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Movies Star Wars Prequels Entertainment

J.J. Abrams On "Star Wars" Cast's Racial and Sexual Diversity 504

Yesterday at Comic-Con, director J.J. Abrams held forth on the racial and sexual diversity of the actors portraying the characters of the Star Wars franchise. From CNET's article: For Star Wars, it's a complex debate. The franchise has included prominent and strong female characters, like Princess Leia, as well as central characters played by black actors, such as Cloud City administrator Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams, and Jedi Mace Windu, played by Samuel L. Jackson. On the other hand, Jar Jar Binks, a computer-generated alien in 1999's "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace," drew fire from some critics, who said he called to mind demeaning black film characters such as those played by Stepin Fetchit in the 1930s. (Not to mention other cultural stereotypes that pop up in Episodes I, II, and III.)
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J.J. Abrams On "Star Wars" Cast's Racial and Sexual Diversity

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  • I have never heard of anyone who thought Jar Jar Binks reminded them of black characterisations. Nor has that ever occurred to me. Seriously how long is the bow they are stretching?

    Jar Jar Binks made me sick to the stomach because of how he represented the complete destruction of something I loved with a character that I wanted to die in many many horrible and painful ways.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 12, 2015 @06:58PM (#50095199)

      Watch again, he's obviously a (bad) Jamaican stereotype. That said, that's not the reason I disliked him either.

    • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @07:14PM (#50095277)

      He is Atepin Fetchit

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • given your statement, I think you might be younger than George Lucas, or me. Because I hear nothing but that characterization of jar-jar binks. *and* the Shylock interpretation of Watto.
      • also the japanese syndicate people. those were pretty blatant.

        All in all, a really tasteless set of movies.

      • im 30 and ive never heard that comparison before
        • perhaps we should take solace in this occasional blissful ignorance of past evils (even when they're cavorted about under our noses)
        • by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @08:18PM (#50095549)

          You would have been 14 or 15 when Episode I came out. Of course you don't remember what us slightly older people meant when we said it sucked. You were busy watching the podracing scene.

          One of the major criticisms of Jar-Jar back then was they thought he was speaking with a Jamaican accent. It's so universal that everybody my age or older (and I'm only 34) knows precisely what the phrase "Jar-Jar racist" means. The flying dude with the nose was also widely considered to be a reference to either Jews or Arabs. And I believe there was at least one other group of aliens Lucas put in there that had everyone going "What the fuck George Lucas?"

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by ganjadude ( 952775 )
            oh no i saw the movie the day it came out and i thought it was a waste of 5 bucks (matinee)

            its fantasy... i dont to this day think about real life when watching fantasy. those who do IMO are wasting their time because whats the point of fantasy if you are going to do nothing but complain about how its close to X, if you squint real hard and spin around 3 times, it could be taken as racist

            these people need to get lives
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by cfalcon ( 779563 )

              Dude, it's a real world accent on a ludicrous creature, and we see at least three of those types of things in the prequels. Why use a real world accent at all?

              • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

                by ganjadude ( 952775 )
                because humans can only make so many sounds, eventually some will sound like other native tongues?
                • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @11:21PM (#50096179) Homepage

                  And why didn't Lucas do what he did for aliens in the original trilogy: Either make them speak some alien language with subtitles, or give them some not-easily-identified accent? Jabba didn't speak like an Italian guy - he spoke in Huttese. Greedo spoke in his own tongue. Chewbacca had his growls that Han and C3P-O translated. Aliens that spoke English (Yoda, Ackbar, etc) did so without any obvious dialect. You didn't have Ackbar shouting "It's a trap!" with a French accent. Yoda didn't speak with a stereotypical Indian accent. The original Star Wars trilogy did alien-speak right, why couldn't the prequels? (Not saying that this would have fixed all of the prequels' problems. Their issues go far deeper than offensive alien accents. Still, it would have been one less thing to cringe at.)

                  • by jafiwam ( 310805 )

                    And why didn't Lucas do what he did for aliens in the original trilogy: Either make them speak some alien language with subtitles, or give them some not-easily-identified accent? Jabba didn't speak like an Italian guy - he spoke in Huttese. Greedo spoke in his own tongue. Chewbacca had his growls that Han and C3P-O translated. Aliens that spoke English (Yoda, Ackbar, etc) did so without any obvious dialect. You didn't have Ackbar shouting "It's a trap!" with a French accent. Yoda didn't speak with a stereotypical Indian accent. The original Star Wars trilogy did alien-speak right, why couldn't the prequels? (Not saying that this would have fixed all of the prequels' problems. Their issues go far deeper than offensive alien accents. Still, it would have been one less thing to cringe at.)

                    The target audience of the newer movies is a lot younger.

                    The folks that buy toys and games and collector cups and all that.

                    Do you think Star Wars (a new hope) was targeted toward kids originally? It wasn't, but it turned out to have tremendous appeal to kids. One they couldn't count on reproducing.

                    So they had to put in some slapstick comedy to keep the interest (or so they thought), they couldn't use other languages and count on the audience reading subtitles fast (because they aren't that good at re

                    • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday July 13, 2015 @08:00AM (#50097607) Homepage

                      I think the main problem happens when people (movie directors, studio execs, marketing, etc) decides that "gearing X towards kids" means "adding lots of bodily humor, inserting slapstick everywhere, and dumbing everything down." There have been a lot of very successful "kids" movies that don't pander to kids and are quite watchable by adults.

                      A recent one that comes to mind is Inside Out. Disney/Pixar could have easily made the imaginary friend character (Bing Bong) a Jar-Jar Binks-esque disaster. They could have inserted tons of scenes of the emotions slamming into things. They could have had Anger release gas every time he got furious. They did none of this. Instead, they made a movie that my 8 year old loved, my 11 year old loved, my wife loved, and I (pushing 40) loved. They didn't assume that Kid = Only Appreciates Crude/Low Brow Humor.

                      I'm not saying there isn't a place for crude humor. Sometimes it works just fine. However, shoehorning that stuff into a movie because "this will appeal to kids" is a recipe for disaster.

          • Jar-Jar Racist is a term that I have never heard before. And I'm 37, so old enough to have come across it.

            Here is a review from our most left leaning publication that would have pointed it out if it was noticed by them. http://www.abc.net.au/news/201... [abc.net.au]

          • by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @10:59PM (#50096113) Homepage

            According to Lucas himself, the neimoidians were speaking with a transylvanian accent. Jar Jar was speaking in an accent Ahmed Best could do. Lucas felt it would make aliens seem more alien if they had accents, and actors only know how to do human language accents so he picked some of those. In retrospect it was a stupid decision, but it wasn't intended racistly.

        • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @08:37PM (#50095615)

          I just want to know how "ganjadude" was still available to a 30-year-old with a user id pushing 1 million.

      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        Im a whole generation younger than Lucas and my god I saw it the instant he came on screen, that abomination might as well been wearing blackface and saying yes massa you no want me to sing for yas sir?

      • Yeah, Jar-Jar was definitely based on Jamaican stereotypes. But there's disagreement over whether Watto was Shylock or an Arab stereotype; I tend to think the latter.

        • He's blatantly a jewish stereotype. Greedy, yiddish accent, huge hook nose, and in later movies they even give him a round black hat and beard.

    • I have never heard of anyone who thought Jar Jar Binks reminded them of black characterizations./quoteI find that very hard to believe.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you see jar jar as a black stereo type, maybe you are a racist who sees black people as annoying assholes who can't speak properly?

      • As a European, I haven't ever thought of it that way, nor have I ever met anyone who would have.
    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @07:18PM (#50095309) Journal

      Jar Jar's speech sounds a lot like Jamaican patois to me. Whether that is racist or not is another story, but Jar Jar's general behavior; stupid, lazy, and addled, do conjure up the way blacks were portrayed in literature and films for a rather long time. I don't think Lucas is a racist, and I've long given him the benefit of the doubt that Jar Jar was yet another iteration of the whole Ewok concept, cute funny talking things that can be made into toys that say things like "E-chooda!", because in Lucas's mind, the kids love them.

      The problem with Lucas's theory is that, at least the kids of my generation (what I'd call the Star Wars generation, who were 5-10 years old when the first film came out), we had no interest in any silly characters. The most desirable action figures were Darth Vader (because he was bad ass and could crush peoples' throats with his mind), Chewbacca, Han Solo and Obiwan, because they were the fighters who kicked ass.

      I was eleven or twelve years old when Return of the Jedi came out, and I found the Ewok scenes to range from fucking insipid to, in the final battle scenes, be utterly improbable.

      But I don't think Jar Jar was any more intentionally racist than the Ewoks (who, so far as I can tell, were heavily modeled on African bush people). It's just that Lucas has so little capability to portray nuance that you end up with broad caricatures that you have to forgive some for confusing with rather well known racist imagery.

      • Jar Jar's speech sounds a lot like Jamaican patois to me. Whether that is racist or not is another story, but Jar Jar's general behavior; stupid, lazy, and addled, do conjure up the way Pot Smokers were portrayed in literature and films for a rather long time.

        Fixed it for you.

        Has anyone ever noticed that the black stereotypes are also the stereotypes applied to pot smokers?

        • by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @08:31PM (#50095599)

          Jar Jar's speech sounds a lot like Jamaican patois to me. Whether that is racist or not is another story, but Jar Jar's general behavior; stupid, lazy, and addled, do conjure up the way Pot Smokers were portrayed in literature and films for a rather long time.

          Fixed it for you.

          Has anyone ever noticed that the black stereotypes are also the stereotypes applied to pot smokers?

          Dude, don't go down this rabbit hole. There is a black stereotype that matches every single bad thing you could say about people. More then you can count. They range from perfect servant (who should be trusted with your beautiful daughter), to rapist who can only be stopped by vigilante justice (who should be trusted with your beautiful daughter, but only after Dylan Roof has shot him in the head).

          The bad black Jamaican stereotype is related to weed, but if Lucas had wanted to make a bunch of weed jokes he didn't have to give the dude an accent. And if he had to pick an accent he could have used almost anything but Jamaica. Make it British, and not cockney, make it fucking Received Pronunciation. That contrast would be hilarious. Dude talks like the queen, acts like your buddy from High School who can't quite function in society. What we have with Jar-Jar is just a sad mix of annoying and anti-Jamaican racism.

    • I have never heard of anyone who thought Jar Jar Binks reminded them of black characterisations. ... Seriously how long is the bow they are stretching?

      Watch the South Park movie some time.

    • Jar Jar Binks rolling, ungrammatical voice sounded like a caricature of a beach living, laid back, ganja smoking Jamaican. And yes, the parody was so horrible that it made me think of the remnants of the last of hte "blackface" shows and minstrel performances from when I was very young.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fil... [telegraph.co.uk]

      • The black face is an interesting comment. In Australia we had a variety show called "hey hey it's saturday" it's crap but it had a revival 2 years ago and they got back in the most popular act they had. This act was a bunch of guys pretending to be the jackson 5.

        Harry Connick JR was on the judging panel and he completely flipped out because of how awfully racist it was and it was disgusting. The performers, the crowd and the host were caught totally by surprise. The issue, the performers had put on blac

    • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

      You thought this because to you (and Lucas) no racism was implied or intended. It was just a silly accent.

      But the fact is, it's an exaggerated Jamaican accent. The haggling greedy fly is mideastern, etc. They didn't go and make Klingon for these races, they just took something in the real wold and modified it a little to get their point across.

      It's clearly not meant to be offensive but like... really, they couldn't do any better than that?

    • by McGruber ( 1417641 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @08:41PM (#50095631)

      I have never heard of anyone who thought Jar Jar Binks reminded them of black characterisations. Nor has that ever occurred to me.

      The racist nature of the Jar Jar character was a big story back in 1999, when the movie came out. Here's an opinion piece from the late Baltimore Sun columnist Gregory Kane [wikipedia.org], that was published back then: Seeing racism in Jar Jar is seeing phantom menace, June 5, 1999 [baltimoresun.com]

    • by Morpeth ( 577066 )

      Seriously? How could you miss the "I'm an uneducated Jamaican" accent -- it was so overt I was absolutely amazed I was seeing it on the screen.

      Anecdotal, but opposite to you, EVERYONE I know who saw it immediately thought is was a bad, cheesy Jamaican accent.

      • Might be my cultural background. I don't think I have ever met a Jamaican so my only exposure to the accent is on tv...

      • Seriously? How could you miss the "I'm an uneducated Jamaican" accent -- it was so overt I was absolutely amazed I was seeing it on the screen.

        Anecdotal, but opposite to you, EVERYONE I know who saw it immediately thought is was a bad, cheesy Jamaican accent.

        And as we all know, there are not white people in Jamaica, so a green and brown alien creature with a Jamaican accent must be some kind of racial stereotype.

        • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

          jamaican creole is overwhelmingly spoken by black people + couple of backpacker hippies.

          only thing missing was jar jar smoking a big 'ol fat joint, really. even his ears are meant to flow around like rastas and he goes around as if he was high all the time.

          watch some grittier travel shows sometime..

          note: this is not why episode 1 sucks though or why the jar jar character sucks.

  • Who gives a fuck (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Getting extremely tired of this overanalytical pussification of society. Time for the rude assholes to take charge again and kick these SJWs to the curb.

    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @07:08PM (#50095245) Journal

      Because being an anti-social prick is so very superior. If it's gone too far in one direction, it's because it started too far in the other. It's time for the PCers and rude assholes to take a seriously needed chill pill. Being civil is what decent people do, and spurning hysterical people, whether because they are overly sensitive, or overly sensitive to overly sensitive people, is what decent people should do.

      Grow up. Racial stereotypes, like farting in public, is just plain bad behavior, and it isn't "pussification" to call out incidents of either.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by walterbyrd ( 182728 )

        > Because being an anti-social prick is so very superior.

        No because enough already. PC mush heads are making BFDs out of nothing. They are straining as hard as they can to find something victimizing in every innocent thing people do. And it really is insanely annoying, and people get along less, not more.

    • That's an almost word-for-word quote from Hermann Göring. I trust this was intentional?

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @07:05PM (#50095233)

    Unless there's a short-haired lesbian wookie I'm boycotting. We need to stand strong for tolerance.

  • by tgibson ( 131396 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @07:07PM (#50095237) Homepage

    from Episode I is clearly mocking every horrible child stereotype. It is because of these kinds of caricatures that birth rates have been dropping.

  • I once was a big Star Wars fan, then I took a these just suck now to the knee.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 12, 2015 @07:12PM (#50095267)

    Let us recall his previous shitty TV shows and movies:

    • Lost
    • Fringe
    • Mission Impossible 3
    • Super 8
    • Need I go on?

    What do these all have in common? Yes... pushing the viewer's buttons, setting up interesting premises, promising to reveal answers to unexplained events, but never delivering on those promises (Lost, ugh) and leaving us viewers hanging. In general, Abrams' material is nothing but a thinly veiled vehicle for pushing advertisements designed to entice people to tune in for the next episode, with a complete absence of any actual substance or meaning.

    Fringe was especially horrible. Every time the protagonists got in trouble, Dr. Walter Bishop would pull something out of his "from a project he worked on the 70s" and mumble a lot, and things would sort of just drag on.

    So... thanks but no thanks, Mr. Abrams. Please eat a bowl of warm shit, and retire from Hollywood.

    • Or his movies.

      I spent probably the last half-hour of his most recent Star Trek movie going "shit, that was a perfect ending, let's see the credits" every five minutes. And then the fight scene would go on some more.

      On the other hand, with these movies he's probably got a story arc already mapped out, and most of the appeal of Star Wars is poorly drawn yet compelling characters involved in endless extremely cool action sequences. So this could easily work.

    • He did the Star Trek reboots... those are kind of fun.

  • is that white enough for you?
  • The least concerning thing about starwars is the racial diversity. The most concerning thing is them fucking it up again like they did last time.

    Would the phantom menace have been better if they were all minorities? Nope.

    Does not fucking matter. Further, it is in space and half of the fucking characters are aliens or robots... so... who gives a shit.

    • someone cares. but not the important ones.
    • I suspect Abrams is less likely to fuck it up then Lucas.

      His Star Trek films have pissed me the fuck off, but that's because they'd be great Star Wars films. Highly dramatic action sequences, great visuals, better acting then either franchise had the first go around, lots of references to shit that's happened before, etc. As Star Trek they were annoying because he doesn't seem to get the details of what makes references to past work cool (ie: Khan is supposed to be so alpha-male sexy that straight guys woul

      • We'll see... he could reboot the whole universe and have actors from past films make appearances through visions and shit.

        I think if he did to starwars what he did to startrek... you'd understand why the trekies didn't like it.

        You don't reboot some franchises. You just don't.

  • by superdave80 ( 1226592 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @08:17PM (#50095545)

    ...given his track record of helping build a diverse cast as director of the "Star Trek" reboot films

    Uh, was Abrams really going to have white people play Sulu and Uhura? And the only other major female character I remember were the green chick in her underwear and the blond chick in her underwear, so Abrams didn't exactly help along the fairer sex in his films. I think the writer had no clue about the history of Star Trek.

  • When people compare Jar Jar to Black peeps they are not really being serious.. it is all a faux argument intended to stoke controversy and whore attention for fame and profit. No matter how repetitive and stupid it becomes people still fall for it over and over again. I am outraged by *** please give me another 15 minutes.

  • Ewoks: Latino. short and talk fast. JJ Binks: Island Man. choose island. female: all alike which doesn't matter. old white man: EVIL. c'mon and try.
  • Pandering (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nitehawk214 ( 222219 )

    The cast's "Racial and Sexual Diversity" is more important than having a plot, hiring good actors, making a good movie.

    The funny thing is that people that bitch about such things aren't even the target audience for this kind of media. They aren't going to go see the movie anyhow, they are just going to post to tumblr and youtube about how "fair or unfair" it is and ignore it's content.

  • Droids? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @10:42PM (#50096039)
    For me, one of the most interesting (yet seemingly ignored) cultural component is the droids.

    In the Star Wars universe, Droids like Artoo and Threepio and, presumably, millions of others, are self-aware and intelligent. They appear to feel physical pain and have emotions like happiness, fear and sadness.

    Yet as near as I can see in the canon, droids have no rights whatsoever. They can be bought and sold, ordered to their death, kidnapped by Jawas, melted, sent to the spice mine of Kessel or smashed into who knows what.

    ...and don't me started on restraining bolts.
  • Get a grip (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Monday July 13, 2015 @01:29AM (#50096503) Homepage Journal

    Get a grip. It's a movie. It's fantasy. It's not reality.

    Sheesh.

    The FUD spewed by the "discrimination" crowd is just mind-boggling sometimes.

    WTF would it take to satisfy you all? Vader cross-dressing in his apartment?

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Monday July 13, 2015 @01:55AM (#50096581) Homepage

    The franchise has included prominent and strong female characters, like Princess Leia

    And...? You make it sound like that's just the start of a long list, so let's hear the rest of it.

  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Monday July 13, 2015 @02:03AM (#50096605) Journal
    Quite frankly he's totally fucking up everything he touches that isn't television. Don't get me wrong: The TV shows he's responsible for are pretty damned good. But his movies make me want to stab him in the eye with a very large knife. I don't consider his 'Star Trek' movies to be legit, they're 'Star Trek themed movies' at best (at least that's the only way I could even begin to stand them), and quite frankly I'm not going to pay a single penny to see any of his 'Star Wars themed movies', and I don't recommend anyone else does, either.

    Posted as Anonymous Coward because I'm certain there are enough JJA fanbois out there that will flame me to the point of being subatomic particles, regardless of being flat-out wrong, and I just don't need to put up with that sort of bullshit.

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