John Boyega sets the record straight on ‘Star Wars’ and Hollywood racism
John Boyega remains unphased by folks who can’t get past racism to join him in a galaxy far, far away.
The Nigerian-British actor was recently interviewed by the New York Times in anticipation of the latest installment of the Star Wars saga, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” In the interview, he addressed the backlash the film received—epitomized in the #BoycottStarWarsVII hashtag on social media—after the release of the third trailer in October that showed a black storm trooper, which Boyega plays.
When asked how he felt about the situation, he responded:
It made me feel fine. I’m grounded in who I am, and I am confident black man. A confident, Nigerian, black, chocolate man. I’m proud of my heritage, and no man can take that away from me. I wasn’t raised to fear people with a difference of opinion. They are merely victims of a disease in their mind. To get into a serious dialogue with people who judge a person based on the melanin in their skin? They’re stupid, and I’m not going to lose sleep over people. The presale tickets have gone through the roof—their agenda has failed. Miserably.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film, which hits theaters tomorrow, has already exceeded sales expectations, surpassing $100 million in pre-sale tickets alone. And although films released in December are known for underperforming, it is wise not to minimize the overall force of the film on the box office. “Avatar,” which was released in December 2009, currently sits as the highest grossing film of all time, raking in $2.8 billion globally, but only $77 million in its opening weekend, which “Force Awakens” has already surpassed.
Contrary to the hopes of disgruntled “fans,” “Star Wars” is taking their diversity straight to the bank.
But Boyega is quick to put his inclusion in perspective. When asked about being “proud to add diversity to the franchise,” he brought up that this is less about pride than calling attention to Hollywood’s reluctance to rectify its entrenched problem with racism:
I don’t know whether I’m proud or anything. I’m happy that we’re able to mesh together in this ensemble cast and create a wonderful story. It’s Hollywood’s fault, for letting this get so far, that when a black person or a female, or someone from a different cultural group is cast in a movie, we have to have debates as to whether they’re placed there just to meet a [quota]. I also understand, on the flip side, where these other mentalities will arise. “He’s just placed there for political correctness.” I don’t hear you guys saying that when Brad Pitt is there. When Tom Cruise is there. Hell, when Shia LaBeouf is there, you guys ain’t saying that. That is just blatant racism.
Actors of color cannot and should not bear the burden of diversifying Hollywood, especially when the industry continues to actively resist change well into the second decade of the twenty-first century.
Find the full interview here.
Photo credit: Creative Commons