Diversity in Star Wars

Originally posted at Tosche Station on July 2, 2013

Casting rumors have been flying around rampantly almost as long as we’ve known about the Sequel Trilogy and with the recently leaked Episode VII casting breakdown, it seemed like a good time to tackle an issue that’s been bothering me a lot lately: the lack of diversity in leading roles in the Star Wars galaxy when it comes to gender, race, and species.

The Star Wars galaxy is an incredibly diverse place.  There is an in-numerous amount of different species in the galaxy far far away all living on hundreds upon hundreds of different planets.  So why is it the default in Star Wars films and literature to (almost) always make the protagonist a white male?

Think I’m exaggerating?  I recently completed a reread of 130 Expanded Universe books.  Out of those 130, only 15 of those books had a leading character who was not a straight white man, excluding books that you could potentially argue are led by Skywalker women.  Five of those books are the Republic/Imperial Command novels and I’m even including books like The Cestus Deception and The Approaching Storm which were co-led by aliens and (you guessed it) a straight white male.  15 out of 130. That’s about 12%.  In a galaxy where I couldn’t even name all of the alien species if I tried?  I haven’t sat down and looked at every single main book in the Expanded Universe but I reckon that number wouldn’t rise much above 15%.  That’s pretty bad and unfortunately, the films don’t do any better.

Star Wars is an epic universe that is ripe with opportunity for diversity.  This is science fiction we’re talking about here.  To quote writer Jane Espenson, And if we can’t write diversity into sci-fi, then what’s the point? You don’t create new worlds to give them all the same limits of the old ones.”  If the vast majority of the named cast is white and mostly male, then the creators are failing at truly embracing the core tenants of what science fiction should be about.  What really makes all of this jarring is when you watch the films (especially the Prequel Trilogy) and see the wide variety of species and races in the background.  It’s not that the writers and the character designers and the special effects artists are lacking in imagination because clearly those characters and those ideas are there.  So why haven’t we been seeing more Star Wars stories with more diversity in the forefront? Continue reading

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