Among the other ridiculous and terrifying crap that’s happened since the election, this week’s preposterous attempt at boycotting the latest Star Wars story, Rogue One, probably takes the cake for both predictability and eyeroll worthiness.
The short version: Some rando decided that the combo of perfectly-normal pickup filming and the film’s writers reacting with perfectly-understandable horror to the election of the Mango Mussolini meant the film had been deliberately retooled to be anti-Trump. He posted a ginned-up story to this effect, it took root, and resulted in a Dump Star Wars hashtag on Twitter (which was subsequently soundly mocked by anyone with the common sense of a garden slug.)
Oh, where to start?
First off: A specific reference to Trump would be literally impossible within the canon: Hi, a long time ago? A galaxy far, far away? While Star Wars is rife with petty demagogues and their sycophants, this particular one couldn’t be referenced without breaking the fourth wall and pretty much every convention of sensible storytelling.
Next: Pretty much the entire Star Wars canon is an allegory for fighting a fascist regime, particularly Hitler’s, as Lucas was inspired in part by WWII. Yep, the Empire is basically Space Nazis (and Darth Vader is incongruously dressed like a Space Samurai, but that’s a different issue.) The Empire’s underachieving little brother, the First Order, is pretty much the same thing: Brownshirts all grown up and pissed off that their former idols had been deposed. Insomuch as the current rise of hipster-flavored white supremacy has followed a similar model, perhaps there is some comparison to be made between the new canon, as featured in the Force Awakens, and what’s happening in reality. Kylo Ren in his irrational, petulant and self-centered obsessiveness certainly does feel a lot like the legions of Pepe-avatar dipshits currently being awful.
Rogue One, however, is set at a different place in the chronology, being the story of the band of renegades who stole the plans for the Death Star (which was eventually boom-ified by Luke Skywalker.) The particular flavor of Space Nazis they’re fighting this time is the original recipe, not the Velveeta-coated knockoff of our current era. If the nascent Empire in this film resembles anything real, then it goes back to the original trilogy’s classic fascism, not the kind now trying to pretend that suits and ties can sub for white hoods and SS regalia.
That said, there are obviously some real-world influences happening in the franchise’s recent offerings. TFA’s narrative leads being a white woman and two men of color is certainly no accident. It’s a deliberate choice of inclusiveness, and one that definitely pissed off the fanboys who apparently missed the strong women and men of color in previous installments (not nearly enough, no, but in cultural context, Leia being a badass and Lando playing a key role in Return of the Jedi were definitely fairly advanced for their time.) Now with Rogue One, we not only have another white female lead and a team of men of color, but the ONLY white guys in it, save Jyn’s father (Mads Mikkelsen) are villains. Privilege-pickled white dudes who are used to being well over half of any major film’s “good guys” cast undoubtedly do feel aggrieved by this. How difficult it must be for them, the poor dears. Going from 80% of leads to 76% is so terribly oppressive. I’d play a nano-scale violin for them if I could find one.
I do wonder sometimes whether TFA’s enormous success, despite the attempted boycotts by the toddlers-with-keyboards set, may have triggered some of their real-world backlash. Not that they were ever going to vote for a woman anyway, but rushing to back Trump–and doing so fervently–may have been in part inspired by that rageflailing. Of course, every step forward women, people of color, queer folk and anyone else who isn’t a cishet white dude have taken has been interpreted as an attack, and some of these dudes are just the latest in a long line of people pissed off that the South lost the Civil War. Obama’s election/re-election undoubtedly had a lot to do with this rise, and him potentially being followed by a woman undoubtedly added to that. But changes in pop-culture representation probably contributed, too. Not that any of this is a bad thing or shouldn’t have happened, of course. But I can see how some of these guys, seeing an increase in power among people Not Like Them in the real world may have been retreating into the comparatively white-dude-saturated world of mainstream pop culture, particularly big movies, network TV and video games. For those things, which they also believed they owned, to be “invaded” by supposed lesser creatures probably felt to them like having their last refuge exposed. Female Ghostbusters and Jedis and queer superheroes and and and and . . . Golly. It’s like cishet white men don’t even exist anymore. Cue new swastika tattoos and heil Trump.
And, apparently, cue utter bullshit boycotts like this. Personally, if the Rogue One creative team really did intend to fire a couple of shots into the hipster-racist exhaust port, well, yay. I’m looking forward to watching a scrappy band of multicultural resistance fighters work to take down a fascist Empire. It’s the New Hope we need right now. But such stories will always be relevant, because asshat bigots and robber barons will always try to get enough power to do damage to people they consider inferior. That such a battle is currently raging in the real world as well as onscreen probably isn’t entirely coincidental, but it was relevant in 1976, too. And 1980. And 1983. And 1999 . . . If the current real-world miscreants see themselves in Space Nazis, so be it. They can also see themselves in Sauron’s legion of orcs, or the villains of any number of other classic justice-vs.-oppression stories. They of course have always seen themselves as the heroes fighting against the supposed totalitarianism of justice efforts, so maybe becoming aware that they are, in fact, actually the bad guys in these stories may be a bit of a shock. But if so, then good. Recognize that you’re on the wrong side of history. Be Finn instead: Take off that Stormtrooper helmet and do the right thing.