Star Wars: Diversity Awakens

The daring approach of the new Star Wars trilogy? Putting women and minorities at the centre of the action.

You don't change a winning team. But why ever not? This is the daring approach of the new Star Wars trilogy. The idea is to put women and minorities at the very heart of the action.


Shortly after the release of the first trailer for The Force Awakens, fans were in a frenzy. Were aficionados glad to see the return of their favourite saga? Without a doubt. But it was one, quite considerable detail that sparked discussion on the internet. The first face to appear on screen is that of John Boyega, who plays one of the main characters, a black actor.


A space (r)evolution


The aim of the new Star Wars saga is to reinvent the series with a modern touch. The screenplay for Episode VII was written by J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, the lattter of whom co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the 1980s. So is this a return to the basics of the first trilogy? Quite probably so. But with a change of form and improved content? Most definitely.


The film stars two main heroes. Finn, a young black man and a member of the Stormtroopers, joins the rebellion when he meets a young woman, Rey, a character with an as yet unknown background (could she be the daughter of one of the old heroes?), who earns a living by selling goods. These two essential pillars of the story send a common message, spelling the end of the mainly white and male world of the original saga.


George Lucas – space for diversity?


Following the first episode in 1977, Lucas developed the saga's characters with The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Billy Dee Williams, an African-American actor, was chosen to play Lando Calrissian, who betrays the rebels before redeeming himself in the following episode. But Billy Dee Williams was just a minor character, unlike Finn.


As for the women, Princess Leia played an important role from the very first episode in 1977. But the actress who played her, Carrie Fisher, campaigned for her character to be given more substance: rebellious, feminine and not scared to stand up for herself. Filmgoers would have to wait until 1983 and the Return of the Jedi to say farewell to the naive princess in her white dress and hello to the frontline fighter.


Women in power


Now there are remarkable women both in front of and behind the camera. The producer is none other than Kathleen Kennedy, chosen by George Lucas to take over from him as head of Lucasfilm in 2012. She has worked with Steven Spielberg throughout her career and led the highly influential Producers Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Producers Branch). Her aim is to bring more diversity to Star Wars and give women more power. Message received loud and clear!

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