Over the last week or so, Trump-supporting Star Wars fans have carried out a Gamergate-style social media campaign and proposed boycott of the forthcoming film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The internet’s hordes of reactionaries are upset that two writers of the film had previously criticized our new supreme overlord on Twitter, and became convinced that Rogue One would be an anti-Trump propaganda film.
One of the tweets that caused the most ruckus came from Rogue One writer Chris Weitz, who simply noted that the Galactic Empire is a “white supremacist (human) organization,” without explicitly tying the Empire or white supremacy to Trump. That Trump supporters got defensive about it probably says a lot more about them than it does about Weitz or Star Wars.
In any case, the #DumpStarWars campaign gained enough steam that Disney CEO Bob Iger felt compelled to address it, telling The Hollywood Reporter Saturday that “the whole story has been overblown and, quite frankly, it’s silly.” “It is not a film that is, in any way, a political film. There are no political statements in it, at all,” he added.
Which, loath as we are to side with the Gamergate crowd, is almost certainly not true. The Empire, the chief force for evil in the Star Wars universe, is clearly modeled after an authoritarian regime; the Stormtroopers, for instance, are named after the Nazi Sturmabteilung. Iger said that the diversity of the Rogue One cast “is not a political statement, at all.” But in an era when representation of women and people of color in pop culture is a hotly contested issue, and nowhere more than in the geek-centric realm where Star Wars resides, it’s hard not to take it as one. The Star Wars films have always been political, it’s just that their politics weren’t always controversial. You’d think that a ragtag group of rebels fighting against a regime based on intolerance and violent oppression would be pretty easy for moviegoers to root for, but then again, we elected Donald Trump as president last month.
Fortunately for Bob Iger, the #DumpStarWars campaign probably won’t hurt Rogue One’s bottom line. Fans organized a similar campaign against The Force Awakens last year, arguing that its diverse cast and female protagonist made it a “social justice propaganda film,” and the movie still set records at the box office. Right-wing fear and racial resentment may have given us a deranged authoritarian for a president, but this is America, goddamnit, and there are certain principles to which we hold fast. Try as they might, they’ll never take away our beloved Hollywood blockbusters.