When I first saw The Force Awakens after a fully funded summer media apparatus of hype in the winter of 2015, I remember the following Christmas morning my mother turned the corner, threw me a Force Awakens pillow, and coldly chuckled “Merry Christmas.” It was a good joke — like many the Force is moderately strong in my family — but it left me to wonder, what Christmas spirit at Walmart possessed my Mom to buy me this gift? I suspect my mother may have unknowingly become a Disney market research statistic. But after the last five years and our predestined Rise of Skywalker, I am largely left to ask the same question.
Before December 2019 ends, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on one of the most significant pop culture artifacts of the year. This is the month, after all, in which one of the co-creators of the iconic series Lost gave us a critically acclaimed and universally praised ninth episode of a series that breathed new life into a franchise that had not been this beloved since the mid-1980s. By shifting the focus away from the historically white male heroes of the original and toward a story centering women and people of color, the creators had to also confront the toxic — and often racist — fan culture that had laid claim to the property for over thirty years. Plus, they were able to do all of this without the consent of the property’s original creator.
Of course, I’m talking about Watchmen on HBO.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year on The Middle Geeks! Star Wars time! But is it really though, with the latest release of The Rise of Skywalker? Swara and Mae discuss, getting into what they liked about the film, as well as the issues they had with it and the Sequel Trilogy as a whole. Note that this is a SPOILER discussion. But before that, we get into the month of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) representation highs and lows, from the high of having an Arab-American hero introduced to Marvel Comics to the low of Aladdin star Mena Massoud not getting a single audition due to Hollywood racism, even after his film made a billion dollars. We still have a long way to go!
With Rise of Skywalker and the end of the Skywalker Saga at the end of the month to look forward to, Hard NOC Life is going to be a Star Wars podcast for the month of December. Because there aren’t enough Star Wars podcasts on the internet! Each week, Dominic and Keith will be breaking down a different trilogy that make up the beloved Star Wars franchise.
On the morning after his 85th birthday party, acclaimed mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead in his study, a cut carotid and blood splashed everywhere. His family, a classic Christiean cast of characters, are all waiting to find out the contents of his will. It’s with this well-known whodunit premise that Rian Johnson’s uproariously hilarious Knives Out begins.
This weekend during Comic-Con International in San Diego, nearly 40 people gathered in cosplay and Rose Tico t-shirts outside the Hilton Bayfront for the first ever “Rally For Rose,” including folks such as author C.B. Lee and Marvel’s New Warriors actress Kate Comer. Our Rally even got the attention of several media outlets like CNET, Rolling Stone, Nerdist, Business Insider, and the Los Angeles Times, to name a few. Oh, and the Rally got tweeted by Rian Johnson and Mark Hamill.
It goes without saying that we are huge fans of Rose Tico and Kelly Marie Tran here at The Nerds of Color. Unfortunately, there’s a significant portion of Star Wars fandom that doesn’t agree. Even worse, they’ve taken their disdain for a fictional character and used it to harass the actress so much that she had to delete her Instagram.
The month of May holds a special place in the hearts of Asian American and Pacific Islander Star Wars fans. For starters, May has been AAPI Heritage Month since 1990, though it originally began as “Asian Pacific Heritage Week” when it was proposed in Congress by Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta in 1977. That’s right, 1977. You know what else debuted in May 1977?
All week, rabid Star Wars fans have been debating the merits of the most recent entry into the Skywalker saga, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Directed by Rian Johnson and starring Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Kelly Marie Tran, Carrie Fisher, and Luke Skywalker, The Last Jedi has proven to be the most polarizing entry in the Lucasfilm canon. To break down what they thought of the movie, Keith invited his DC TV Classics co-host Britney Monae.
To properly analyze Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you have to go beyond the trappings of fandom and look at the movie as a part of a larger product of Disney/Lucasfilm storytelling. Approaching this as anything other than a corporate juggernaut mainly concerned with moving merchandise and building the next generation of consumers will result in total anger, confusion, and regret. This might sound cynical and cold, but it’s only the acknowledgment that Hollywood cinema is big business and sometimes actual art will slip through the image factory despite their best efforts to curtail imagination and wonder.
I’m not saying The Last Jedi lacks imagination or wonder, but there’s definitely a middling corporate influence throughout the movie that simultaneously keeps the movie in an inoffensive zone of bland character moments while setting up Rian Jonhson’s long-term vision for the Star Wars franchise.
What makes The Last Jedi interesting, though, is that it deliberately erases the nostalgic underpinnings of the Star Wars saga being about the Skywalker clan. Now this is where you see a lot of online outrage regarding The Last Jedi (even when you remove the knee-jerk right-wing racist backlash to the movie being “too diverse“) with the main complaint is that it “feels different” than previous Star Wars films.
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
This morning was the long anticipated Last Jedi panel at the annual Star Wars Celebration convention in Orlando, and it didn’t disappoint. In addition to seeing Force Awakens breakouts John Boyega and Daisy Ridley reunite on stage, the world was officialy introduced to Kelly Marie Tran. Even better? We finally got a sense of who her mysterious character is and how she fits in the saga.
Last week was a pretty discouraging one for the APA community — and for all POC folks — with Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi, Tilda Swinton as a bald Tibetan monk, and Nat Wolff as Light Yagami. There has been massive outrage on many fronts and thankfully, the concern has been taken seriously by major publications such as the Hollywood Reporter. Over here at NOC, it’s been covered numerous times, so it’s safe to say that the anger and frustration is still very much present for many of us.
Let’s, for the time being, look at a happier place; to a story where a relatively unknown Asian American actress by the name of Kelly Marie Tran has been cast to play the new female lead for Star Wars Episode VIII. Not much is known about the role but being an actor in Los Angeles, it helped knowing a few folks who went in when auditions took place last September. The role was open to ALL ETHNICITIES and was surely for the new female lead in the upcoming Star Wars chapter. Whoever would get the role had to have a chemistry test with John Boyega (whether it’s a love interest for Finn or someone who is best friends with him is unknown) and once they nailed that, the rest would be history.
Stormpilot: It’s the fandom pairing of the decade! And it just might come true.
“Girl, please,” you might be saying, but just listen to me! Not only could it happen, but if it does, it’ll change the game forever (and in a good way.) First let’s get into the timeline. Keep in mind: the timeline is intense. Let’s get into it:
UPDATE: November 4, 2019
Vanity Fair has an exclusive first look at Ming-Na in The Mandalorian! She has the Disney Triple Crown, y’all!!
Earlier this week, Lucasfilm announced the addition of two more actors to the cast of Star Wars Episode VII. We do not yet know who the two relatively unknown actors — Pip Anderson, who’s British, and Crystal Clarke, who’s African American — will play in the movie, but I’m guessing their roles must be substantial enough to warrant a press release about their casting. If their characters are indeed prominent, Clarke will join John Boyega and Lupita Nyong’o in making this “the blackest Star Wars ever.”
Still, every time breaking Star Wars casting news comes across my feed, there’s always one name that I hope to see in the headlines: Ming-Na Wen.