Now that we know about as much as we are going to about Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the excitement is mounting for its holiday release date. Recently, the final poster and movie trailer have come out and fanboy salivation has been flowing in the streets. At the same time, a strange new breed of racist has used this as their cause celeb. Similar to Men’s Rights Activists boycotting Mad Max Fury Road over feminist themes, a group of internet-loud white nationalists are calling for a boycott of the coming Star Wars film for being “anti-white.”
The hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII started trending on Twitter a few days ago, being paired with the regular star wars hashtags and other ones known among neo-Nazis and white nationalists like #whitegenocide. With Twitter accounts like “End Cultural Marxism,” a term that is used to say that academic Marxists are responsible for socially progressive ideas that destroy “western man,” and Captain Confederacy, using avatars from the old Epic Comics strange book.
What is their claim to white genocide all about? The cast of Episode VII is thoroughly multiracial and multicultural. Rather than focusing on simply a white cast with a few folks of color in the background, the J.J. Abrams interpretation has brought in a lot of people of color into dominant roles rather than allowing it to continue as a Northern European fable. This is a bridge to far for many of these “radical traditionalists” and “racial nationalists” who believe this is just a move to disallow white people from having their own heroes and movies.
On the white nationalist web-journal Radix, run by the National Policy Institute and noted pseudo-academic Richard Spencer, he noted that this change in the cast should not necessarily drive people away from the theater, but it is clearly a move against the “white male.”
In an article called, aptly enough, “The Fash Awakens,” Spencer discusses how the “dark side” depicted in the Star Wars series was the more powerful side of “the force” and often modeled on the Third Reich. He discusses that, while it is decried in the film, the Sith are the more powerful side, and so, on some level, those who are feeling disenfranchised by the non-white cast should identify with the “dark side” when in the theater.
So what is the message? Much like the Force, there are Dark and Light sides. The exoteric message is, of course, that we should root on the scrappy, multicultural—indeed, multi-species—band of “Rebels” as they battle the mean ol’ fascists.
The esoteric message is more complicated. I think Abrams and Kasdan are telling us that the spirit of fascism—that of hierarchy, greatness, dominance, and overcoming—is ever-present in the postmodern world, even if it seems defeated and must act in a subterranean space. Fascism is just as much a potentiality of the contemporary Zeitgeist as is the “Rebel Alliance” (which was always unfit for rule and never actually “won” at the end of Return of the Jedi). The great lightsaber battle in The Force Awakens thus seems to be between a “Knight of Ren” and a young Black man who’d seem at home among #BlackLivesMatter protesters.
So as opposed to boycotting Star Wars—and effectively allowing our enemies to dictate what culture means—why not go see the film, and see it through our eyes?
And Star Wars is not the only product of contemporary pop culture in which a thin line separates propaganda and subversion.
This is not the first time that the reactionary fraction of Star Wars fans have revolted to anything in the franchise that does not fit a narrow line. When writer Chuck Wendig wrote the Star Wars Expanded Universe book Star Wars: Aftermath
, he got a great deal of flack from the far-right about the openly gay Imperial Officer.
What is nice about this hashtag and internet campaign is that it is bringing together the vastly dominant community of progressive fans who are not going to let a pack of digital racists ruin their fun. Instead, the most common response is happiness. Who wants a bunch of racists in the theater when you are trying to see Droids anyway?