The swarm of hipsters that are incapable of liking Star Wars: The Force Awakens because of its popularity are mingled uncomfortably with groups of people who seem to be incapable of liking it because of its unapologetic use of minority characters. They’re calling it “pandering” and “caving” to the agenda of the social justice warrior. Both types of antifan are tedious, but only the latter is doing active harm to nerd culture.
I loved The Force Awakens; I love Rey, I love Finn, I love Poe, I goddamn adore BB-8, and I think Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher came back to the franchise powerfully. Above all of this, I love the message that the decision to make this film the way it was made delivers—it’s okay to write cliched space operas and have the cast not be white men. The film absolutely has structural problems, which I suspect were only compounded in editing, but at the end of the day, J.J. Abrams proved that he completely groks Star Wars—this is the only way to turn a film with the problems of The Force Awakens into a piece that remains artistically beautiful and above all fun despite anything else.
So when I see someone writing about how Rey is nothing more than a Mary Sue, and then accompanying this with long, ineloquent tirades about how nothing can go wrong for her, and how the Force was essentially plot magic used to get her out of bad situations, I have to wonder if the people saying these things understood that they were watching goddamn Star Wars. The Force is, and has always been, plot magic. Luke navigated all three of the original Star Wars films with plot magic, and the people who were bothered by this are understandably not fans of the franchise—space opera isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Baskin Robbins makes 31 flavors for a reason.
Thus, The Force Awakens has granted us one of the best bigotry detectors of 2015. If your gut reaction is to see Luke as a classic hero, but Rey as a cave-in to the feminist agenda… you might be a bigot. If your gut reaction to Finn and Chewie liking Rey is that she’s a Mary Sue, but to Han and Chewie liking Luke is that everything’s normal… you might be bigot. Every cast member in A New Hope is white, and the only female role was a subversion of the damsel in distress trope; this is a reflection of the white male’s power in the ’70s. This specific aspect of the film doesn’t make A New Hope bad, but neither does it endear it to anyone other than white men. Nerd culture blossomed around the white male because that’s who was represented.
Now we’ve got Finn and Rey, and capital-n Nerd culture can expand to new groups and new ideas as a fresh batch of people get to see themselves represented in an awesomely magical world. If you want to dislike the film, be my guest. Write angsty blog posts about how much you hated the plot or the writing, but for Christ’s sake, attempt conscientiousness if the thing you’re bitching about is that white people weren’t represented in every single role of the film.
Or if that is what you’re going to bitch about, maybe consider that Disney proved beyond all doubt that people will buy tickets to a movie featuring female and black protagonists, and in a capitalist society that can only mean one thing: brace your butthole for an Asian Jedi.