Film Rant: What’s Truly Unique About #Blackstormtrooper

This week JJ Abrams released the teaser trailer for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens and just like every other fanboy I watched the video over and over, often pausing to pick out even the most minute details. My dissection of the trailer was handled with the same level of precision as a group of Spaceballs with an giant fine-tooth comb. I mean this is JJ Abrams we’re talking about here. The guy who made Lost. Do you know how many Easter Eggs he snuck into that series?

Of course I wasn’t the only person with their eye on the trailer and it didn’t take long before people shared their discoveries and doubts to social media. It took no less than ten frames before some members of the Star Wars fan base had a collective head burst. The scene I’m talking about is the one that opens the trailer, where we see a stormtrooper with his helmet off, looking out into the distance with fear in his eyes.

Oh yeah, and he’s black.

The amount of outrage over this stormtrooper’s race has been well documented over Twitter and other social media outlets under the hashtag #blackstormtrooper. Although most is overwhelmingly positive, some try and point out the supposed “inconsistency” of his race due to the fact that stormtroopers were shown to be cloned from Jango Fett in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones:

Still others believe this is an attempt to appease the “PC lovers”, “Social Justice Warriors” or whatever other term kids are using these days to describe people who want to see women and minorities in films because they exist in a place we call society, just a small subset of the universe:

How this is still an issue is beyond me, although I’m sad to say I’m not surprised. I was under the assumption that science fiction had moved beyond this nonsense decades ago. Duane Jones was cast in a starring role in a major Horror/Sci-Fi film in George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. That was in 1968, the same year Kirk kissed Uhura. Also, I don’t remember anyone accusing George Lucas of checking “diversity boxes” when he cast Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu in 1999. It’s 2014, a black stormtrooper shouldn’t be considered progress or pandering, it should be considered the norm.

That’s not to say the scene doesn’t mark a historic moment in the series. Go back and take a look at that scene.


There is definitely something striking and out of place about this stormtrooper that has nothing to do with the color of his skin.

Look again.

It’s his expression, or better yet, the fact that he has an expression at all. Provided this is truly an Imperial Stormtrooper, JJ Abrams has done something that has never been done in the Star Wars universe. He’s humanized a stormtrooper.

Stormtroopers have traditionally been portrayed as a cookie cutter military outfit. Their uniforms are monochrome, without any semblance of coloring. No personalization, like stickers. No nametags. Their appearance is skeletal, the most stripped down our bodies can be while still maintaining their shape. Their voices are monotone, devoid of any kind of inflection.  Even when they’re introduced as Jango clones, they are portrayed as mindless copies unlike the strong-willed Fett. For all intents and purposes, stormtroopers are meant to be mindless automatons, lacking any modicum of emotion or marksmanship.

There’s a reason for this in filmmaking, particularly Science Fiction, Horror and even some War and Western films. Things like zombies, robots, ninjas, orcs, brood-like aliens and the like are meant to be devoid of any humanizing features. This is so heroes can easily shoot and slash through swaths of enemies without eliciting an emotional response from audiences. It’s what differentiates Starship Troopers from becoming the sniper scene in Full Metal Jacket.

This method is used to great effect in the Star Wars franchise as the Empire is often depicted as masked or cloaked in battle, but the Rebels’ faces are exposed and possess features that make them unique. As an example take the first assault on the Death Star. On one side you have the the Imperial TIE Fighter Pilots, completely concealed in black helmets. Yet all the rebel pilots, from Wedge Antilles to my favorite, the portly Jek Tono Porkins, have their faces visible.

During the battle, no one cares as TIE fighters are blasted into particles, because they might as well be piloted by Death incarnate. But audiences feel for guys like Porkins as we witness him meet an untimely death as he sizzles (heh) among the stars. Porkins speaks with authority, we can tell he’s respected among his squadron and he sports a rocking neck beard. And for those of you wondering, yes, Lucas really named the heavy guy Porkins. (This was just to illustrate that Lucas humanizes his characters, not that he’s good at it.)

It’ll be interesting to see if Abrams is planning on giving the Empire a human side. It’ll certainly change the way we look at the Empire as well as explain the motivations of those within their ranks. Furthermore, it might reveal that there’s more than one side of the story when it comes to the battle between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. Perhaps like most rebellions the outcome didn’t turn out as planned.

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134 comments

  1. Oh yeah the clone wars was the end of good guy cloned storm troopers… empire and jedi had bad troopers, recruited by the Empire from the populace…. the old trilogy chronologically is the most recent story…

    heh racists … if the rumours are true, Obi Wan’s daughter is black played by Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong’o…. how do you like them apples?

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    1. Also, if you look at what is said in the 501st journals in SW:BF2, they also had a special cloning facility off of kamino after a kaminoan rebellion using Jango based troopers that began using DNA from a “wide selection” of possible donors as the new template. Of course, this no longer counts because of Disney making it non-canon.

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  2. Check this out: ” Didn’t the prequels reveal that all stormtroopers were white clones?

    Related Story

    Star Wars and the 4 Ways Science Fiction Handles Race
    No, they didn’t. In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi travels to the secretive planet of Kamino, where he discovers the existence of a clone army that would feed the so-called Clone Wars and eventually serve as the model for the evil Galactic Empire’s stormtrooper infantry. (Spoiler alert: Don’t watch the prequels.) Those clones weren’t white in any sense of the word. Jango Fett, the bounty hunter who served as the genetic template, was culturally (and perhaps ethnically) a Mandalorian. And the actor who portrays him, Temuera Derek Morrison, is a New Zealand-born person of brown skin and partial Maori descent.” http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/11/of-course-there-are-black-stormtroopers-in-star-wars/383259/

    Assuming the black storm trooper isn’t doing the old good guy in wolf’s clothing trick –the same trick that Han and Luke pulled just before getting stuck in the trash compactor–I agree that the humanizing of the storm troopers marks an interest in humanizing them.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The real question shouldn’t be whether J J Abrams has humanized the stormtroopers. The question should be where’s Captain Kirk. It’s now kind of like a movie where Batman takes on Loki and Ironman goes after The Riddler. Any moment Captain Kirk and Spock will show up to save Luke Skywalker’s rear end. Next thing you know Obi Wan Kanobi will be Clark Kent’s dad.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Reblogged this on INFODYNAMICS and commented:
    It’ll be interesting to see if Abrams is planning on giving the Empire a human side. It’ll certainly change the way we look at the Empire as well as explain the motivations of those within their ranks. Furthermore, it might reveal that there’s more than one side of the story when it comes to the battle between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. Perhaps like most rebellions the outcome didn’t turn out as planned.

    Like

  5. Interesting point, though I guarantee this didn’t get as much shit as the lightsaber thing. I always thought the “stormtroopers cloned from Jango Fett” thing was kind of lame, anyway. From the old movies, they seemed to be grunts for the Empire most of who probably just needed a job and had to wear the weird uniforms because the Emperor wanted everyone to look evil. Why they even had to bring in Jango for the prequels was weird, because I thought his son was just supposed to be some bounty hunter after Han Solo, not the son of the man who was the source of the clone of millions of sort of crappy soldiers.

    Come to think of it, the story to Star Wars seemed a lot cooler before they started throwing in crap just to shove Boba Fett-helmet-wearing guys and C3PO getting built by Anakin for no reason other than toy sales or whatever. In any case, I’m looking forward to J.J. Abrams treatment of the next movie.

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  6. Was Jango Fett Black? Heck No. What I am about to say is not rascist, it is just the fact that these are clone troopers, emphasis on clone. Again was Jango Fett Black no, so why is a clone of him black, I think it is just a result of the world we live in now a days. . .

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  7. JJ Abrams has had several days to respond to the debate over German “Jango Fett” = “Jango Fat” in English and has remained silent about its implications for the black Stormtrooper being a slap in the face of the Third Reich. What we do know, however, is that the Third Reich’s policies can never be slapped hard enough, long enough, or thoroughly enough through every available medium. Correspondents who are waiting for verification from JJ Abrams are missing the point.

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  8. I don’t care if the guy is black or green because when kid I remember that Luke wanted to be a stormtrooper so I guess anybody can be one. You’re right, is the expression what draws the attention, I’m not sure if that would be the expression of a stormtrooper that in the movies looks so cold because they’re an elite of soldiers. Perhaps that and the new lightsaber (that doesn’t look safe to the user) are part of the strategy of J.J. Abrahams to make us question if the island is connected to the Star Wars universe, haha, I mean to create expectative.

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  9. OK sooo. I might be missing something but when Lucas finally made the first 3 episodes the way he “always imagined” them to be. Didn’t Obi-wan travel to the ocean planet Kamino and find a whole army of black clones, making the “original” Jango Fett black? This then would be consistent….

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  10. Reblogged this on The Readneck Review Blog and commented:
    Wow, the discussion over a trailer for a movie that doesn’t come out until next year is insanely partisan. I don’t really get the claims if racism though. If the guy is a “clone trooper” of Boba Fett he should resemble Bona Fett (as all the other clones in the series Dom) If he isn’t a clone… Then he is just some guy in armor. No one us saying regular soldiers in the Empire can’t be black. The “RACIST” screamers are setting up another false straw man argument.
    Why is EVERYTHING about rave now…especially when it isn’t?

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  11. “There is definitely something striking and out of place about this stormtrooper that has nothing to do with the color of his skin.

    Look again.

    It’s his expression, or better yet, the fact that he has an expression at all. Provided this is truly an Imperial Stormtrooper, JJ Abrams has done something that has never been done in the Star Wars universe. He’s humanized a stormtrooper.”

    Um, no. Not even close. Timothy Zahn did this years ago in Allegiance.

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  12. Dude. Han solo and luke was stormtroopers as well on episode 4… it was a teaser. The expressions and anything else released its just to make you say: “fuck, old school tie fighters!’ Less conspiracy…

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  13. It sure wasn’t what you expected when he showed up, but I have no problem with a black or for that matter, any other color or alien race to be a stormtrooper. Its just a movie in the end. And as others have pointed out, he might not even be a stormtrooper?

    Im looking forward to see this movie!

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  14. Reblogged this on 평판 and commented:
    All it really shows is how tied into the system we are. First, someone needs to tweet clarification that storm troopers are clones of some white dude…keep reading to how they were meant to be non-thinking. In a sense all that is claimed to be different about this storm trooper is his humanity…they really are referring to his lack humanity which we truly see in American society. It doesn’t matter what color you are if you are satisfied with the system. It doesn’t matter your color if you defend or need to clarify the system to others. You are the problem. You are the system. In essence you are a non-thinking entity that is dressed in white but knows no difference between good or evil…the system dictates those thoughts. There is nothing truly unique about this storm trooper. He is exactly like you.

    Just a rant.

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  15. I suppose I see race in films differently from the average movie goer because I grew up seeing a lot of theater. My aunt was a stage actress in the San Francisco area, and I got used to things like seeing a black actor and an asian actor playing brothers, or a white actor and a black actor playing mother and daughter. Sometimes casting directors for plays cast that way because the want the most appropriate actor for the role first, and race is secondary. And certainly, since I know many families who have adopted children or are bi-racial families, I know that parents and their children don’t always look just like each other.

    The thing that makes me laugh about the Jango Fett being white thing is that the actor who plays Jango Fett isn’t white, but Maori from New Zealand. I suppose when people are ignorant to get upset about a black actor, they’re also ignorant enough to assume someone is white when they’re not.

    I’ll be there’s a story behind that storm trooper. Even if it’s a small plot point, it will be interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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