefully you’ll learn not to be so cynical, so conclusive, so premature in your judgement/understanding. To that point, I love-love-love reading/listening to critical thinkers such as Andre Seawood. That said, I do have a question for him, that I’ll frame as "What’s it all about?". Well, let me go back. When Andre first hit this scene, I was in that group of individuals who pooh-pooed practically everything he said. Yes sir, I was one of those who DIDN’T hold their wisdom. In retrospect, I believe I pushed back because he was putting a hurtin’ on me. In other words, he was telling me/us things/truths I didn’t want to hear. In one such case he was busting out my main man, my most favorite filmmaker, Spike Lee. Well, he wasn’t dragging him through the mud but he was pointing out common themes in his films, of which I didn’t agree with. That reminds me, it has been said that there are 4 things that humans find very difficult to admit. 1) I don’t know. 2) I was dead wrong. 3) I am sorry. 4 I love you. So I understand why some African Americans are disparately pushing back at your article. Nobody likes admitting that they were wrong or that they’ve been led astray, duped, or played for a fool. For me, although Andre’s analysis of Lee’s films held merit, in my moment of emotional disgust/upheaval I didn’t have the courage to admit it, let alone tell him so. Yep, he was "right" in many ways. But now I’m thinking (and it’s safe to say others are as well) what are we suppose to do with this newly found knowledge/wisdom/analysis? @ Andre, if what you say is true, what’s the purpose behind you giving this knowledge to us? Some call it a simple act of race baiting. Personally, I do not believe that’s your mission. But again, in moving forward, what would you suggest are the rewards of reading your article and what kind of seed can "we" plant… what can we possibly do to dissuade others from continuing this pattern of stunt casting? In short, what’s it all about Mr. Seawood… what’s your purpose?

Film_Douche

Representation in film will never satisfy people like the author of this article. Instead of simply enjoying the fact that protagonist one and two are a woman and black man, you have to nitpick and invent new buzzwords to feel self-righteous about. Whatever problems the script might have had has NOTHING to do with the race or gender of the main characters. If Rey and Finn were two white guys, would you be complaining about being knocked out?

I Can't Tell

The way Sergio ‘strategically’ places Boyega in all the star wars posters, you’d think he was THE only story line. Star wars is typical in its everything. The ‘western world view’ must be propagandized at all cost. Yet, any REAL history buff KNOWS; Everything White means it was stolen plundered from countries WITH resources. These days Europe produces nothing but Dresses.

CC

Oh Please please please, Mrs. OH PLEASE. How did you fix your mouth to let ignorance fall out? It’s you who are deceiving and fooling no one except yourself. We, those who’re defending the author, are merely defending "right". Now, if you cannot understand that, you obviuosly have not lived long enough to acquire "mother wit".

Lauren

For some folks the glass is always half full. Young brother Boyega having the ride of a life time and you gotta put your stank on it. smdh

Oh Please

Enjoyed the film and Finn was not a token. This article is race baiting BS. Those who defend the author in this thread are clearly the same person defending for the SAKE of defending. You are fooling no one.

ACR

I have now seen this movie and I have to say that I feel that the focus of this article in regards at least to this film is misplaced. Star Wars, The Force Awakens had one of the most diverse casts have seen in a film with this level of Hollywood investment. The actor playing Finn did not have a single element that I found to be stereotypical and the fact that he was rendered unconscious near the end did not have even the least negative effect on his heroism. It also should not be overlooked that the character "last standing" although white was a woman, which I found to be wonderful. The main fighter pilot was Latino and he was joined by pilots of a variety of races and ethnicities (including Alien); Han Solo and General Leia’s son looked like an Aztec warrior; and the commander of the Resistance base was Asian. Not to mention a constant stream of minor and atmosphere characters of a myriad of differing races. This new Star Wars fills me with optimism regarding the level of diversity a film can have with no effect on potential profit.

Hector R Alvarez

I think The Force Awakens is a wonderful story. It follows the Hero’s Journey perfectly and honorably. Rey falls in love with Finn because he has a heart of gold. All this racist mambo jumbo is childish and ignorant. We should concentrate on the message of the story and learn how to be like these hero’s who are defiant to evil, resilient to the end and justice is in their hearts for the galaxy to see.

kid video

Haven’t seen the movie yet, but judging by the criticism from here and elsewhere I won’t be in any hurry to catch it…Still haven’t seen Precious, The Butler, The Help yet.

BBRAN

Don’t you have to have the force in you in order to weild the light saber? It’s not a tool for anyone. Everyone is acting as if this film is the end. It is so obviously not. Finn basically escapes from SALVERY and instead of running off, stays to save Rey AND deliver the map AND gives key info on how to destroy the planet killer. Without him, they would have been screwed. No mention of Lupita Nyong’o?

CC

@ Troublemaker, no harm intended… I thought you were a female and I was using "Ms." to cover all women, married are not. Now, lets move on. Here’s the setup, taken from the first paragraph–> " those Star Wars fans who happened to be Black reveled in anticipation for the character we now know as Finn who is performed by London-born actor of Nigerian descent, John Boyega".Okay Troublemaker,did you notice that Andre did not say nor imply that he was part of that Star War’s party. Now, as with scriptures it’s always wise to read the paragraph before and after the one being referenced. That said, after reading the above, well… see what you think–>" these profound changes seemed to suggest that the "Star Wars" franchise would shift into a mode of greater diversity in regards to the race and gender of its principal characters than ever before". Okay… "SEEM TO SuGGEST". BUT ALAS!! Now Troublemaker, since Andre was not a member of the "We love Star Wars" crew, it appears to me that "he" hadn’t fallen for the hokie-doke, hence the words "Seems to suggest". I believe his expression was a form of sarcasm.

Ian

All I can say is that we’ll have to see what happens to Finn in the sequels. I agree with everything you’re saying, and I’d also like to point out that Finn serves as a vital point of sanity in a movie filled with planet busters and tentacle creatures. Even though I am a white man, I identify strongly with him because he is trying to make sense of the world around him and to decide what is right. Finn ‘s point of view is also our point of view.

ACR

Mr. Seewood makes very valid points regarding racial sociology and it’s evolution within the Star Wars franchise, and "white" Hollywood films as a whole. I’m not sure if his observations are meant to criticize or to act as a university-level lecture on the dynamics of race and audience building. If it were determined that a relatively unknown actor, in this case a black actor (adding the element of race as a consideration) could portray a lead character to the end of the film and embody the kind of dramatic arch Seewood refers to without alienating more of the ticket buying audience than it gains from such casting, then it would be done. I am a black filmmaker who has no desire to work within the studio system specifically because of these kinds of issues that revolve around a projects ability to generate substantial, and in this case extreme profit. It has always been in the DNA of Hollywood to strive for profit above all. If the film happens to be brilliant artistically, well "isn’t that nice." Remember that Hollywood was started and is still managed predominantly by Jews. Yet, despite that reality, until the 1960’s any actor who was "Jewish" in appearance would never be cast in a dramatic leading role. It was determined that doing so would loose a substantial percentage of the ticket buying audience. Hollywood is a business and the principle focus of business is profit. Social changes within Hollywood occur as profit allows.

Matt M.

I would add that if the premise of choosing a black actor was to enact a role of hyper-tokenism, then you are not choosing them because they are the best candidate for the part. You are choosing them because of their race, which is a form of inverted racism that I would consider insincere, politically charged, and racist still.

I have not yet seen the film, nor do I want to, because many of the same myths and stories that underpin our civilization are the same stories that are creating the crises we are seeing around the world: us vs. them mentality (objectification and separateness of others based on race, class, religion political affiliation, ideologies, cosmologies, ways of life. Vilification of anyone or anything considered a threat.), domination and exploitation over nature through technology (contributing to the biodiversity crisis), domination over natural parts of ourselves, the myth of linear economic growth (A finite planet can withstand the use of infinite resources), Heroism (or Savior Mentality), Imperialism, Colonialism, Centralization of authority (Large scale hierarchy works. Trust is placed into a centralized institution, not oneself, friends, families, and community), and the mythos that humanity will grow forever (we are placing our bets on finding other planets to colonize while we destroy our very own beautiful planet.) It is no coincidence the franchise is called Star ‘Wars’. We’ve habituated ourselves to humanity’s history of violence to the point where we’ve forgotten that there are other options.

These stories still have the power to send a message to the unconscious, regardless of wether or not it masquerades as a science fiction film. It says that the story is justifiable, acceptable, important, worthy of our attention, and that humanity is depraved, either innately bad, or special; excluded somehow from the course of nature. Does anyone ever wonder how the spacecraft in these films is powered? Where did all of those resources come from, and what are the energy resources being used? Who built the infrastructure, who built the planes, who cleans the garbage, who are the pillars and foundation of this ideological construct? It is the people, in our world, who cannot afford to see this film, and probably neither wish to, because they know the bankruptcy inherent in it’s message, not intellectually, but physically, through their blood, sweat, and toil.

I do not wish to analyze a major motion picture, because movie culture is likely one of the last places one will find any form of authenticity. Whatever it may signal, I know that I feel much healthier when I know what is important to me, when I cherish time with loved ones, when I am outside, when I work in the garden, when I feel connected to those around me.

Mike

Since when does the last 10 minutes of a 2:15 minuete film "The whole final act"?
Wow, you are trying way to hard to make the weakest point ever.

Troublemaker

@CC First of all , I don’t know why you insist on addressing me as Ms. Troublemaker because I am no Ms.! If you keep this up, don’t expect a response!
Second, maybe you need to read the author’s second paragraph very carefully and then get back to me.

jeanetttesdaughter

I may see this just because but really I am just content to wait on Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due for sci fi/ fantasy that shows us as us. Heroic. I would trust Samuel Delaney, too! Julie dash! A few more. Onward into 2016!

Dan Bobke

You have got to be kidding me? Do you see racism around every corner, or just under the rock from which you crawled? This is more ridiculous than Melissa Harris Perry’s comments earmiwr this month. What sad, bitter lives you lead.

Stop seeing racism where it doesn’t exist…it makes you look the fool.

Ugh

Honestly I was going to post a rant about how you are nit picking and obviously don’t understand the world of Star Wars. Because Finn is one of the Most important characters and your inability to see that and to bring down his potential in these future films show that your bitterness won’t allow you to see that this as the stepping stone to getting more people of color into higher paying positions in Hollywood that are "White" owned. The fact that you would stoop to point out that the "white" female in the end becoming the jedi was a blow to your masculine pride. But alas guess who has an action figure and clothes already made up in marketing. I can tell you now it is not your powerful white female. It’s Finn. Stop writing about how you don’t believe that this is doing anything for the black community cause it is. Write about new up coming black actors and actresses trying to break the mold. Write about how you want to see more actors and actresses like John Boyega overcoming these racial stipulations in Hollywood. Just over all stop being an asshole.

CC

@ Ms TroubleMaker, the author wasn’t addressing "what he expected". As a film analyst he was analizing/address what he saw in the film. I can safely assume that through his many writings on the subject that hope is still alive. Suggestion: Read his books if you truly desire an understanding of his journey/motivations/purpose/hopes. Again, I do not believe this post was about what he expected. Hey, come to think of it, there’s one thing I believe Andre knows real well. There’s a book by Langston Hughes titled "The Ways Of White Folks".

Troublemaker

Wasn’t there at least two black characters in this movie? Wouldn’t the argument be stronger in pointing out the tokenism of both these characters? I’m kind of surprise that the author really believe or hope that Boyega’s character was going to be on the same level or out shine the white female lead. I guess some folks got alot of hope in commercial Hollywood films! Well, as for moi, when I saw the original 3 films that was written, directed and produced by a white man, I never had any hope that a black character would be given a significant role. There wasn’t even a black actor in the original film! I mean Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker were all dress in white and represented good while Darth Vader (didn’t Lucas say that Darth meant dark?) was dress in black and even had a black man’s voice represented evil. Another clue that Boyega’s character was never that significant was the poster that was advertised in Asia (which no one on this site cared to even address). Boyega’s photo was reduced significantly from the US poster and bb8 was increased significantly (I guess they had Darth on the poster, so he was the honorary black man). I’m sure in the film that bb8 had a more significant role than Boyega’s. BB8 even had his own commercial!! Another telling clue was right before the opening, JJ Abrams suddenly announced out of the blue that he wanted Ava Duvernay to helm the next Star Wars. Hollywood is all about money. Why would JJ Abrams reinvent the wheel when that same wheel had brought in so much money in the past? There’s an old saying "if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!" Really, what did the author expect with this new Star Wars?

.

As this story continues, it’s obvious this is not his first rodeo.To that point, I love the way he sits back, probably contemplating which of the many ridiculous, outlandish and sometimes racial remarks should he address. That reminds me, some bloggers do not ever address comments, period. But one of many things I love about Mr. Seewood is, he will, when the moment is right, address the comments that are simply begging to be chopped down, killed, laid to rest. All that to say "BRAVO Mr. Seewood!". You’re not only an exceptional film historian and analyst, you’re an excellent communicator who shows us how to put ignorance, anger, madness and fear in it’s place, when the time is right.

.

But when Andre Seawood appears the rush of people, some mad, some angry, some just looking for something to break their boredom, is as ferocious as the tidal wave of shoppers at a Walmart on black Friday..

CC

Trite but true, "the truth hurts". Listen, in my many years of visiting this site, I’ve never seen that expression more evident than after reading the comments at an Andre Seawood post. This forum, this blog, this neighborhood, like many gathering places, at times has gone dormant.

Ghost

So the the Star war apologist want to use Finn was not originally black excuse? SO what is their excuse for the Power Rangers? Aren’t they suppose to be Asian? Or all the other shows where people of color got replaced by WHITES? Or the Hunger Games lead-she wasn’t white in the book-it implied she was something else.

Andre Seewood

@Kwamae Fielder, A movie is never just a movie- even if we consider a movie some kind of titulating distraction- it has to be a distraction from "something else"… What is very troubling in your response is this notion that," Sometimes it’s just better to see the good that exists there for all to see, rather than projecting a new vision on top of the world at hand." That would inevitably depend on whose perspective that "good" benefits and what is really going on in the world at hand.

Andre Seewood

How low is the fool who uses degrading stereotypes of the Black male as a means of rebuttal to an article that critiques the tokenism of a Black male in a White film? It’s also curious that these Star Wars apologists are constantly citing the fact that," the character was not written as a Black dude anyway," as if Black representation and the way words are written on a page are axiomatic; that is to say that because the script didn’t say that Finn was a "Black dude" the filmmaker’s themselves can’t be racist, racially insensitive, or catastropically inept at the construction and development of characters who are not "White". Just because the written script does not reveal the race of the characters (no doubt as a pre-emptive means of avoiding charges of racism or tokenism)- the casting of the film is the explicit recognition of race of the characters and their hierarchy within the totem of dramatic agency.

Kwamae Fielder

Sometimes a movie is just a movie. I get that it’s our place to keep an eye open for tokenism and things that purposely and inadvertently hold us back. I get that. The thing is, I went to see this film with my mom and my little sister and we had a great time and my little sister (who is multiracial) was in awe of the worlds created and the characters within. In fact, for her to see a movie driven by a latino man, a white woman, and a black man, was important and exciting. Now, I find myself reading your essay and wondering if something’s wrong with me that i didn’t take offense. Am i too whitewashed? Does having a white step-father blind me to the things that anger so many people here? I don’t think so. I feel deep pain and hurt when I see my friends and family and of course, the world at world being treated poorly or called upon as nothing more than pawns in a bigger white world, but I also have the choice to be empathetic to others and in this case, nothing felt intentionally hurtful. In fact, nothing at all seemed inadvertently malicious. So i’m going to just enjoy a movie that had a wonderfully diverse cast, and i’m going to continue to nurture my sister’s interest in these worlds because she is empowered and excited in a way that I have never seen her. Sometimes it’s just better to see the good that exists there for all to see, rather than projecting a new vision on top of the world at hand.

Ian

How about a ‘spoiler alert’ notice at the top of the article??! Sheesh…

anwar

Lol apparently the writer expected ‘black dynamite in space’, where superfly Finn Shaft drives the millennium Cadillac into first order HQ, kills the bad guy with his BBL- big black lightsaber, and bones the jedi girl who spends the whole film chasing him thru the galaxy cuz he makes her force awaken.
When black folks gonna realize being 12% of the population, and maybe 3% (?) Of the movie buying public worldwide, Hollywood is not doing us no favors or has no specific reason to ‘center us in "their" stories’. And The character was not written as a black dude anyway.

Now if u want to be mad at something, wait a few weeks till dicrapio kills a few dozen nameless American Indians and spoons a bear ‘taming the wild west’.

Sonya Larson

Thank you. I find these essay deeply compelling.

Mtume Gant

I was very displeased with the handling of Finn. To construct him they held on Black tropes of being not as intelligent (he was a janitor), high energy with constant physical and verbal comedic relief, but in that Native Son kind of way has a "good heart" and doughy and lovable. Its totally caricature that comes from the days of Buckwheat, while not as grotesque relies on the same formation in pleasing the white audience by maintaining a high level of placism for the character who is of color. Im not feeling it one bit

LupeX

I think that the script suffers from poor writing. While I might not level the accusations of Black-Tokenism though I do feel that they are substantiated in light of the way that the film was marketed (SWTFA special during Shondaland?) it is obvious that both Rey and Finn are poorly written characters with little depth to them. Lots of illogical inconsistencies and narrative injustices abound in their character arcs as individuals and their dynamic as a interloping characters. Finn is vastly underwritten and denied his heroism while Rey is incoherently overpowered and gifted every heroic trait without working for it in the script.
We are left hoping that these gaping holes will be filled in the coming movies, which in itself is poor writing.

harbinge

"…unconsciousness of Finn throughout the final act of Star Wars: The Force Awakens…"

He was out for like two scenes. The "third act" consisted of him being one of the only non-Force-sensitive people we’ve ever seen wield a lightsaber (and not just any lightsaber) and doing so to protect his friend against the baddest dude in the galaxy.

AJ

Gotta keep in mind, Star Wars is an existing universe. Telling the story of Luke, Leia, Han, and their respective families and dynasties is sort of the point. They’re all white people! So if you think the fact that the force wielding protagonist and antagonist being white is non-inclusive, think also how difficult it would be to justify a black hero/villain with Jedi family history as deep and dark as Kylo. I think Rey may have some important lineage as well . . . Additionally, Finn was our narrator. Our Nick from Gatsby. He was the man whose eyes we saw "The Force Awakens" through. That’s a lot of influence.

Precision

It is disappointing to see the first name of the President misspelled in the third paragraph from the bottom.

Steve Sidwelll

Crap crap and more crap. Tokenism pays, look at Nick Fury in the Marvel movies but lets cast Black panther as a white guy or Power Man as a swede and all hell wil break loose from All Sharpton and the Blakc Lives Loot what Matters group.

Rebecca Evans

I do think the concept you’re pointing at is quite accurate in film in general–Blackness is given lip service today.

It’s Lando Calrissian, not Cairissian–and he was epic, a character with a lot of personality who was regal, three dimensional, and a glaring reminder that Blackness even in a complete character is still Othered–he was the ruler of his Other world–not this world–even when it’s basically an enviable castle in the sky.

The Force Awakens was important as it destroyed for the franchise the main character male whiteness lens present in most of western cinema. The white audience has less of an ability to rest in the comfort and familiarity of an obliterating and consummate whiteness and maleness as gaze–as there is no strong white male perspective here in comparison with the average US film, and I think that’s vital. Finn (given the designation FN-2187 which the man he frees who knows more of the world refuses to call him) is the character who changes the script from the beginning. He’s a First Order stormtrooper–the epitome of ordered, faceless whiteness and conformity. He removes his mask, and it’s something he doesn’t have permission to do (we’re pointed to this rather heavy-handedly when his bewildered female supervisor, Captain Phasma, reminds him). Neither does he have permission to free the Latino male pilot Poe. Finn is somewhat weakly written as a strong and subversive character who must remain true to himself–whether that is not fighting on Jakku, not fitting in with the stormtroopers, or faking to the Resistance that he, a man in charge of sanitation knows how to take down weapons thermal regulation–a ploy really not given enough theatric tension other than the brief explanation he mentioned it only to be included in the mission so he could free female scavenger Rey–who constantly bats away his well-meaning clasp while they run and who saw something in him the First Order did not. Agency, conniving, and ethical goldmines were completely ignored by the poor writing in that move.

The one interesting aspect is that Finn himself is an introverted person concerned with his introverted, personal experience–and so he is not the action figure for Blackness in film that one could want, but he is an important character in his own right, and to gloss over that is to ignore that he is accepted in a subversive tapestry that though paying sometimes insultingly obvious deference to formulaic inclusion is disrupting the gaze of an entire film.

Finn’s character definitely had some poor writing in the middle. The end I see as a rather nice homage to the frequent cliffhangers of the films with a titular male character always temporarily and promisingly in cessation, such as Han Solo in carbonite–who for all intents and purposes is no longer a young and active part of the film, shall we say–as well as Luke Skywalker aboard the ship and in suspension before receiving his prosthetic limb. In these ways, Finn is not simply a Lando Calrissian–admirable, handsome, suave, wealthy, and powerful in some imagine "Black" universe. Finn is an introverted (with a constitution more like Kenobi or C3P0’s obviously consuming inner experience) and subversive character who is for even a small amount of time in the beginning, our human connection to the entire franchise. That’s no small placement, but it will feel so even as the subversion of the typical whitey male gaze means that all parts become admitted as partial, as off center, as a gaze.

The unavoidable part of effectively dethroning white maleness as normative alpha and omega in film is that no gender or ethnicity has center stage. It’s vital for Black authors and film makers to have access to tell stories with Black female and Black male gazes, as that’s not going to happen in quite the same way when adequately destroyed whiteness and maleness filters unlock the plurality and shifting perspectives that are happening in still-white-controlled film. The two things achieved by Finn are his lack of Otherness (he’s one of OUR experiences–not a beautiful Black leader in a fairytale world) and his rejection of the ordered life written him.

Screenwriter70

Telling "our own stories" has been the plan all along. But it’s decidedly easier said than done. Ironically, during my two years at film school, my classmates were instructed not to assign either gender or race when screenwriting, and to leave such decisions to the casting director. Oddly enough, I still made a point of writing specs that had women and men of color as the protagonists in all of my assigned work — yet I was not similarly advised. The truth is, once a script leaves a writers digital hands, he/she can’t stop the suits from casting Tom Cruise in a role written for Denzel. And as "new scribes" it will take a monent to gain the momentum and the means to fund our own projects. It is then (and only then) that we will begin to see change. And that, friends, is the problem. Who among us has that creative clout?

Screenwriter70

Telling "our own stories" has been the plan all along. But it’s decidedly easier said than done. Ironically, during my two years at film school, my classmates were instructed not to assign either gender or race if possible, and to leave such decisions to the casting director. Oddly enough, I Madrid a point of writing specs that had women and men of color as the protagonists of all of my work — yet I was not similarly advised. The truth is, once a script leaves a writers digital hands, I can’t stop the suits from casting Tom Cruise in a role I wrote for Denzel. As a "new scribe" a will take a monent to gain the momentum and the means to fund my own projects. It is then (and only then) that we will begin to see change. And that, friends. is the problem. Who among us has that creative clout?

S.K.

So … this author thought … that Star Wars was about to become a Black movie? Because they cast one Black actor in a lead role? "Ohhh, they tricked us!" No, they didn’t. You either aren’t into Star Wars – and thus haven’t really paid attention to the extreme whiteness of this far away galaxy over the course of the last 6 movies/30 years – or you know all about it, and you were waiting to find a moment when you could point fingers and say "the Black man was disenfranchised/turned into a coon/made inconsequential!" Welp. Congrats. You found your moment. But for those of us who’ve watched this saga and followed it, especially those of us who are Black fans, we know that the storyline centers around the Skywalker lineage, who are white. It would have been more of a shocker, and completely out of line with the saga as a whole, to suddenly shift the focus to someone completely unrelated to the core characters of the entire saga. I would say it sounds like you invented a term because you were upset by the ending. "They didn’t have any Black characters!" Okay, here’s one Black character (Billy Dee Williams) "Oh, now they have one Black character, but he doesn’t do anything at all! He’s just a token!" Okay, well here’s a Black character who has many, many lines, is one of the main focal characters of the entire movie, has a background that will tie into future movies, and has an arc that will allow the majority of moviegoers to make a connection to him and invest in his character. "But the movie wasn’t all about him in the end! This must be …. HYPER TOKENISM!!!" Okay. If you say so. But if you were really expecting Star Wars to turn into a reverse-Gods of Egypt, then I guess you kinda deserve to be disappointed.

David

I agree with this article. I thought the movie felt rushed and that not enough tension was built up. Great action sequences but the story was a little flat. I am disappointed in the fact that the main black character was not a Jedi. I would’ve found the movie more interesting if both Fin and Poe were Jedi. Having them both fight the more powerful villain in the end defeating him together . Fin. Was under used

Eric B

While I relate to the disappointment felt when Finn lost to Kylo Ren, b/c I wanted to see him ascend as THE Jedi of the film as the trailers suggested, I think the article neglects the significant installment of a female-lead as the hero. My disappointment gave way to a realization of the gender-switch where the woman was NOT being saved by the male protagonist, but stood on her own against a (and this is important) MALE antagonist. Many times in the past, the woman took the lead if it was a female antagonist to be defeated. Even this article points to greater racial & GENDER diversity, yet skips over this obvious fact.

Bradford

"As a franchise known primarily for its careful placement of Black token characters".. is this really what this franchise is PRIMARILY known for?… gtfo

Autokinetic22

White people didn’t make the force awakens. JJ Abrams is Jewish… NOT white. Also Finn is NOT the only black character. (Unless I am mistaken and Lupita Nyong’o is white) I bet the only thing that would make you racists happy is if the Jewish director would have cast all the heros with blacks and all the bad guys as white. This article is pure racism. You want to look at everything with your race card… go ahead but quit bitching about it publicly.

Erik Thor

I think they wanted an excuse to separate Rey and Finn. They wanted her to meet Luke alone, and I’m pretty sure he’ll wake up days after she leaves, and that we’ll see plenty of him in the movies to come!

Dauoo

What about your wack-assed movie, 7 Years & Six Months? How does that sit with your description of tokenism and black folk?

Ariaster

So, the slur of janitor is kind of odd, too. I get, yeah, negative connotation, but whatever. Think of what that entails. He cleans up after stormtroopers. If he’s not killing people, he’s cleaning up after them. Perhaps this is part of his conditioning. It’s not treated as a light or dismissive part of his experience. Finn is going back and tracing his own complicity in the worst of it.

Darkan

Apology accepted CC. It takes a man of honor to admit things. You’re awesome in my book. Glad you found some enjoyment in it. Yeah, it’s sad that there were no black faces behind the camera. The film I shot will be completed and out some time this coming year. Plenty of black , Latin and Asian faces behind and in front of the camera. :-) Happy New Year!!!

CC

Hey Darkan, I believe you’re following this thread, so I’m sure Andre won’t mind that I take a slight detour. Look man, I owe you a bit of an apology. I believe we were on different sides of the fence concerning the film "War Room". Well, I didn’t speak kindly of it (before I’d even watched it), but now, after watching with my lady and my mother (who are both "church ladies") and it being a faith based film, it gets my approval.It was well written (but, of course, preachy). And, the acting was better than I’d expected. But wait, I believe one of my issues was the money flow. See, although this film made millions on a very low budget, behind the camera there were no black faces.

Ariaster

Nerds. Debating the racial politics of a fictional evil empire, the cogs caught up within, and making it all about themselves. So beautiful. /tearwipe

Ariaster

Oh yeah, same authorial voice. Sockpuppet.txt dump incoming. Love technology.

Marcus B Like

Patriarchal white supremacist Hollywood will never relinquish their control. Hence the complacency. Because it is a business and not public office. No one suspects change is around the corner. What will democratize the medium?

Andre Seewood

One of most curious aspects of White race psycho-pathology is that when defending itself against charges of Black tokenism in White films, the victims always use the observation that other Whites were killed or rendered useless first and that other minority characters were also either poorly developped, killed or under-utilised. Thus, one should stop complaining about Black tokenism in White movies because other White characters die or disappear and other minorities are underdevelopped. These victims of White race psycho-pathology (which of of course is not exclusive to the White race, but also can be adopted by those the White race oppresses)are unwilling and/or unable to empathize with a perspective that does not consider Whiteness as the normative and neutral starting point. One White man killed in a White movie is not a symbol of tokenism- because the White characters exercise full dramatic agency at the end of the White film… The victims of White racial psycho-pathology can’t grasp this fact because they lack the empathy necessary to embrace all of humanity as valuable, equal and meritious.

steve

The fact that you’re using a science fiction movie filled with robots and aliens to rant about racial issues shows just how much of a joke this whole article is. Also, lets take a look at the other main characters: Poe Dameron, played by oscar isaac, who is a hispanic man. he disappears for most of the movie, presumed dead. Where is your outrage? Han solo, a white character, is killed but you seem to have conveniantly forgotten that. So I guess you’re big problem is that Rey, a white woman, was the hero in the end? cry me a fucking river.

Ariaster

Poe Dameron useless, a question of what? You must have missed the part with all the cool stuff blowing up trial by fire through the gauntlet, but y’know. as you do.

Forreel

This is the stupidest fucking thing I’ve read today. I bet David Banner had something to do with it…..race baiters!

motionxmedia.com

We have noted that Boyega plays a stormtrooper who has been brainwashed. Technically, he is a slave. His first move as a free man is to rescue a white useless protagonist (Poe Dameron) And to thank him, the white man generously gives him a name (Finn). It’s a kind of "Toby-Kunta Kinte" awkward moment.

Ariaster

The interesting question to ask is what happens when Finn wakes up and all he’s known since, has moved on without him. He’s secured his place in some really strange shade of gray crossfire, and his story is going to be an interesting one going forward. Rian Johnson is going to do something interesting with it, methinks. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they went with some rather unexpected love triangles, underworld/outer rim bidness, and a galaxy that is getting shaken up. Serious business, Star Wars.

Ariaster

So, big theme of the flick. You might have caught it, subjugation, ruling through programming and control. Finn is a drone, a sleepwalker, a cog in the machine. And he wakes up. He becomes Poe, the best fighter in the galaxy. He becomes Rey, the best scavenger in the galaxy. He’s the everyperson, the lenspiece, the connecting thread for the audience.

Ariaster

Tom feels like a sockpuppet for someone else. Just a gut feeling. So, there are a lot of white people in the movie, but they’re all with The New Order. The rest of the galaxy is pretty diverse. Just saying.

Joe summers

They emasculated this man, and ritualistically destroyed his power, and placed symbols of strength and response-ablity back in the hands of whites. Screw hollywood and these white supremacist film creators

LeonRaymond

Tom you hit it right on the money . He’s a Token and then they add insult to injury. Obviously if you picked it up I would say the entire story future for any Black Character going forward will have issues and problems!

tom10sc

I am a white, 66-year old man living in the South. Coming out of the movie, I was thinking that the Finn character was the most truly "token" black character I have ever seen in a movie. One big reason: he is the only Black character. Of the hundreds of cast members, I saw no other Black faces–anywhere. The Maz character was voiced by a Black actress, as the Darth Vader character was voiced by a Black actor. But Black faces among the crowds? No. Also, did anyone else catch what I thought was a misplaced joke about this whole issue, when Han Solo asks Finn what he did in the facility that they are trying to derail, Finn says "sanitation." So Finn was a janitor? Was this just an inside joke? I keep thinking, what about Black kids going to this movie? One Black character in the whole thing, he misses the climactic scenes of the movie, and he was a janitor.

Ben

Yeah… No. Finn fully participates in the last act. He helps destroy star killer base, coordinate the attack & takes on Sith in training. Arguably the scariest person in the first order. Kylo Ren. He knew who he was fighting and was struck down, not knocked out. He also gets in a wound on someone who is vastly more trained than himself and it is questionable whether he is a possible Jedi. If you want a "black" hero than just say so, but to say because he’s not the penultimate hero, he’s a token? I’m not buying it. He’s a hero, he’s scared and says so much and still charges into battle. He’s pretty much cannon fodder and knows it and still charges into battle when the only friends he’s ever had are in danger. I think arguments like this are the pet of the never satisfied crew. You’re never satisfied unless you get exactly what you want. There is a black face on the front of every poster and in every commercial and in every toy box. Arguably Finn has the greatest character arc in the film. I’ve been making films for years and I know Hollywood is nowhere near perfect, but as far as race goes in Force Awakens they get a standing ovation from me. An African, Guatamalan and a woman were the stars of the movie. When does that happen on a 200 million dollar flick from the mouse?

Ghost

Well add more fuel to the fire-next year we will get a new Finn figure fighting that storm trooper with the lightsabre. Guess what that Storm trooper is called-RIOT CONTROL storm trooper. The black guy gets beat up by a riot control officer?

CareyCarey

OMG… I’ve been struck by an epiphany! Listen, I was baffled, mystified, bewildered as to why some white folks were pushing back so hard against Andre’s well defined claim. Well, read this—>TOKENISM – "the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce" . OMG!!! There it is… white folks are not seeing/hearing the message because the tokenism was not presented for their appeasement! But check this, even though the act of tokenism was not directed at them, many of them desperately tried to refute Andre’s claim by pointing out the alleged "good" deeds of the black actor. But listen… and listen real good. Be it a murderer, a rapist, a thief, a president… or in this case a person being used as a tool for tokenism, all of them may have participated in acts of good deeds, HOWEVER-BUT-NEVERTHELESS, the defining character traits which led to them being classified as above, did not vanish. In other words, regardless of what they may do in the future, they cannot change the past. That said, granted, the black guy in this film may become a hero of all heroes, but as I love saying… what about a time called now. Today, based on the definition of the word tokenism, it’s glaringly obvious that Andre presented a wonderful, step by step guide to JJ Abram’s yellow brick road. Abrams used the black guy in this film as a tool for tokenism. And, based on the defensive comments of some African Americans, I’m saddened to say Abram’s ploy worked. Well, as the saying goes… you can fool some of the people some of the time… but all closed eyes ain’t sleep.

ariaster

Huh. Finn is a tabula rasa. Blank slate. Literally. He wakes up out of a daze, fully formed. He’s Frankenstein’s monster as a good guy, so far. You’re projecting way more on J.J. and co. than is probably healthy. But keep on down that rabbithole!

Andre Seewood

If the question is why did I write this the answer is: Because it’s our faith in a White controlled Hollywood that defeats us.

Terrence Thompson

WIth him weakening Kylo Ren with a hit in the climatic battle, I’d argue he does have some sort of agency in the climax. I completely believe hyper-tokenism is a very real thing in films, but Finn’s character didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth. I think it could be because of Rey’s female representation being important to me as well. I also see this period as the middle ground before we’re allowed to see full-fledged "black sci-fi and comic book films" where we are the big players. I guess I saw Finn as another step towards a way out of hyper-tokenism, or maybe i’m just too optimistic.

jeremy

Haha! He gets knocked out in the final battle like he’s Jack Burton or something? That’s hilarious. It must be exhausting trying to look for racism in every single film that comes out. You must really hate something about yourself in order to do that. Things will get better for you author. I promise.

Savagedarky

From what I’ve heard you’re all victims of a Jedi mind trick! It’s the same movie from 40 years ago done over again. The only thing different is the money it’s making on weak minded fools!

annebeth66

Finn just felt odd, in that he seemed so confused by what was going on around. The back story of him being a Stromtropper, should have made him much more intelligent and resourceful. While everyone else is operating at 100%, he came across as mentally challenged and only at 93%.

Eric

Yeah, what a token. He only rescues the two other main characters when they have been captured, plays a vital role in getting the key information that is the focal point of the entire conflict back to the resistance, and provides they key piece of intelligence to destroy the enemies main weapon before the good guys are all annihilated. What a useless token of a character he was.

dromej

It dosen’t matter that a White woman is the hero at the end of the movie and not a White man. Where do you think white men come from? White women,.While the Black man sleeps,..he needs to wake up

John

Is that to say we should hold janitors in low esteem? I think not. Finn was in sanitation. Luke was a farmer. Rey was a scavenger. Those who work with their hands in honorable professions are worthy.

Vincent

As a”producer” and film maker that is black, I find these kind of assessments not helpful for anyone of any color. Samuel Jackson made a comment on a late night talk show about being interested in Star Wars and George called him up. Hardly a token move. You can be the one who is always fault finding but the true issue is not really about color. I perceive it is something much deeper that you are not even conscious of. Is there racism and tokenism? Yes. But such is not the case here. The perpetuates the victim mentality of blacks in film and as Yoda said, "At and end your rule is!! And not short enough it was!!!" Merry Christmas!!

Fran

Wish I could refute but not this time unfortunately….Why was it that of all the jobs they could have picked as a stormtrooper they made him sanitation? and on the run? Too obvious. Also why, oh why did he have an American accent…he’s British!!! Plenty of other Brits in the film. What really bothered me was are you really saying that he didn’t display personality tendencies from an early age as stormtrooper? The top brass would’ve have picked up on many of the personality traits and exploited them long ago. Is their Stormtrooper profiling that antiquated??Courage in the face of danger? Protection instincts for those he cared about? I hate to even admit it, as I love Star Wars and had high hopes this wasn’t the case, but Fin is currently a ‘hyper-token’ and with the absence of the kiss (even parting) of Fin and Rey really sealed it! Hollywood made a call regarding international sales and decided to omit.

Let’s face it Black Filmmakers try harder, because we need you, and we need you now!

janet

I haven’t see this yet– and stopped after the writer gave away key info. Since we know that this is just the first of many films, I suspect that we will see a character arc from "coward" to "hero" for Finn before it’s all over.

Matt

I truly feel bad for all these people on both sides of this. Ive read hateful comments about having a black lead role and I’ve now read the other side of this stupid coin. The racists can suck it. Finn was awesome. He was the connective tissue for me to experience the situations, reacting just how I would. He acted his role every bit as well as Harrison Ford, btw. For this author, the "token" argument is bull as well. You’re just as wrong as the racists. In fact, you are biased, sir. You watched the entire movie with your own personal bias, looking for proof of your theme of tokenism. I feel bad for you too. Finn was abducted, kidnapped into service, given his first battle to slay innocent people, which he did not do, at his own risk. He fled in a daring, and likely futile way instead of continuing to be a stormtrooper. So you can keep your negativity. And all you other idiots on the other side of the coin can keep your racism. Finn was awesome. Period.

Hope

Totally agree. The character of Finn was more regressive than both Lando and Windu.

He came across as just bumbling, out of his depth and not good at ANYTHING.

Think about that. Every other character was proficient at something. Even in the original, which this film copies, the main three each are good at something. But Finn is not good at anything. You can take him out of the film and the characters can still progress.

It’s the sad truth. in 2015, we still have a character that is a token

HataHZappa

Really, bruh? Not even paying attention to this. Seriously, mane. Go find a new hobby.

John H Sibley

Andre I would be honored if you would review my new book USS OBAMA 2112 with the same critical lens. I can email you the file or mail you a signed copy.
to read reviews.

Benxpete

"I’m bad at watching movies" is what this mumbo jumbo says.

Brian

He actually accomplished something before being rendered unconscious. Remember he battled kylo, wounding him which saved Rey. My only problem with the character is that what did his arc become? What as his agency? At first it was to escape. He changed his mind. Then it was to save Rey which yes he helped do but they took pains to ensure she could save herself… So they should have given him a more personal motivation like revenge on the first order for ruining his life.
He’s a major character but this isn’t his story just like it wasn’t Han Solos story in the a new hope. It’s Rey’s story.

Henry Plantagenet

I think your objections are absurd. The film left a LOT of dangling threads which will be developed in the next film: Finn’s role, Poe’s role, Rey’s ancestry, the aim of the First Order, whether Luke will take up the light saber again, the list goes on. Boyega is one of the strongest black roles in any of the big films this year, so holding this story up as an example of the Nasty Conspiracy of the White Folks is silly. PS Province and Providence are two different words.

Mark and Darla

@WOOKIEMAN ‘If I have to sit through another Madea film I’ll slit my wrist first’ STOP! EXAGGERATING, you sound like you are being bully and have no choice but to watch Madea Movies in your house.

Abby Normal

So no one noticed the Finn was named and given a new identity by Poe!? lol Im waiting for ppl to address that.

Willis Miller

Reelblack- speakin on truth.

ALEX

The problem with your article is that you don’t understand that Star Wars is about the Skywalker family. The Skywalker family has to be front and center and they were white in the original. Finn is not part of the Skywalker family and therefore it makes sense that he will have a more "han solo" role than a "luke skywalker" role

Ghost

Here is the difference between Lupita & John-no one was going to boycott the film because she is in it. In fact a lot of folks feel the same way you do and didn’t like the fact she played an alien instead of a human. The thing with Finn is we saw backlash first for him just being in the film. It got worst when they showed him with a lightsabre. Then the the film came out and he was none of the stuff that was promoted in those trailer created by JJ Abrams himself. Most are upset with how he was promoted and the final result. The saem folks ready to boycott Star wars over him, are now the main ones praising him because he’s not the bad azz that the trailers promoted. He is fine in the film but don’t promoted him as something he is not yet.

Toledo Boogz

And like most articles in this vain, I notice not ONE MENTION of Black women in the fore. Lupita Nyong’o is in this film, but if you don’t follow her you will not notice.

Hyper-Tokenism is indeed a problem but it, just as the machinations of Hollywood, excludes women altogether.

Mike

Man lighten up. I’m black and don’t have a problem with this at all he was an interesting and important part of the first of three films. The fact that he was knock unconscious for the end of a three part trilogy? Who cares what you think they thought lets hire black guy and then knock him out so the movies not too black. This part wasn’t written for a black person it was just written.

Vichus

I’d be a fool to deny that white people are, again, back on top in Star Wars, but Finn is the most important character ever to be part of these films. It’s a shame that he’s not the #1 hero, but he’s still a hero, and his screen time is most likely #2.

He is, by definition, a token, but that minimizes his importance.

DC

Wow there is no pleasing you is there?

reponse

the fact you said Finn was apart of the empire makes this article null and void.

CC

@ Eric, in and of itself there’s absolutely nothing wrong with showing fear. However, I believe it would behoove everyone to carefully read the post. First and foremost, check out and understand the word "TOKEN". Then, don’t cherry pick one’s comment. Speak to the word tokenism and then see whether or not Mr. Seawood has a valid argument? I ask that of you because it’s obvious many are letting their emotions led them on a path of "kneejerking", which causes them to miss the point. Now do me a favor and answer me this, given the definition of a token, can you see how Finn could be percieved as one? Forget about what "night" happen in future episodes, lets concentrate on the now, b/c we are taking about his position/part in THIS film.

shanna

Andre, you don’t have any friends do you? Asseyez-vous et d’écrire quelque chose de mieux!

Panther82

Get a grip. The only racist here is you. Because a black character didn’t defeat the bad guys single handedly you play the race card? There’s two films remaining in the trilogy and he’s clearly going to be a major figure throughout. So lose the victim complex and stop being a closet racist.

J Bernard Jones

This is so dumb and wrong, it’s not even funny. Apparently Mr. Seewood, doesn’t realize that just as much as Rey (Daisey Ridley) is essentially Luke Skywalker who serves the same purpose in the original Star Wars: A New Hope, Finn is basically HAN SOLO, who reverted the exact same purpose in the first two films. Jesus Christ, this is piece is RIDICULOUS.

Darkan

I’m just mad that ole girl blatantly put him in the friend zone after he risked his life. If anything people should be upset at a black man chasing after the the white girl panties and risking his life to save her only to be friend zoned while unconscious!!! LOL!!! At least Luke got an incestuous kiss on the lips. LOL!!!

Michael

I knew within a week people would start cranking out articles with their fake conscious beliefs and trying to go in-depth about the black character when there’s no need to, completely ignoring how the whole plot of the movie gets going solely because of the black guy. Hard to decide whether the "woke" folks are more irritating than the racists.

eric

@CC. "And, he was framed as a scaredycat, not a man but a boy who was running from his responsibilities." What’s wrong with him showing fear? Or does that go back to the idea that men aren’t supposed to show emotion? He ran from what WASN’T his responsibility and he took on Kylo Ren among other things–no "scaredycat" there.

Savagedarky

I haven’t seen the movie and don’t plan to! You know, it’s based on ancient hero myth like Perseus and the like. All white movies are sheer fiction as are the portrayals of black characters. Don’t expect to get a nut in a white man’s wet dream!

Baron Samedi

Good article. And to the author, Never appologize for your ability to analyze, do not give into those with mundane insights and myopic observations (if the ability to observe even exist for them).

john

The N word who wrote this article needs to take a chill pill

alex

Bull crap of an article. You do realise that this is a one in three films left to come? There will be more to see! MORE TO SEE!

filmloverladeo

Haven’t seen the film. But right now after reading this along with the comments, all I can say is OMG! Really! Sanitation! Is that like in Janitor? OMG! That’s not only tokenism, its stereotypical and insulting.

Wookieman

It a fictional movie, it’s SciFi, it’s escapism entertainment. So what if Finn is portrayed by a brother and gets knocked out. Bad script, bad directing it would not matter if Finn was Asian or a horn toad. Some of us Black folks go to be entertained and escape reality for a few hours. If you don’t like how Finn was portrayed then start a film company or any other Black character in a white financed, white produced and written by a white person; then make your own film. I go to certain movies to be entertained and go to others to learn something about a real historical fact, event or person. This is fantasy and someone else’s idea, who are we to tell them how to make their film. I’ve seen enough bad Black written, directed and produced films but no one says anything, it’s okay if the characters are badly written or directed. If I have to sit through another Madea film I’ll slit my wrist first. I go to be entertained not to agonize over whether the Black character is being used as a token the wonder if I’m being manipulated into supporting white supremacy watching a film about aliens in a time tha never happened in a galaxy that doesn’t exist except in ones imagination. Can’t we just enjoy two plus hours of pure harmless escapism with out having a useless discussion on diversity in film. If we want diversity then get some of these Black millionaires/billionaires to pool their money and set a up a Black Hollywood and only use Black actors, writers and directors and make films that only appeal to Black people

ManofSteelo

Have not seen the film, and don’t really plan to; but if this excellent article is to be believed, then it’s simply business-as-usual for Hollyweird — and I’m not surprised one bit. I should mention here, though, to be fair, that as the second and third installments have yet to be released, we can’t say for sure that Boyega / Finn won’t have a larger part in them, if not actually take center stage in one (or both), though the odds clearly point to his doing otherwise. Second, there was no mention of the phenomenon in these types (sci-fi) of films to heavily make-up or disguise Black actors so as to be wholly unrecognizable onscreen, as was certainly the case with the otherwordly beauty that is Lupita Nyong’o as she played her bounty hunter role via heavy CGI. Michael Dorn as "Worf" from Star Trek Next Gen. fame is another example, as are countless other actors who voice or play robot assistants, animals, and other beastly sidekicks alongside fully human whites in the cast while doing so loudly, ineptly, or steadfastly loyally, to their white counterpart’s benefit. This point must also be mentioned in such a sweeping analysis / criticism because it’s tokenism by simply another name, and equally as deplorable. Will be curious to see how The Black Panther fares in Marvel’s Universe, both in his introduction via "Captain America 3" and his standalone film two years after. But, like this Star Wars saga, I won’t be holding my breath to find out, and damn sure won’t be waiting to exhale, either.

Nope

How the hell is he just a token when they say he will continue to be a main character in the next two films race baiter!?

CareyCarey

Great title! Andre, as usual, you killed this one. That said, having seen the "push back" other critics are receiving, who also didn’t enjoy this film, I am not surprised at the comments/attempts to refute the truth. I mean, you laid it out in plain English. Along with other triats Finn did not share with the white characters, he was KNOCKED THE F**K OUT (rendered useless) during the defining last scenes. But, some people refuse to see the truth. To that point I say O thou monster ignorance! Shakespeare. The more one endeavors to sound the depths of his ignorance the deeper the chasm appears. and last (this one speaks to those who know we’ve peeped their hold card (we know what they are doing). That said, I leave those naynaysayers with this bit of wisdom… "Ignorance is the mother of fear".

M CREW LITE

@Andre Seewood. Wouldn’t it be better to wait until you watch Star Wars Episode 8 and 9 to access Finn’s narrative in the trilogy?

CC

HELLO!!! Oh happy day, someone else saw that ghost, too. Listen, without having read Andre’s post (didn’t wanna be influenced by his excellent writing/debating skills) upon reading the title I instantly knew someone had witnessed the truth. That said, what I saw in Finn was not a token, per se, but a emasculated black man, which to a large degree is a characteristic of a token (done for the sake of appearances or as a symbolic gesture). Finn didn’t have any power to make major decisions. He wasn’t allowed to even think about sniffing the feathers in ol’ girl’s bed. And, he was framed as a scaredycat, not a man but a boy who was running from his responsibilities. Look, as I watched this flick and Boyega’s character, I was reminded of a few films produced in the 30’s. In particular, films with Eddie "Rodchester" Anderson in a supporting role. Any minute, out of pure fright, I expected Finn’s face to turn bleached white and his eyes buck out of his head. I’m serious, this kid’s role was PI-TI-FUL. And guess what, John Boyega’s pay was reflective of a token/symbolic, excusable character, not that of a major character. In fact, it was just reported that he was LAST on the pay scale. Did he make Harrison Ford money? NO-NO-NO-HELL-NO (closer to 50 time less)! Well, he had to make as much as Rylo Ren, right? NO-NO-NO-don’t even think about it! Well, at least he made 6 figures, right. NO-NO-NO-NO! Well damn, don’t tell me Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) even made more money then him… and she was only on screen for a minute? Well, close your ears because it true, she made much more than Boyega. I’m telling you, the boy’s salary was sitting on the bottom. It’s been said that Mike Tyson (Hangover I & II) made more money than lil’ John John. Don’t get me wrong, the kid’s a good actor. I loved him in "Half of a Yellow Sun" and he shined in "Attack The Block". However, in this film he was little more than a pawn. Now, I’m off to read the post to see if Andre saw what I did?

Joe

You gotta be kidding me, right? He is prominent character in the movie, basically the new Hans Solo. He was not alone, as I saw Asian and Latino characters who were not Asian and Latino like characters with make up etc(like some other species), they looked like themselves. Finn performed a vital role at the end of the film valiantly fighting for the lady. If anything, there was some token feminism going on… Possibly. Here’s my point. If Finn had died, that would lead to the question of stereotype where "the black man dies". If he was not in there, we would still be asking where the lead African American actors are? Not to mention the empire being portrayed as the futuristic this Reich.

Richard Lawler

The conversation of tokenism is incredibly complex, and I agree that we’ll need to see where Finn goes. There’s a couple of assumptions made here though, that I take issue with.

Saying Finn was unconscious during the entire third act seems to say it began with that saber fight in the forest?

IMO, you could say the third act began as early as when Rey picked up/rejected the saber initially. At the latest, it began when the Falcon arrived at the base, and it’s unquestionably begun by the time of the crucial bridge scene.

Viewed the way I see the story’s structure, Finn is not only not unconscious during the third act, he’s actually the main focus of most of it.

That’s my greater point, that his journey is not only a real one, but also given time to happen, two things that don’t happen to token characters.

Yes, he is invested in saving the white protagonist (token behavior), but it goes further than that.

He goes from a guy at the beginning/middle of the movie who is very pragmatically focused on saving himself, to making the decision to go back to the first order to save Rey.

Prior to that, his only thought was to leave the first order and his past behind. "why does everyone want to go back to jakku" contrasts with his decision to go back to the base.

He saved Poe not out of "I’m just a nice guy" but because he needed him to achieve his own goals (something a token doesn’t have).

At the end, he’s still not turned into a "we gotta save the universe because it’s the right thing to do" guy, he’s a person with a name, and a past that he actually cares about and friends. That’s his journey, and it gives him agency (again, stuff tokens don’t usually have).

I don’t think I can say whether the point is right or wrong, but I didn’t view the movie in a way that fits with this image of finn as just a hyper-token.

Dave

Finn, like most young black male characters in JJ Abrams’s works, represents the perceived failing of Black men, or the cultural representations of Black masculinity, in living up to its end of the liberal bargain. Even as they are included, they must be checked and reigned in narratively and thematically, as a warning not to repeat their failures of the past.

Darkan

Finn was meticulously and obviously put into the friend zone in dialogue and on screen. There is no interracial love happening in a galaxy far, far away! Lol.

eric

This article is premature and completely overblown. Finn is the first to wield a light saber during the climactic moments of the final act. Finn’s absence from "the rest of the film" is during the falling action and is no more than 10 to 15 minutes out of a 2 hr, 16 min run time. Finn is very instrumental in his own survival and that of the other characters who call and depend on him for help and support. Finn is a perfect representation of strength, courage and selflessness from beginning to end. People are celebrating because John’s role is character-driven, not race-driven. If you want to find a racial agenda and all the tropes and subliminal messages that come with it, look no further than a favorite in the black community–"Empire".

Carl

Let’s create more Martin Lawrence in Bommerang conspiracies! Star Wars is hot! Let’s get hits on the blog complaining about Finn not being the main character. That will definitely work. Long live manufactured outrage!

Dankwa Brooks

FINN was the RELUCTANT HERO like HAN SOLO. I didn’t find anything wrong his character or his involvement in the Third Act. It was REY’S story. His character was WAY MORE integral than MACE WINDU or LANDO in my opinion. I’ve been studying AA images in media my whole adult life and I’ve would have been the FIRST to cry foul. No crying here.

Literatigurl

Great article. There’s something to this for sure, and I appreciate how the author already prepared for and refutes the counterarguments that highlighting Finn’s slumber during the final act would be met with a most dismissive "stop reading into this" approach. It also makes me wonder whether Marvel’s Panther and the forthcoming comic by Ta-Nahesi Coates will provide greater context to explore this topic for mainstream audiences in 2016. I sure hope so.

BS

Ás a fan i celebrate fin’s character.
In ny opinion i disagree sith the initial statement Of the article …in this film its eclipsed by a bigger character (for sure the main star of this trilogy ) im sure its more to come for Boyega as a real hero in this saga

Tammi LaTela

I saw the movie yesterday. I left quite disappointed. I felt that there was a bait and switch so far as the advertising of the movie compared to what happened in the 3rd act of the movie. Hyper-tokenism would be an accurate description of what happened, I don’t believe I will be sitting in the theater for Episode VIII.

Lesson [again] learned, we MUST tell our own stories.

Kelly

What do you say of Poe Dameron played by hispanic Oscar isaac?

Reelblack

I think Finn is more than a token. However, I agree, some tricknology was in effect. He is set up in the classic heroes journey throughout the film then right before the climax, he reveals that he was in sanitation while a stormtrooper. that line only makes sense if you are trying to bring him down a notch or have plans to release a stormtrooper with mop and bucket accessory toy. We can’t truss white folks to create our heroes for us. Gotta tell our own stories.

Marcus B Like

I knew the inevitability of an article like this would appear the moment Finn was knocked out and the white girl was made the main hero in the third act. Something the author does not address and this goes into a whole other issue altogether is the interracial romance in this movie will have audiences of all demographics rooting for the black guy to get with the white girl. In real life this parring causing the greatest amount of social criticism from blacks and whites. But of course I hate Finn was knocked out and it left me wanting to ask more questions of Abrams considering how dead the brother looked unconscious.

J

Oh for God’s sake, you’re waaaay overthinking this. Harrison Ford’s character died (but not really). Would you be leveling accusations against the film makers if the black character was killed? Finn is obviously going to be an important character. He drove the action of the film, literally setting it all into motion. Being knocked out gives him a narrative drive and motivation that will play out in the sequels. This kind of criticism only ensures that black characters will be safe, boring and "whitewashed."

Liz

As a black filmmaker/screenwriter, diversity is a funny thing. As for Star Wars, I thought that Finn and Poe were more fascinating than Rey. I’m not one to write such an analysis on films, but I’m still not sure how to reconcile Finn’s storyline. It’s quite possible that actors of all colors were called in for the role of Finn and they just happened to like John Boyega the most. I did dislike the fact that he was useless during the third act. Honestly, for such an interesting backstory, the writers fell short of completing a strong arc. This is why I believe that the original writer, Michael Arndt, should have been trusted to write the script or even complete the arcs that JJ and Kasdan had planned out.

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ShawnW

Many white people like to ignore obvious racial issues in films. Plus I find it funny how people point out that JJ is Jewish. I usually submit to these people one simple thing. What thoughts do you think goes through a police officers head when he sees JJ as opposed to someone that resembles Boyega. Perhaps your right because white love to divide amongst even themselves. They are quick to say your Irish, your German, your this, your that. Do you really think any would take the time to even consider the nationality of Boyega? Would they wonder if they were Nigerian, Ghanian, etc… I know many first generation Black foreigners. They sound American because they were raised here. Do you think their heritage plays a role in any white persons eyes. As long as this thought process exist, these comments are all valid in regards to race. On another note, some might argue well police are on guard because blacks commit more murders. This is not true. Blacks are CONVICTED of more murders. The news proves how many white people walk. Justice system is bias. Look at the white kid who was accused of rape and walked fairly quickly. The is system is broken. This country has a ton of problems and people are too blind to obvious things. Lastly, before anyone responds just know this. I think Black Lives Matter is BS because they do not hold Black accountable. All PEOPLE should be held accountable. If a black guy kills another black guy then he should be put under the jail and the victims family should receive monetary compensation to make them whole and a public outrage should be announced. I served the Army years and did two combat tours to Baghdad, then served as a DOD contractor and did 7 more tours and now work for the VA as a System Engineer. So I do not take sides and I am not speaking out my A** but people need to stop ignoring the obvious.

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