With the release of the latest Star Wars film, fans everywhere were eagerly anticipating a dramatic adventure to reflect the success of the previous movies. But when they came face-to-face with the movie on the big screen, the diversity of the main cast proved to be a major problem for some people. Despite being enamored with the entirety of the Star Wars franchise, fans were suddenly up in arms with the inclusion of a female lead and a black man in the main roles, citing that the movie is “forcing diversity down their throat” and “excluding other actors in favor of a social agenda.” This clash over increasing diversity in movies and shows is nothing new, and as shows without a predominantly white male cast are popularized, more and more people come out in droves to protest.
Criticism of a character itself is not entirely unfounded; arguments or dissonance over a character’s talent, backstory, or relation to the plot is perfectly valid since it relies entirely on the storytelling of the movie and whether it was adequate. But a criticism over a casting choice without a given in-story reason has no grounds. Why is it hard to believe that a fictional franchise whose characters include a giant amorphous slug would not have any people of a race other than white?
Inserting diversity is not a tool used to spread some unknown agenda for supremacy over white men; it is a telling of a story with characters that a wider audience can relate to, allowing people of all races, genders, and so on to view someone inspiring or heroic that they can imagine themselves as. And telling a story that represents more than just the white male population is not an act of forcing representation, but simply giving representation to marginalized groups.
The irony of the situation is that “diverse” characters are still a very small percentage of all current films. About a third of all characters in recent movies and popular TV shows are female, and only 28% of that group were from minority groups. Most of the nominees for the Oscars are still entirely composed of white actors, and the whitewashing of minority characters is still present in many of the new and upcoming films.
Arguments over the supposed moral standing of diversity is a moot point. Nothing is lost when a character is played by a black person instead of a white person, and nothing should change when a movie decides to cast a female in the leading role. If anything, the inclusion of more diverse actors should make films more compelling, because it will have something different than yet another white male actor. Casting different types of people into roles is not the end of the world.