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|Works:||Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, Pacific Rim 2|
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Relationship with Star Wars Fandom
It was announced in early 2014 that John Boyega was cast in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, but very little was known about his role. Following the release of the teaser trailer in November 2014, some fans expressed outrage that the film featured a black Stormtrooper. The character at the time was unnamed, but would later turn out to be Finn, one of the two major protagonists in The Force Awakens.
- ‘I’ve seen a lot of talk about the #blackstormtrooper outrage, but not a single example of anyone complaining’: The Force Awakens, canonical fidelity and non-toxic fan practices, by William Proctor, an academic article examining the use of #blackstormtrooper on Twitter, following the release of the teaser trailer.
John Boyega responded to the controversy following the release of the teaser trailer on Instagram. In a since-deleted post, he thanked fans for the love and support, fanmail and fanart; adding "To whom it may concern... Get used to it. :)"
Shortly after the film was released one fan explained:
"The only reason the Boyega casting didn’t blow up a year ago is because just about everyone assumed he was playing a minor character. Across the board – a lot of black fans figured that was the case too, because an actual black lead in Star Wars didn’t seem possible. Boyega was announced first, and virtually no one thought it was possible that he could be a protagonist. That alone says a lot about the depths of racism in media, especially genre.
For months, entertainment media acted like The Force Awakens was going to center on Luke, Leia, and Han. I even saw an article that claimed that the movie had dropped the idea to center the film around three new heroes instead of the original trio (with a ‘whew! That was close!’). These lies (which were not promoted by the studio or Abrams ftr) made total sense to the general public. Every new teaser and trailer made less and less sense. Every new teaser was followed by wank – the “black stormtrooper” controversy (which was put down when the 501st Legion countered with photos of some of the black actors who played actual stormtroopers in the 1978 movie), outrage that Finn was shown with a light saber, insistence that Rey is the one and only protagonist who will probably be betrayed by Finn… no, this is definitely not new. It’s only just hitting the general public, the ones who wouldn’t get the significance of Finn wielding a lightsaber on the poster and were shocked that he was front and center in the trailer while Luke was nowhere to be seen.It doesn’t matter at all whether the boycott star wars 7 hashtag was created seriously or not. A lot of people really are disgusted that the movie has non-white leads, and the vast majority of them are not the mythical basement dwellers a lot of white people fantasize are behind every bit of internet racism."
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
In last December 2019, John began interacting with Star Wars fans on Instagram and Twitter in a way that many, particularly Reylo fans, found petty or disrespectful to TROS, Rey, Kylo Ren, TROS fans, or Reylo shippers.
Defenders of the actor pointed out that Boyega had, by this point, endured years of racism directed at himself and his character that arguably affected his role in the final film. The strong negative response Boyega received was also argued to be a result of racist double standards that demand that John, as a black man, not speak out in a way that is unsettling to white people.
Links & Resources
- BBC Image of John Boyega instagram post
- Reddit post by Lanuria, 19 October 2015.
- The tag was #BoycottStarWarsVII. See "Boycott Star Wars VII" Movement Launched Over Movie Being "Anti-White" - Hollywood Reporter, Archived version for example tweets, pro and anti. Note: Article does not mention the possibility that this hashtag may have been a prank orchestrated by 4chan trolls.
- Black Fangirls Unite, Archived version