Star Wars: Jedi, Racism, and the Force Awakens

Three trailers have now dropped for the upcoming Star Wars film, and there has been some controversy about racial politics, with some “fans” threatening a boycott because one of the main characters is black. Boo hoo hoo. It’s about time that we see the racial diversity of the films expanded to a primary cast member. Sure, Lando Calrissian was black, but he’s very much a supporting cast member.

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Star Trek DS9 Reviews: The Nagus

The Nagus was a much harder episode to watch than I remember. Wallace Shawn is as amusing as ever, but the multiple levels of racism in the episode is disturbing. There are obviously redeeming values in the episode, but they have to do mostly with the subplot.

Grand Nagus Quark
Stubbornness and greed make Quark rather lonely

You don’t have to look back far in human history to see other cultures similarly vilified, with statements like “they just don’t share our values”. What a farce. In some ways, the regular Ferengi characters are more human than the other crew members, even if Rom is still woefully underdeveloped.

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Star Trek: DS9 Reviews: A Man Alone

While Past Prologue had one main theme, loyalty, There are two primary themes in A Man Alone: relationships, and racism. The writers manage to weave together these threads while fleshing out more of the more reclusive member of the DS9 crew, Constable Odo.

A Man Alone  Bashir

Bashir and Dax

The episode opens with Doctor Bashir shamelessly flirting with Jadzia Dax, a scene which essentially repeats itself through the episode. Her response is friendly, but evasive. She explains that relationships for Trills are a little difficult, and that joined Trills attempt to “rise up” above their desires. Instead of being discouraged, Bashir, ever the optimist, decides that this means that he still has hope.

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Breakfast

Tonight I saw the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time. The images of Audrey Hepburn in this film have been icons in Hollywood ever since, and I think that I can understand some of this.

The movie speaks to the American Dream, where one can aspire to reach the upper social circles despite one’s humble origins. More importantly, it is a clear representation of the romantic ideal, at least from Hollywood’s perspective. The male lead is a newly published novelist, and pursues a relationship with an eccentric socialite, who appears to be seeking money.

The ending is predictable, they end up together, as Hepburn’s character learns to accept her vulnerability. The basic plot of the movie may have cliched elements, but the movie is beautifully executed, save one major exception.

The portrayal of Mickey Rooney’s caricature of the asian neighbour upstairs is overdone, well past the point of racism. While it may not have been the recognized intent of the producers to do so, I cringed every time he was on screen. I fail to see adequate reason for this to be done the way it was. It may have been intended for comedic effect, and it may have been viewed as such when the film was released, but it brings a dark stain to an otherwise excellent film.

I think the most confusing thing about this casting choice is that it doesn’t really fit the tone of the rest of the film. Even if one was oblivious to the racism in this portrayal,the intended comedy really doesn’t mix well with the romantic plot. In the end, this was an ultimately disappointing element to an otherwise classic film.

Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a novel first published by Mark Twain in 1884, is no stranger to controversy. It has been frequently challenged for it’s place in school curriculums, and public libraries. This book appears in several of the top ten most frequently challenged books of the year, as tracked by the American Library Association. It also appears in the top lists for each of the past two decades. The most frequent reason given for challenging Twain’s book is racism.

Can we therefore be surprised that a new edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is being announced by NewSouth Books, where all instances of the word “nigger” are being replaced with “slave”? Does this proposed new edition really provide a solution to these charges of racism, or is this merely whitewashing the issue?

Does replacing this racist term with “slave” address the charges of racism, or does it merely hide them? Is not one of the important aspects of this book, the reminder that for much of early American history, those of African descent were treated as subhuman, owned as livestock?

While this new edition will still depict slavery, will the reminder that being a slave was determined by the hue of one’s skin be forgotten?

What impact can we foresee about this new edition of Huckleberry Finn? While the cofounders of NewSouth have stated that there is “a market for a book in which the n-word was switched out for something less hurtful, less controversial,” they acknowledge that there are claims of censorship. To this, they argue that “there are plenty of other books out there — all of them, in fact — that faithfully replicate the text” (Publisher Weekly).

How difficult is it now going to be, however, for a school to choose one of these more traditional texts, when those who challenge the original text can point to this edition as being less controversial? How many opportunities to address the issue of Huck’s racist statements in a classroom setting will be lost, in order that others may read this watered down edition?

While I do appreciate the editor’s introduction, which attempts to explain these editorial changes to the reader, Alan Gribbens fails to show in this new edition how the casual usage of this term by an otherwise innocent boy shows how entrenched the racial slavery was in the lower States in the 1850s. Gribbens even notes how the change to “slave” loses the “caustic sting” of the original word.

When reading the novel in it’s full context, one can see how Twain is challenging the traditional values towards the enslavement and ownership of African Americans, as Huckleberry Finn’s views towards “his” Jim change from an owned slave, to a friend whom he must break free. While the ending of the novel does tend to go over the top with Tom Sawyer’s ludicrous attempts at freeing Jim, it is Huck’s earnest desire to free his friend that shows how Twain sought to bring social justice to those enslaved.