It’s just black ink on white paper

When the ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ trailer was released, the internet promptly (and rightly) exploded. There were so many talking points.
But one I don’t think deserves much merit or opposition was the ‘controversial’ decision to cast John Boyega, a black stormtrooper, as a main character.

One Youtuber suggested that the franchise “didn’t need some black Jedi.”
Another stated: “Dear Black People, We are forced to include you into everything awesome we do.”

Attitudes like this are toxic. The age of tokenism, racially anyway, is well and truly gone. People of every ethnicity have played every kind of character. They need to ask themselves, why shouldn’t the character be white, or alternately, why not have a purely black cast? I for one think the film series would be all the better for it. i

Here’s the trailer with the reveal for those of you who didn’t see it:

I’m sick and tired of black actors being cast, or being expected to play ‘black’ roles. Why should white actors be the default choice or consideration for race neutral roles?

Denzel Washington has down the years been a vital cog in making black actors more prominent and accepted, by people who wouldn’t have had much contact with the community otherwise, in cinema. But it think he’s still pegged very much for the ‘black’ roles’. This is changing for up-and-comers though.

Recently Hollywood has started giving more ‘race neutral’ roles to black actors and that heartens me. The likes of Cuba Gooding Jr. and Will Smith set a precedent.

Smith played the lead role in I Am Legend when prior to this white actors took the role. It proved a huge success. Not to mention Hancock. Cuba Gooding Jr bridged the gap between Washington and Smith in a way taking part in both stereotypical black roles and racially neutral ones. Michael Clarke Duncan payed Kingpin in Daredevil, a character normally depicted as Caucasian.

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Even more recently it’s been Jamie Foxx, who played Electro in The Amazing Spiderman 2 and is set to play Benjamin Stacks in the re-imagined version of AnnieMichael D. Jordan is being cast as the Human torch 10 years since Chris Evans played the same role. What a statement.

Returning to Star Wars, the cultural context to this film doesn’t relate to the world we live in today. There’s no such racism in existence. It’s Sci-Fi, verging on Fantasy. Any arguments that link a black stormtrooper to continuity error are simply wrong. He’s being cast as a person. That’s all.

I think Star wars had a substandard presence of black actors, with Samuel L. Jackson being the only one in the franchise prior to this. He played Mace Windu, and the pace with which he was killed off astonished me.

Everybody is swallowing Disney’s pill here, though. A statement like this casting was bound to make waves. I wish it didn’t. It shouldn’t.

I look forward to a world where we don’t have to include race when we discuss castings.

‘Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens’ will be in American cinemas on December 18th, 2015.

 


 

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