Star Wars: The force be with racism and sexism

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The force be with racism and sexism

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Directed by George Lucas

Review by Mary Merkenich

The latest Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace, is both entertaining and visually very beautiful. Unfortunately, film-maker George Lucas opted to use the standard sexist and racist formulas for his new blockbuster.

Queen Amidala of Naboo, the planet being threatened by the greedy Trade Federation, and her female bodyguards are all in their late teens. Apart from Anakin Skywalker, the male heroes are all much older — consider Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor who play Qui-Gen and Obi-Wan Kenobi, two Jedis who are the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy.

The only older woman is Anakin Skywalker's mother, and she plays a typical passive mother role, willingly remaining behind in slavery while her son, who is maybe 12 years old, goes off to freedom and adventure.

On the Jedi Knights Council there is not one woman! One token concession Lucas makes is allowing Queen Amidala and her bodyguards to join in the fighting.

The racism in The Phantom Menace is staggering. The Jedi Council has only one black member. During a "pod" race, which Anakin Skywalker wins, the cameras scan the huge audience and surprise, surprise, there is not one black face!

Anakin Skywalker, who is the young Darth Vader, the ultra evil persona in the original Star Wars, is a very cute white, blue-eyed, blonde teenager. It is interesting to remember that one of the things which enabled Darth Vader to instil fear in his enemies was his distinctive voice. Lucas chose a black actor to speak Vader's lines. In other words, parts of blacks may be very useful, but not the whole actor to play a key role.

The other racist stereotypes in the movie are also remarkable for being so obvious yet ignored in the reviews I've seen so far. Jar Jar Binks, the clumsy, silly but good-natured inhabitant of Naboo's underwater world, speaks the lingo of some blacks. Watto the merchant has a huge nose, the Jewish accent and is out to make as much money as possible, regardless of whether it serves evil.

Is this the future of humanity — a couple of token blacks, no Asians and only pretty young women?

While many people like myself get caught up in the Star Wars movie as a bit of light escapism, it's sad that we can't escape the racism and sexism of our time. What's more disturbing is that all the young people who will enjoy Lucas's creation will soak up these racist and sexist messages without realising it.