New ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ trailer sparks racial backlash

Updated

Although most “Star Wars” fans are rejoicing over the new trailer for the highly-anticipated seventh installment of the beloved sci-fi series, there has been a backlash as well, with troubling racial overtones.

The second official trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” debuted during “Monday Night Football” last night amid a flurry of pre-sale activity, which temporarily crashed the popular online ticket seller Fandango’s website. The footage once again prominently featured black British actor John Boyega, which led to some hostile reactions.

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#BoycottStarWarsVII became a trending topic on social media, with some commentators accusing the new film of promoting “white genocide,” arguing that it was made “to demoralize and destroy whites.” The Daily Beast has reported that a number of the hate-filled tweets came from individuals who have also professed support for the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

Racially-motivated criticism is not new for “The Force Awakens.” When the first trailer for the film was released last fall, there was an outpouring of complaints about the casting of Boyega. In the clip, Boyega appeared in a stormtrooper uniform that was inconsistent with a precedent established in earlier films. However, some of the invective that followed clearly crossed the line:

For his part, Boyega – a rising star following a breakout role in the cult sci-fi hit “Attack the Block” – has taken the high road, telling prejudiced “Star Wars” fans to “get used to it.”

Ironically, the original “Star Wars” trilogy (1977-1983) was criticized for not being diverse enough. Actor Billy Dee Williams played the only lead character of color, Lando Calrissian, in two of the films, although James Earl Jones did lend his iconic voice to the series’ most popular villain, Darth Vader. The prequels (1999-2005) featured Samuel L. Jackson in the role of Mace Windu, a purple lightsaber-wielding Jedi, but they also including the controversial CGI character Jar Jar Binks, who many viewers considered an unfortunate homage to offensive, stereotypical African-American characters from Hollywood’s golden age.

By casting Boyega, Oscar Issac (who has Guatemalan and Cuban ancestry) and Lupita Nyong’o (who gives a motion captured performance), director J.J. Abrams is clearly trying to broaden the series’ diversity and appeal. But where some fans see progress, others cry conspiracy.

And some prominent supporters of the film and its casting choices are pushing back. “Selma” director Ava DuVernay has thrown her wait behind a new hashtag – #CelebrateStarWarsVII – which has acted as a counterpoint to the negative commentary:

Movies, Racism, Social Media and Star Wars

New 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' trailer sparks racial backlash

Updated