Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Title: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Creator: Lawrence Kasdan
J.J. Abrams
Bryan Burk
Date(s): 2015
Medium: Film
Fandom: Star Wars
External Links: Star Wars: The Force Awakens on IMDB.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Wikipedia

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the seventh film released in the Star Wars saga and the first film in the sequel trilogy. It was written by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk, directed by J.J. Abrams, and released in the United States on December 18, 2015. The main cast included characters from the original trilogy and introduced a younger generation of characters: Rey, Poe Dameron, Finn, Kylo Ren, and the robot BB8.



ship popularity over time, by number of fanworks posted to the Archive of Our Own

Immediately following the release of the film Poe Dameron/Finn was the most popular ship, receiving mainstream attention and accounting for the most works on Ao3. [1] Other ships appearing immediately after the release of The Force Awakens and listed in order of works produced at that time, include, Rey/Kylo Ren, Finn/Rey, Kylo Ren/Hux, the poly ship Poe/Finn/Rey, and rarepairs like Luke/Poe and Luke/Rey.

Many fans also headcanon Rey as a lesbian and ship her with Jessika Pava.[2]

Kylux and Reylo were both in the top ten ships reblogged/discussed in 2016 on Tumblr, with Reylo at number 10 and Kylux at number 9.[3]

As of December 2017, Kylux (Kylo Ren/Hux) had risen to become the most popular ship in this fandom, followed by Reylo (Kylo Ren/Rey) and then Stormpilot(Poe Dameron/Finn).[4] Following the release of The Last Jedi, all three of these pairings saw a spike in interest and number of works produced, with Reylo seeing the most substantial increase, but the ship rankings have not changed.[5][6]

There has been much discussion about why the slash pairing of the two male protagonists, Finn and Poe Dameron is not the most popular pairing in this fandom, as is generally the case in most fandoms. See below for more details.

Racism In and Outside The 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 film.

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. :)"[7]

[Insert negative commentary from fans and also actor interviews discussing]

In October 2015, immediately following the release of the first trailer, the #BoycottStarWarsVII hashtag appeared on Twitter with some claiming that the film was anti-white propaganda.[8] There is almost definitive evidence that the hashtag was a 4chan prank designed to provoke controversy, and most of the tweets that made this hashtag trend were criticizing the tag. [9][10] Still others were quick to point out that even if this was a prank, it didn't negate the existence of racism in the fandom.

Even if 4chan did start it, I'm fairly certain there are some people out there that actually agree with the hashtag. Remember all the craziness that happened with the first teaser and 'omg stormtroopers can't be black!'? Because that was an actual thing.[11]

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[12] 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."[13]

However, many other fans embraced the introduction of a character of color and had high hopes that this would be reflected in the fanfiction. [Insert discussions]

In fact, TFA introduced two characters of color: Finn and Poe. Soon slash fandom began writing and posting fanfic under the Stormpilot pairing name. [Insert discussions of the early stats about numbers of fanworks posted to AO3].

In the months that followed, however, other pairings, both slash (Kylux) and het (Reylo) became popular, leading many fans to attribute this to racism in fandom. Kylux is considered a Two White Guys ship because both are secondary characters and Hux in particular has little screen time and is not very fleshed out.

[Insert examples of the discussion]

Fans pointed to destinationtoast's statistical analysis that showed the growth of a white male/male pairing as evidence of fandom racism:


"I am comfortable saying Kylux is a racist ship, but not because I think each and every Kylux fan is a card carrying KKK-style racist. I’m sure it’s true that some bailed on Stormpilot because of the racism and turned to Kylux because they’re into dark and dirty slash. But that’s not really the point. If 10% of the TFA fics on AO3 were Kylux, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It is by far the most popular ship, and this is a pattern in fandom. With few exceptions like Sleepy Hollow, fans will find a way to make all white ships the most popular. One of my main fandoms is Being Human (UK), which has a canon interracial pairing between two main characters – far and away the most popular ship involves the white guy from that pairing and another white guy from a completely different show. I’m not going to list all the times white pairings overwhelm pairings involving character(s) of color, but it happens like clockwork, so I maintain that it’s about race.Or, if it’s easier to digest, it’s about prioritizing white people. I don’t even think that’s the fault of the shippers, it’s something that is so ingrained that when the media itself prioritize characters of color, it doesn’t make sense to people (see the UTTER confusion when Rick got together with Michonne on The Walking Dead, even though the love story had been developed over three seasons).

“Ship and let ship” is ALWAYS used to defend white priority ships. Of course people are free to ship whatever they want. People criticisng white dominance even in fandoms where there are lead characters of color doesn’t stop anyone from shipping what they want. But when a fan of color goes into the TFA tag and it looks like there are no characters of color in the movie (and/or it looks like they’re small side characters), that hurts. It’s harmful. If freaking FINN isn’t worthy of attention and love, where does that put Black fans who relate to him? I’m sure individual shippers have no intention of harming anyone, but this is a big picture thing. A Black lead in a Star Wars movie is damn near a miracle, and the fandom, overall, has chosen, regardless of intention, to sideline him"[14]


Some of the racism was explicit:

[Insert examples of explicit racist fic, art, prompts]

Example Fic Comments: In November 2015, one fan received the following comment on her crossover Star Wars fanfic featuring Finn and Nick Fury from The Avengers:

"This is a nice story, but I'd like it a lot more if it weren't about the two black guys. I mean, I just can't really get into Finn and Nick Fury. This would be way more popular if it were about Rey and Tony Stark, IMO."[15]

Example Challenge Prompts: In April 2016, one fan wrote:

[imburningstar141]:"Y'all are lucky the Kinkmeme is Anonymous.

Otherwise I would have called out every single last one of y'all who keep prompting shit about Finn’s “Big Black Cock” and how much Poe/Rey/Whothefuckever are so glad to finally have a dick big enough to “fill them up” or whatever.

Never mind the man attached said dick.

I’m only gonna say this ONCE:



Example Fic: See Define What You Mean By Racism (List of Ways That Reylo Is Racist), Archived version

See also:

[Feb 2016]: "At the point where this fandom is creating and spreading AUs where Finn is a gang member from a family of gangbangers, in a bad neighborhood, and has a “stupid name” that represents everything he’s trying to get away from so police officer Poe gives him a new name and “saves” him I just…I’ve lost all hope. The stereotypes…the implicit racism…like this fandom is by and large not capable of seeing Black folks as anything other than stereotypes and just…I’m so tired."[16]

Example Art: In early May 2016, one man posted a gif of a Stormtrooper beating a black man while yelling: "Stop Resisting" using elements from the movie. While the gif only received 200 tumblr notes, the image was mentioned by several fans dsicussing fandom racism on tumblr. See Untitled post bybitterlyfrosty and subsequent commentary, Archived version

screencap of a twitter post made by actress Daisy Ridley showing Finn and Rey holding hands. The tumblr May 3, 2016 post by Jawnbaeyega reads: "Just a sampling of the foolishness and racism in the comments of Daisy’s instagram after puting up a screen cap from a bonus feature on the TFA dvd. Stay classy Star Wars fandom."

Even months after the release of the film some twitter users continued to comment negatively on the actors' twitter feeds when pictures of Finn and Rey holding hands were posted.[17]

Fanwork Examples




Many fanvids made that aren't based around a ship, use clips from across the previous two Star Wars trilogies alongside clips from The Force Awakens.

Fannish Resources


Meta/Further Reading


  1. ^ As of 22/12/2015 there were the following works on Ao3; Finn/Poe(103),Reylo (73), Finn/Rey (48) Kylux (39), Poe/Finn/Rey (34) Leia/Han (18) according to this article, Which Star Wars Couples Are People Drooling Over? The Force Awakens Fan-Fiction Power Rankings, accessed on 17/02/2018.
  2. ^ reyva tag on Tumblr
  3. ^ 2016’s Top Ships
  4. ^ How to tell Kylux from Reylo: a primer on The Last Jedi fans’ favorite couples(18 Dec 2017, accessed on 17/2/2018.
  5. ^ As of 17/2/2018, the following number of pairings are found in the Star Wars tag (for comparison with previous link) on Ao3; Armitage Hux/Kylo Ren (7946) Kylo Ren/Rey (5058) Armitage Hux/Ben Solo | Kylo Ren (4801) Poe Dameron/Finn (4793) Rey/Ben Solo | Kylo Ren (3146) Cassian Andor/Jyn Erso (2808) Leia Organa/Han Solo (2711) Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi (2153) Padmé Amidala/Anakin Skywalker (2071) Obi-Wan Kenobi/Anakin Skywalker (1707)
  6. ^ FFA discussion
  7. ^ BBC Image of John Boyega instagram post
  8. ^ Twitter post #BoycottStarWarsVII, 16 November 2015.
  9. ^ So #BoycottStarWarsVII is trending on twitter. Does anyone know why? discussion in r/StarWars on Reddit, 19 October 2015.
  10. ^ The Real Story Behind BoycottStarWarsVII is about normalizing racism, HoustonPress article, posted 21 October 2015.
  11. ^ Reddit post by Lanuria, 19 October 2015.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Black Fangirls Unite, Archived version
  14. ^ Full-Color Fantasy — thebb-k8: jawnbaeyega: diversehighfantasy:..., Archived version
  15. ^ Show Comment to "A Galaxy Far Far Away", Archived version
  16. ^ Star Wars Frontman John Boyega, Archived version
  17. ^ Star Wars Frontman John Boyega, Archived version