There is an observable trend happening on the Internet that is simply baffling to me. We’ve all seen it. A certain subset of our community will venomously revolt against the notion of anyone that doesn’t fit their image of a hero being portrayed as one. Let’s be honest here. Most of the time, this rage is directed at characters of color or characters who are women. This isn’t some SJW megaphone moment, this is just a fact. And it completely blows my mind.
Now, a quick disclaimer. I am a straight white dude who had a pretty decent time growing up. I understand that my place of privilege can, and has, blinded me to issues that hit other groups. But one thing I was raised to believe is that anyone can be your hero, regardless of where they come from or what they look like.
So what’s my point? Basically, we don’t need every hero in our lives to be exactly like us. What makes these character’s heroic? It’s their actions, how they handle situations, standing up for what’s right.
Let’s take Finn for an example. Finn is one of my favorite Star Wars character’s of all time. He’s a soldier who sees the evil of the people he is fighting for, struggles to get away from them, finds others who feel the same way, and overcomes his fears to fight alongside them. If I just read that description to someone, without ever describing what the character looked like, I think most people would rally behind that character. But by simply making the character black, it creates “controversy”.
This revulsion by some at the thought of someone not looking like you being the focus of a heroic tale is confusing to me. Finn is as much a hero to me as Han. Rey is as much a hero to me as Obi-Wan. I realize that I can appreciate and look up to these characters regardless of the fact they aren’t straight white males. Sexual orientation, gender, race, these things shouldn’t matter when it comes to who you look up to.
Now, there are some people who will take that argument and say “Yeah, if none of that matters, then we don’t need more diversity in Star Wars.” That’s not the point I’m trying to make here. Representation does matter. People will always gravitate more to characters that share traits with them. But that applies to everyone, not just one demographic.
The diversity is a strength. It shows young people that no matter their situation they can be part of a bigger whole that fights for the good in things without judgement or fear. That is what we need to teach if we want to make this world a safer, better place.
And in all honesty, isn’t that a key part of Star Wars? People coming together to fight for fair treatment against an oppressive regime? It’s a tale that all cultures love to tell and retell over and over again. These people come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and even planets! Why can people respect Admiral Ackbar’s character, a man who is a fish, but be horrified at the mere existence of Rose Tico because of her gender or race? Seriously it hurts my brain trying to think about it.
And to you, the hypothetical person about to unload bile on my little corner of the Internet, I ask you, can you think of no person in your life that you look up to that looks different from you? A mother or sister, a friend who may not be the same race or religion or sex or gender, these people in your life whom you claim to respect, do they not deserve the same representation? Are they less important to you because they are different? Think on it. The character’s you love aren’t going anywhere. There is room on the stage for everyone. And you can celebrate them all not for their appearance, but for their actions. THAT is what makes a hero.