And what if GEORGE LUCAS were black and made a black “Star Wars”? On inclusivity in “Star Wars”

George Lucas recently responded to comments that Star Wars is too white. Let’s analyze that.

Odys Korczyński

13 June 2024

george lucas star wars

I’ve never hidden the fact that I like rainbows because they are a charming phenomenon in the sky, and also a way of understanding the world that is open to everything still unknown. Therefore, I assume that on this principle of criticizing something closed to diversity, critics have latched onto George Lucas. They accused him of having too many white people in his Star Wars films, including the first episodes I-III. Ergo, there are no representatives of other races, even among the aliens. And this last point is particularly bizarre.

So, I regretfully state that the rainbow has affected George Lucas in a twisted way. It has nothing to do with equality. I have the overwhelming impression: when people talk about the lack of inclusivity in Star Wars, they mean the absence of one particular group—African Americans. Fortunately, George Lucas took the opportunity during the Cannes festival to address these accusations.

george lucas star wars

What critics don’t understand

Commenting on these accusations coincided with Lucas receiving an honorary Palme d’Or for lifetime achievement. And it’s very fitting that, in contrast to the accusations, the same inclusive world that, as it turns out, is internally divided within its definition of equality, gave him this award. On one hand, Kathleen Kennedy defends the series Acolyte. It supposedly reached new heights of multiculturalism, as if it was following a plan to check off every nationality in the world, disregarding the aesthetic and narrative balance of the whole.

I have seen the trailer and can risk saying that compared to, say, A New Hope, it is “very diverse.” This, however, means nothing yet. The authenticity of multiculturalism does not rest solely on the presence of actors with varied phenotypes and ethnic backgrounds in the plot.

Some critics, especially those pointing out the excessive “whiteness” of Star Wars, do not understand this. For them, mere presence without justifying it matters. I am not surprised that George Lucas used even such a moment as receiving an award in Cannes to defend his life’s work. After all, it was in Cannes where his work was summarized and appreciated. Unless, of course, it was a purely formal act to get him off their back, as his works have not been his for a long time anyway.

This is similar to many contemporary films that boast inclusivity, but in a dispassionate way of executing a plan, with so many people from the Bronx, so many from Pulaski, the homeland of the Ku Klux Klan, and so on. It would be an ideal world if those from Tennessee also appeared. It is known they should not, but dedicating an entire film to the former group is equally inauthentic, kitschy, and bad. In reality, it is about something else. I know I am exaggerating with my idea of equality, but I hope you know what I mean.

george lucas star wars

Star Wars according to George Lucas

So, on the other side of the barricade, behind which stands Kathleen Kennedy, the queen of the Star Wars franchise, George Lucas, who has so far remained neutral, marked his presence. He was pulled out of his safe burrow like Sweden into the war in Ukraine after almost 200 years of burying its head in the sand. Lucas clearly and wisely responded. He said it is not necessary to forcefully, without narrative justification, include an Asian, an African American, a disabled person, and several more women than the neighboring studio, to create cinema that respects equality and has a positive educational impact, and most importantly, is modern.

Such inclusivity, as meant by critics claiming that Star Wars is too “white,” is a degrading grace, an enforced compensation, potentially creating another social inequality rather than a change resulting from the natural dynamics of human relations and conviction, and most importantly, from the abilities of artists and the construction of specific roles.

In Star Wars, according to Lucas, the idea was very equal and modern. There was Billy Dee Williams as Lando, Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Leia leading the resistance, the heroic Amidala along with her handmaidens. What more could one want? To see multiculturalism at every step? Or to turn Lucas’s saga into something like a circus cabinet of curiosities, as Tod Browning once did in Freaks? Perhaps to insert non-binary references into dialogues at every turn, leading to a ridiculous, ideologically skewed situation akin to the early 20th century. Then, communist agitators appeared in Tsarist Russia, not to mention the Red Guards in 1960s China.

Thus, Lucas aptly stated: Critics might say, “These are all white men.” Yet most of the characters in Star Wars are aliens! The idea was that we should accept people as they are, whether they are large, furry, green, or anything else. The concept is that all people are equal.

george lucas star wars

A thought experiment in “Star Wars”

Let’s conduct a thought experiment. Suppose for a moment that George Lucas is black and successfully makes Star Wars in his non-inclusive black times, where Mace Windu and Lando are white. Years pass. Times change. After 40 years, white people wake up and start pointing out to Lucas that there were too few of them in his life’s work.

The problem is that Lucas didn’t focus at all on the racial composition of his films. He made a movie about space, about representatives of alien civilizations. He was entirely outside the racial ideology that, based on such criticism, unfortunately reminds me of the beginnings of eugenic ideology. From enforcing diversity, it is only a step to recognizing that the best representatives will be the most multifaceted individuals.

Just as well, a representative of a non-humanoid race could accuse Lucas and human cinema in general of having too few non-humanoid biological forms in Earth’s cinematography. Such thought experiments, reversing the situation, allow us to view the problem from many sides. Everything is a matter of perspective and distancing oneself from the problem. Clarifying: Lucas demeaned neither whites nor blacks (using now outdated and questionable genetic typology). Nor was anyone else who doesn’t fit the majority category because Star Wars does not tell stories from our world.

They were not visible

Own imagination guided Lucas, which included not only aliens but also African Americans, people with achondroplasia, women, people with depression, alcoholics, drug addicts, gays, lesbians, and a whole mass of different people, just in an uncountable, ideologically unplanned way. They simply were not visible. They were not shown to the audience as freaks.

I understand that for monoculturalism and negative patterns, one can criticize some particularly small-town, blatantly parochial Disney fairy tales or films from the 30s and 40s. But such a colorful, multifaceted production as Star Wars? As Stanisław Tym said in *Miś*: “Janek, let’s not mix two different currency systems in our thoughts. Let’s not be Peweks.” Everything is ideology, that’s clear, but its hermeneutics sometimes escape both the right and left sides.

Odys Korczyński

Odys Korczyński

For years he has been passionate about computer games, in particular RPG productions, film, medicine, religious studies, psychoanalysis, artificial intelligence, physics, bioethics, as well as audiovisual media. He considers the story of a film to be a means and a pretext to talk about human culture in general, whose cinematography is one of many splinters.

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