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Blog: Star Wars Is Unabashedly Asian

Kylo Ren from Star Wars:The Force Awakens
Kylo Ren from Star Wars:The Force Awakens

By Charleston Wang

George Lucas, raised eyebrows by saying he had sold Stars Wars to “white slavers.” While a firestorm raged over what he actually meant, Lucas made a hasty retraction, even apology. Now the rebellion has spread to the Oscars over a lack of people of color in the nominees for 2016.

Going back to the latest installment of Star Wars – a regurgitation of the 1977 prototype – audiences all over the world revisited the revival of “may the Force be with you” and the rediscovery of the lightsaber. Through my Asian American eyes, I see the mystic Tao irresistibly flowing once again through the universe. The lightsaber, in the manner it is revered and wielded in battle, is actually a high-tech Katana, a single-edged sword used by samurai. The good guys wear Japanese kimonos. Even the villainous Sith Lord Darth Maul struts about in a Beijing opera mask and wreaks havoc with a Chinese iron staff.

To me it is obvious that Star Wars since its creation has borrowed heavily and unabashedly from the genre of Asian sword-fight movies. But alas not a single Asian heroine in all of Star Wars (or at least in major roles. Several Asians play minor roles in the Force Awakens. While Qui-Gon Jinn, sounds eerily Chinese down to the hyphenation, alas again, this Jedi hero is played by a white actor (remember Charlie Chan?). Master Yoda, the most senior Master of the Tao, alas is just a green puppet, his most Japanese name notwithstanding.

Did I boycott any of the Star Wars films? I will confess I did not. Although I enjoyed watching all of them, I had also secretly wished to have the opportunity to have cheered for a hero with an Asian face, especially when the Force is invoked and the lightsaber unsheathed – er – turned on!! For that matter, give me a villain with an Asian face. Alas, I had to content myself by identifying with the little green puppet with squinty eyes.

Now as the rebellion rages against the Oscars and Hollywood’s oversight towards “people of color,” it my movie-goer’s dream to see in the near future more Asian faces, most so when the content takes so heavily from Asian movie themes and styles. May the Tao be with you.

(Editor Note: Charleston Wang is an immigration attorney from Ohio.)

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