Friday, October 20, Star Wars fans used the hashtag #swrepmatters on Twitter to show support for diverse Star Wars films and to publicize the campaign for more inclusive casting and storytelling.
For most of the past 40 years, the principal characters in the Star Wars universe were white and male. With the notable exceptions of Princess Leia and Padme Amidala, females were few and far between. People of color were almost nonexistent.
Onscreen representation has improved somewhat since Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012 and the release of the newest movies in the Skywalker Saga (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi) and the anthology films (Rogue One, Solo). Thanks to this new content, audiences have seen a resourceful and brave young woman become a Jedi, a Black man confront his worst fears to save his friends, and a Latino man serve as the best pilot in the galaxy. Audiences saw a woman who has suffered terrible loss discover hope and ignite a rebellion, assisted by allies that are portrayed by people of Mexican, Chinese, and Pakistani descent.
In other words, audiences have finally seen themselves represented in these iconic films. And as reflected by the #swrepmatters Twitter event, that visibility is huge!
But Star Wars Twitter had plenty of observations about how much farther the Star Wars franchise has to go before the films truly reflect their diverse fan base. Especially now that Star Trek: Discovery is hitting it out of the park with women of color in significant roles, #swrepmatters participants noted that female characters of color, while influential in books and comics, are all but invisible in the Star Wars films.
#SWRepMatters bc I still need a lead afrolatina that's not hidden behind an alien character.— Maria De Los Muertos (@Maria_Giesela) October 20, 2017
We're fans & this is what we expect: that this beautiful world we grew up with continues its attempts to reflect us on-screen. #SWRepMatters— P'Challa MacKenzie (@pfunk1130) October 20, 2017
And then of course, there's the complete erasure of LGBT characters and relationships in Star Wars films.
Predictably, the #swrepmatters hashtag drew innumerable garbage takes. Trolls whined about how "Forced" diversity (clever, I guess?) is evidently distracting or threatening. There were lots of incoherent invocations of the Political Correctness bogeyman, and—bizarrely—one or two allegations that increased diversity in Star Wars will somehow drive more people to vote for Donald Trump.
But Star Wars Twitter is nothing if not resilient, so the comebacks were snappy and positive. For example:
Detractors asking “why are people so obsessed w/ skin colour in Star Wars” are the most obsessed w/ skin colour in Star Wars.#SWRepMatters— Steele Wars Podcast (@SteeleWars) October 20, 2017
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy remarked earlier this year that fans have an influence on the Star Wars stories. Hopefully, efforts like the #swrepmatters will continue to demonstrate the broad appetite for diverse characters and relationships. And hopefully, someone at Lucasfilm is listening.