Author of Tell-All Hollywood Exposé Slams Lucasfilm’s Lack of Diversity in ‘Star Wars’

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Ahsoka Tano in The Mandalorian Season 2

Credit: Lucasfilm

Longtime Hollywood journalist Maureen Ryan isn’t shying away from tackling Lucasfilm head-on in her new book, Burn It Down, where she put the company on blast for its staggering lack of diversity when it comes to Star Wars.

Kathleen Kennedy at an earlier Star Wars Celebration. Credit: Lucasfilm
Credit: Lucasfilm

When George Lucas’ Star Wars first landed in theaters in 1977, it was an instant trailblazing phenomenon that kicked off the beloved franchise we know and love today. But times change, and so do audiences’ perspectives on media, and how it reflects the ever-changing world we live in.

In recent years, the subject of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood has been at the center of nonstop discourse. Some argue that movies and TV shows aren’t doing enough for representation, while critics claim that “woke” studios are pandering too much to those of different races, sexual orientations, and gender identities.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Credit: Lucasfilm

At the heart of many debates is one of the most universally-recognized IPs—Star Wars, which has arguably not been the most friendly franchise to its female characters.

There’s no denying that Carrie Fisher’s iconic portrayal of Leia Organa continues to be celebrated by fans today, with the brave, wise-cracking princess proving herself to be a worthy ally to her male counterparts, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford).

Princess Leia in a white gown and hood in A New Hope
Credit: Lucasfilm

Natalie Portman’s Padmé Amidala, the wise Senator of Naboo, was exceptionally quick with a blaster, and held her own against dangerous adversaries throughout the Clone Wars—both in and out of the Galactic Senate. Her close friend, Ahsoka Tano, the padawan of Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, worked her way up in the Jedi Order and mastered the ways of the Force.

Meanwhile, Chandrilan Senator Mon Mothma (Caroline Blakiston/Genevieve O’Reilly) led the Rebel Alliance against the Galactic Empire, while Rey (Daisy Ridley) would face the demons of her past to help take down the tyrannous First Order roughly 30 years later.

Daisy Ridley as Rey Skywalker in 'Star Wars: Episode IX -- The Rise of Skywalker' (2019)
Credit: Lucasfilm

Needless to say, Star Wars is full of strong female characters. But Lucasfilm is far from perfect when it comes to portraying different races, gender identities, and abilities on screen—something Maureen Ryan left a cutting criticism of in her new book.

When asking how committed Lucasfilm really is to diversity (via ScreenRant), Ryan was quick to point out how Star Wars’ live-action feature film realm was “entirely white,” and “more than 90 percent male:”

As of 2018, after more than four decades of the franchise’s existence, the roster of writers and directors in the Star Wars live-action feature film realm was entirely white and more than 90 percent male. in 2020, Patty Jenkins was hired to direct a Star Wars film titled Rogue Squadron, but that project has been in development for a long time and, as of this writing, shows no sign of going into production. Taika Waititi is working on a Star Wars movie with Scottish writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns, but fans might not see it until 2025 or beyond – if it gets made, that is. As far as I can determine, as of the middle of 2022, no woman of color has written, cowritten, or directed a live-action Star Wars feature film.

senator padme amidala
Credit: Lucasfilm

There are signs of improvement, and all too often, these diverse hires wind up overshadowed, as Ryan noted with the lack of movement on Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron movie. Of course, production issues can’t be helped, but it does raise the question of whether or not Lucasfilm is actually committed to seeing projects from female and POC (people of color) directors through, or if resources get allocated to legacy creators like Dave Filoni.

This is especially interesting, considering Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has been outspoken about her desire to bring more female voices to the galaxy far, far away. But so far, her drive for inclusion is seeming like more of an empty promise.

Kathleen Kennedy unveils a Star Wars shirt. Credit: Lucasfilm
Credit: Lucasfilm

In her book, Ryan pointed out that there are several examples of successful POC creatives at Lucasfilm, like The Book of Boba Fett, in which Robert Rodriguez served as both executive producer and director. However, all episodes were written by Jon Favreau (with Filoni co-writing its Mandalorian arc)—both white men.

The author continued, saying that while “inclusive cast lists and director rosters are good things,” there needs to be a more “inclusive group” at Star Wars’ writers’ tables:

Inclusive cast lists and director rosters are good things, and they are more likely to be found at the big IP factories these days. It’s heartening that those directors and actors are getting work. But imagine if the lead creatives on each film or TV project, the ‘head writers’ or whatever you want to call them – the people who are overseeing the architecture of the stories and character arcs – were a far more inclusive group. Just imagine.

robert rodriguez bobf
Credit: Robert Rodriguez / Lucasfilm

Ryan, who clearly isn’t afraid to ruffle some feathers, pointed to the upcoming Ahsoka Disney+ show. The series, which is slated to premiere this summer, stars Rosario Dawson, who describes herself as “multiracial,” and yet it is still helmed by Filoni, who also acts as its sole writer.

It’s easy to defend this example, as Filoni co-created the character of Ahsoka with Lucas. So if anyone has the right to direct her solo series, it’s him. Still, Ryan argues that even if it’s uncomfortable to think about, diversity takes a back seat using this logic—that somehow, it’s always appropriate for a white man to be the one in charge at Lucasfilm, even if Dawson is the show’s leading lady.

Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in her own solo series
Credit: Lucasfilm

And Ryan isn’t the only woman who’s spoken out about the male-dominated environment at LucasfilmAt April’s Star Wars Celebration, The Acolyte star Jodie Turner-Smith raised eyebrows after claiming “Star Wars is very like…patriarchal,” while the show’s director mirrored similar sentiments in a controversial podcast interview back in 2019.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that this book was written prior to the release of the Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries, which was directed by Deborah Chow—a longtime Star Wars creator who just so happens to be a woman of color.

Deborah Chow director
Credit: Lucasdfilm

There’s also the matter of Lucasfilm’s recently-announced slate of upcoming Star Wars films, one of which is being directed by Pakistani-Canadian journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

Behind the scenes, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done at Lucasfilm to truly level the playing field. White men continue to spearhead the majority of Star Wars stories, and achieving true equality for anyone else hoping to get a shot at Lucasfilm feels parsecs away. But with time, hopefully it can find talented visionaries of all races and identities to mold the future of this beloved franchise.

What do you think of Maureen Ryan’s comments about diversity at Lucasfilm? Do you agree? Chime off in the comments below.

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