IRISH TIMES – Reboot king JJ Abrams is diversifying the Star Wars universe… Gwendoline Christie, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega on finding new hope in a galaxy far, far away
Two months ago, when a new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiered during an American football game on ESPN, fans and curious newcomers reacted with predictable fervour: Ooh, Mark Hamill is still a no-show; has he gone over to the Dark Side?
Sadly, the subsequent jubilation on social media platforms was somewhat marred by the nasty little hashtag #Boycott StarWarsVII. For the unlovely architects of this slogan, the appearance of London-born actor John Boyega in the new film was evidence of #whitegenocide and “cultural misappropriation”.
Conspiracy theories took note that JJ Abrams, the talent behind the Star Wars reboot, was both Jewish and a “known” Obama supporter. “It’s just Black Lives Matter in Space” shouted one protester into the echo chamber. A petition was duly circulated.
Normal folks everywhere, by way of response, sighed or face-palmed before moving on to the next tale of internet crazies: What do you mean, Mad Max: Fury Road has been taken over by the bloody wimmin? #whitemaleextinction.
Ire, in the information age, is hardly novel. But one does have to wonder how deeply buried is the rock that these malcontents are living under. Surely they can’t have failed to notice before now that Darth Vader is voiced by James Earl Jones and Mace Windu is essayed by Samuel L Jackson?
Have they seen any work by The Force Awakens director before? Abrams, who scored his first major TV hit with the female-centric Felicity, may have occasionally attracted flak for being too fast and furious with his exciting but unphilosophical Star Trek films or for being overly Spielbergian with Super 8. But no one has ever watched his TV shows and movies and complained that they were insufficiently politically correct.
And so Star Wars: The Force Awakens marks a genuine New Hope: a galaxy far, far away where imprisoned, underdressed princesses don’t end up providing ill-defined services to Jabba the Hut.
Just ask Gwendoline Christie, who plays Captain Phasma, a role that was originally written for a man but was gender- swapped to facilitate more equitable representation and to make room for the rather wonderful Christie. The actor, by now, is well-accustomed to androgynous military women, having spent several seasons in armour as Game of Thrones’ Brienne of Tarth and having lately stepped out as Commander Lyme in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.
“In film and television, there’s a long tradition of non-essential women,” says Christie. “Being in Game of Thrones, where you are surrounded by well-rounded, brilliant female characters, has taught me a lot.”
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