My family and I are massive Star Wars fans. We are by no means experts on the Star Wars universe, and it might seem blasphemous to say that the Force Awakens is my favourite instalment, with Rogue One in close second. When the protagonists of these two films were announced, fan-boys had their panties in a twist at the sudden boost of oestrogen the films were about to receive. How dare women taint their comic conventions with cos-plays which aren’t sexualised or gender-bent?
The Force Awakens arrived to shatter glass ceilings, especially in a universe where previously there appeared to exist one whole woman. I rejoiced. Rey is a complex, compassionate, driven character who held her own and proved herself worthy to carry the lead role. Finn, played by John Boyega, is the first black lead character in a Star Wars film, accompanied by Oscar Isaac who is also a person of colour. This film delivered thrice over and made it look effortless.
Rogue One came along, and while I was indeed distracted by the endearing Captain Cassian Andor (*insert heart eyes here*), I began to notice a pattern. Once again Star Wars had impressed me with its immensely diverse cast….but they were all men. Despite Jyn playing the protagonist, she still carried the role of token female. White token female. The Force Awakens follows the same trope, and after realising this I was compelled to analyse these characters and their (usually romantic) counterparts. The new Lara Croft starring Alicia Vikander opposite Daniel Wu, pulls the same stunt. Lion with Dev Patel. The Hundred Foot Journey. Master of None.
Why does Hollywood continually cast white women opposite men of colour?
It seems that during the all the grappling in our fight for equality and the rise of the female, women of colour are once again at the back of the bus. Hollywood equates ‘woman’ to a minority, therefore a white woman is as good as any. Representation is representation, right? Accept it isn’t. WOC and our experiences were never and will never be identical to those of white women. This issue begins with the over-romanticisation of white women in the media, and the constant flood of Eurocentric idealism which WOC are made to endure every day of our lives. Even in movies we see men who look like the boys we grew up with, yet they’re paired with women who look nothing like us. We fall for them, but they don’t fall for us. It doesn’t help that the few roles which are written for WOC are then white-washed, usurping even more opportunities for WOC in the media. Scarlett Johansson, I’m looking at you, girl. Movies are attempting to champion representation at the expense of WOC.
Recently a movie called the Big Sick made waves in the Muslim community as its focus is a Muslim man and a girl he falls in love with. You guessed it: A white girl. (This is not to mention Hollywood’s idea that an inter-racial couple always includes a white person. But that’s a story for another day.) I have run out of patience for the Asian male community in Hollywood who continues to make strides for themselves, while they abandon, ignore and dismiss their fellow WOC.
I’m exhausted trying to mould my experiences around white women’s just so I have somebody to identify with.
For the longest time, we have applauded women – any women – on their accomplishments in taking the larger community of women to greater heights. But the support does not seem to be mutual across racial bounds – as it has been from us – and intersectional interests fall on deaf ears. Once again, there is no space for us at the front of the line, while even our male counterparts refuse to acknowledge their part or privilege in this. So with nobody to rely on besides each other – just like my mother says – we’ll do it our damn selves.