Four Points of Clarification

It’s been a few days since the cast announcement has been out there and since our responses have circulated through the interwebs. In that time, it’s become somewhat obvious that there’s some clarification I need to make because there’s a lot of motives being given to us and accusations that we’re taking positions that we’re not actually taking. So here goes.

First: At no point have we taken issue with the quality of the roles for minority and female characters in this film. The issue, the ONLY issue, we and just about everyone else who has spoken on this subject have taken to task is the quantity of minority and female characters. The breakdowns aren’t okay. At best (assuming that additional casting rumor of a female actor of color is true and hasn’t been written out), the breakdown for the main cast looks like this:

  • 2/8 of the new cast are female
  • 3/8 of the new cast are non-white
  • 3/14 of the entire main cast are female
  • 3/14 of the entire main cast are non-white

Those ratios aren’t good, and that’s what we and others have been talking about. We haven’t taken issue with the quality of the roles or the story; we’ve taken issue only with the ratios. It’s pretty disingenuous to accuse us of casting wholesale judgment on a story we haven’t seen yet when that’s not the argument we’re making. Did some good things happen with this cast? Yes, we’re not denying that. What we’re saying is that after 37 years, there should be more progress by now.

Second: We’d be thrilled if Ridley and Boyega were THE central stars of the films. We’ve applauded Lucasfilm for casting them (that praise seems to go unnoticed for some reason). However, prominent roles for one of the few ethnic actors in the main cast and one of the few women in the main cast doesn’t fix the disparity mentioned above. It doesn’t make up for it, either. I’d encourage you not to tell those asking for better representation numbers that they should “be happy with what you get.” Quality matters, yes, but so does quantity. That’s a key to remember: this criticism will be there until the representation numbers hit parity.

We can be happy and thrilled that actors like Ridley and Boyega get main roles (and I do hope this is true, but it’s not a certainty yet) while simultaneously we can be disappointed and critical at the disparity of women and minorities in the cast.

Third: We also acknowledge that the ratio can be patched up somewhat with the secondary characters. That said, if the disparity is fixed in that manner, it’s kind of a hollow victory. If there are more women and minorities as background and secondary characters with a handful of lines we will be excited and happy to see them. That said, their presence would be limited to that of non-main cast roles. It’s something to be certain, but it still leaves a whole lot to be desired.

Once again, we can (and will) be happy about this development if it happens, but we’ll point out that there’s still room for improvement. We’re consistent like that.

Fourth: At no point have we or the vast majority of people who have taken to the blogosphere to discuss this filled with angry bloodlust. Here at Tosche Station, we’ve been remarkably even keeled in our writing. So has Amy Ratcliffe. So has Dunc. So has Bonnie Burton. So has Bryan Young. It’s not fair and it’s rather disingenuous to characterize what we and others have written as being full of anger and promoting hate within fandom. If anything has gotten myself and others frustrated over the last few days, it’s much less the casting announcement and much more the words that are being put in our mouths and motives being given to us.

So let’s make this very clear.

  • The issue we’re taking up is that the ratio of women to men and minorities to non-ethnic actors needs improvement.
  • We’ll be thrilled if Boyega and Ridley have key roles, but that doesn’t address the disparity in the main cast nor does it make up for it.
  • We’ll be happy if more women and minorities are added as secondary characters, but concede that’s somewhat of a hollow victory.
  • We’re not filled with angry bloodlust and we’re not trying to promote hate in fandom. We’re trying to bring attention to disparity in representation.
  • Finally, contrary to popular belief, we are excited about new Star Wars.

Are we on the same page now?

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2 thoughts on “Four Points of Clarification

  1. IMHO, your judgment is premature.

    Darth Maul is played by a white guy, but he's not a white guy in the film. How does this count? It's true a minority did not have the opportunity to play the part, but the audience perceives the gender, not the race. How do you count Ahmed Best? How do you count James Earl Jones or David Prowse? Does the average moviegoer recognize a picture of David Prowse?

    Andy Serkis may only appear as a CGI character. Meanwhile, if Daisy and John are front and center for three films while von Sydow's character dies mid-way through EP VII, this affects the balance.

    It's also unfair to count the entire cast. A large chunk is from 1977, when we know we had problems with diversity. Most of them are not likely to feature through three movies.

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