As PJ Media’s Jeff Reynolds previously reported, Disney is accusing Star Wars fans of racism for panning the performance of actress Moses Ingram for her portrayal of Third Sister Reva in the new Disney+ limited series Obi-Wan Kenobi. Ingram claims she’s received racist messages via Instagram regarding her performance, prompting responses from the official Star Wars social media accounts as well as Ewan MacGregor, the star of the series.
In response, fans clapped back, believing their legitimate criticisms of Ingram’s performance on top of the poor writing of the character were being dubbed as racist just because Ingram is black. As of now, we have yet to see evidence of any racist comments being sent to Ingram, and some fans suggest this is all a publicity stunt.
I’m not gonna say that Ingram didn’t get racist comments sent to her, but I’d be willing to bet that if she did, they were very few.
This incident reminds me of the short-lived controversy over John Boyega’s appearance in a stormtrooper uniform in the first trailer for The Force Awakens. At the time, it was strongly implied by the prequel trilogies that stormtroopers were clones, and they had been portrayed by Temuera Morrison (who is Māori) since Attack of the Clones. It was established in The Force Awakens, however, that stormtroopers in the sequel trilogy were no longer clones — but fans didn’t know this when the first teaser trailer was released, and many questioned why there was a black stormtrooper. A legitimate question from Star Wars fans, who are known to dissect all the subtleties of the Star Wars universe. Did Boyega receive some racist attacks? Maybe, but again, I would bet they were very, very few.
On top of that, Boyega’s performance in the sequel trilogy was solid overall, and it seemed that once people understood the reason why Temuera Morrison wasn’t playing a stormtrooper, the controversy quickly died out.
Unfortunately for Boyega, his character was poorly developed over the course of the three movies—a fact Boyega himself has pointed out. “It’s so difficult to maneuver,” he said back in 2020. “You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are, and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.”
Let’s be honest: the sequel trilogy was garbage and was plagued by poor writing and a lack of planning.
Have some minority characters been ill-received due to a handful of racist fans? Probably. I certainly can’t prove that they haven’t. But many Star Wars fans have been posting on social media that the current brouhaha over Moses Ingram seems overblown, with legitimate criticisms of the character she portrays and her acting getting lumped together with a handful of racist comments that are by no means representative of the vast majority of comments.
But one fact seems to belie the notion that there’s a cadre of racist Star Wars fans who simply don’t like minorities being cast in the franchise: there have been several minority castings in the past that never generated the kind of backlash Moses Ingram has for her portrayal of Third Sister Reva.
For starters, Samuel L. Jackson’s role of Mace Windu in the prequel trilogies didn’t cause any uproar at all. There was no controversy over a black Jedi. His character was well-received and his performances were solid. The same can’t be said of Hayden Christensen, whose performances in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith weren’t so well received. Similarly, fans weren’t pleased with what the sequel trilogy did to Luke Skywalker’s character.
There was also no backlash in response to Giancarlo Esposito’s portrayal of Moff Gideon or Carl Weathers’ performance as Greef Karga in The Mandalorian. Fans overwhelmingly approved of these characters because the acting and writing were fantastic.
While I’m too young to remember when the original trilogy was released, I’ve found no evidence that there was any backlash to Billy Dee Williams being cast as Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back. And let’s not forget that one of the most iconic elements of Star Wars is the voice of Darth Vader, which we all know was voiced by black actor James Earl Jones. Perhaps the only person who was ever unhappy with it was actor David Prowse, who wore the Darth Vader costume in the original Star Wars trilogy; he says was unaware while filming A New Hope that his voice acting would be replaced in post-production.
The Star Wars franchise means a lot to many people. There’s been a lot of criticism about the direction Disney has taken it. Sometimes they get it right, like with The Mandalorian or Rogue One. Other times they get it wrong, as with the sequel trilogy or Solo: A Star Wars Story. As such, fans will speak out when they don’t like a certain aspect of a movie or a series. Criticizing a black actor’s portrayal of a character doesn’t mean that the criticism is racist. Star Wars fans have been entertained by black characters in the Star Wars universe for decades.
Oh…and Han shot first.