This recent article in Entertainment Weekly should be called “Hollywood’s problem with Lupita Nyongo and Black women”.
Casting is important to any film but in terms of the film’s profit, Star Wars might be the only franchise where casting doesn’t matter because regardless of who you cast, the film is going to do numbers. The casting of the largely unknown Daisy Ridley, an English actress whose previous work has been bit parts in various tv shows and films of little stature as one of the two central protagonists highlights the on going misogynoir inherent to the Star Wars universe and the problem Hollywood has with Black women using Nyongo as praxis.
The casting of largely unknown Daisy Ridley as a central protagonist in the “Force Awakens” therefore entrusting an inexperienced actress with a multi-billion dollar corporation while Oscar winner Lupita Nyongo is relegated to a supporting CGI character named Maz Kanata is but the latest example of Star Wars and Hollywood’s misogynoir & its “problem” with Black women writ large.
Where is the venerated meritocracy so touted by Hollywood liberals (most recently by Matt Damon in his HBO reality show “Project Greenlight”)and conservatives alike in the casting of Daisy Ridley as one of the main protagonists “Rey” while Lupita Nyongo is disembodied as a minor background character after winning the highest honour one can receive in the profession of acting? I suppose Lupita should just be happy with the boobie prize of couture magazine covers where white people apparently have just discovered that Black women too are beautiful?
This is another example of the fallacy of meritocracy where “Whiteness” trumps “merit” and carries more value and currency than ANY award (even the highest honour in your field) could confer to a Black person.
Where are the black women in the Star Wars universe?
We’ve been treated to token nods to black characters in the six films- ALL Black Men: Lando, Mace Windu and now Finn but where are the black women? Apparently they do not exist in the present, future or in galaxies far, far, away. Why not Oscar winner Lupita Nyongo as the heroine of a narrative in a galaxy far far away? Because even in a imagined universe, a racist, anti-black, misogynoirist Hollywood can’t see a black woman as a heroine, they in fact can’t even SEE black women’s humanity which is why Oscar Winner Lupita Nyongo is in the background, embodied as alien, as other.
Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with Black women for roles that don’t fit the stereotype of them: the slave, the help, the mammi, the “ghetto momma” which is why a largely unknown white woman (Daisy Ridley) is the heroine protagonist, her humanity fully realised as one of the most central figures to the mythological story telling:the “hero/heroine”. Meanwhile, a Black woman in the form of Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyongo is relegated to the background as the alien other, her humanity stripped from her, her “alien-ation” as a Black woman in a white supremacist society and fictional universe embodied as the alien other, her purpose all to familiar: to facilitate the development of white femininity, patriarchy & capitalist profit/development in reality and fiction per the roles a racist white supremacist society has cast for Lupita Nyongo and Black women.