An illustration of Star Wars’ Finn shared by the brand’s official Twitter account in honor of “black representation” has rung hollow for many audiences in the wake of Disney’s treatment of both the character and his actor, John Boyega.
On February 13th, in honor of Black History Month, the official Star Wars Twitter account shared an image of Finn, as he appeared in The Rise of Skywalker, alongside a few words from the piece’s artist Mel Milton on how “storytelling is at the heart of being human and black representation in all media gives us the opportunity to feel like we are a part of the world we are living in.”
“To be seen and heard more gives us a chance to feel like we are understood by those consuming our stories,” continued Milton. “Stories can show how a character can overcome struggles and conflict and to see someone like yourself in that story is a springboard for the imagination.“
In conclusion to his thoughts, Milton asserted, “Introduce that to an eager mind of a child and you inspire the next generation of story tellers and beyond.”
However, given not only Disney’s treatment of Finn throughout the Sequel Trilogy, but also actor John Boyega’s constant criticisms towards the company, it’s hard to see the sharing of Milton’s piece by the official Star Wars Twitter account as anything more than empty virtue signalling.
In June 2019, when a fan took issue with Boyega’s appraisal of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It series as “trash” and countered that “John Boyega is the most useless character in the current Star Wars franchise but you don’t here him say anything at how bad that writing is,” the actor replied that he has “those discussions on set.”
When told by a fan in June 2020 that while he himself had “no reason to be embarrassed” by The Rise of Skywalker, Disney did, Boyega enthusiastically agreed with the fan’s assertion, writing “Literally! That’s their problem lol!”
Later, during a September 2020 interview with GQ, Boyega slammed Disney for their treatment of Finn, rhetorically telling them to “not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side.”
“It’s not good,” said Boyega of Finn’s character arc, which saw him drop from the franchise’s potential new Jedi to nothing more than a glorified janitor over the course of Disney’s three films. “I’ll say it straight up.”
In the same interview, Boyega also noted that he considered the ‘’reordered character hierarchy’ that first took effect in The Last Jedi to be a particularly disappointing and infuriating development.
“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” said Boyega. “You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know f–k all. So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”
Worst of all, Disney’s promotion of Finn as a beacon of “black representation” is made all the more insulting in light of how they infamously shrunk Boyega’s appearance on the Chinese poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in order to appeal to the country’s more discriminatory views towards other races, particularly those with black skin.
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