Another one from the old S.C.A.B. days. I’m posting the full newspaper article here only because I can’t find a link to it on the Detroit News’ website. I love illogical paranoia as much as I hate racism, but only when I’m laughing at both. This article had to be written.
People Just Looking for a Reason to Hate Star Wars Now
Former cultural event now hallmark of whininess
by Brendan, Brenizer, and the ghost of Carroll O’Connor
Critics say ‘Clones’ has racial stereotypes
By Michael H. Hodges / The Detroit News
George Lucas, sometimes accused of reinforcing racial stereotypes with his movies, has done it again, according to critics.
Latino critics in particular charge his latest Star Wars epic, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, toys with American paranoia about Mexican immigration with its cloned army of swarthy lookalikes who march in lockstep by the tens of thousands, and ultimately end up serving as Darth Vader’s white-suited warriors.
Modeled on bounty hunter Jango Fett, the clones, we’re told, are genetically modified for docility and obedience. The breeding project, conducted by long-necked aliens who look like refugees from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, takes place on the planet Kamino — soundalike for the Spanish word “camino,” which means “road” or “I walk.”
Temuera Morrison, the actor who plays Jango, is a New Zealander of Maori descent. But that didn’t get in the way of some members of an eight-person Detroit News panel assembled to review the film. “He looked totally Latino,” says Martina Guzman, a Detroiter who’s managing a State House election campaign.
“And his kid,” says Wayne State history professor Jose Cuello, referring to the young Boba Fett, “looked even more Latino.”
It reminds Cuello a little bit of “those Reagan ads in the 1980 campaign, that suggested if Nicaragua went communist, you’d have wild-eyed Mexicans with guns running across the California border.”
A flabbergasted Lucasfilm spokeswoman, Jeanne Cole, says “This is the first we’ve heard of this. Star Wars,” she says, “is a fantasy movie filled with creatures and aliens from all different planets and universes and galaxies. There is no basis for this.”
Lucas was in Cannes and could not be reached for comment.
The celebrated mythmaker has been through what some might call the p.c. mill before.
In 1999, a furor erupted over The Phantom Menace’s Jar Jar Binks, a floppy-eared alien whom some read as a sort of Stepin Fetchit by way of the West Indies.
“Everyone I’ve ever spoken to says there’s a Rastafarian element to his speech, his walk, and in his ‘dread’ ears,” says copy editor Robert del Valle, who was on The News panel with Guzman and Cuello.
But such allegations were dismissed as “absurd” by Lucas in a Thursday interview published in the Washington Post. “People say, ‘He sounds Caribbean.’ Well, he doesn’t. He’s a complete invention. It’s a different language. Just because he speaks with that accent doesn’t mean it’s a racial stereotype.”
The interview did not address the clone issue.
A somewhat muted Jar Jar makes another appearance in Clones, but it is the dark-skinned Jango-copies that seem to have caught some audience members’ attention this time around.
Still, not everybody’s buying it.
Harry Knowles, on-line film reviewer and author of Ain’t It Cool: Hollywood’s Red-Headed Step-Child Speaks Out (Time Warner), says the whole Jango ethnic premise is “reading racism into something that’s not there — it’s just in the minds of the viewers. It’s like calling Jar Jar racist when all he is is Bullwinkle.”
The Jango dispute surfaced in internet chat rooms devoted to Star Wars days before the movie’s release, says panelist Gary Anderson, the artistic director at Detroit’s Plowshares Theatre and longtime Star Wars student and critic.
If the planet name “Kamino” caught some Latinos’ attention, three Arab-Americans on The News’ panel seized on the fact that Jango’s son calls him “Baba.”
“I frankly think the bounty hunter is Arab,” says college counselor Imad Nouri of Royal Oak.
“He’s basically a terrorist,” explains Nouri, “and ‘baba’ is Arabic for ‘father.’ ”
Such allegations have a long history in that galaxy far, far away. A number of observers noted that the 1977 original was, at least at the human level, an all-white party — looking, in Anderson’s words, “like the Ku Klux Klan’s fantasy of the future.”
The only exception was Darth Vader’s basso-profundo voice, supplied by African-American actor James Earl Jones.
Which leads to all sorts of ironies, intentional or not: Darth Vader has a black man’s voice when he’s bad, but in Clones — before Anakin Skywalker does the Darth-thing and efects to the Dark Side — he’s a white guy, played by Hayden Christensen.
The big question lurking beneath all this ethnic deconstruction: Could any of this possibly be deliberate?
For their part, The News’ panelists were divided.
“The plot is so superficial,” says Cuello, “I don’t think they could possibly have any deliberate intent about manipulating images.”
Like almost everybody who commented on Lucas, Anderson doubts there’s
anything malicious going on.
“If your entire world perspective is based on 1950s TV and films, what do you expect?” he asks. “Garbage in and garbage out.”
For her part, Guzman was astonished that, given the Jar Jar flap, Lucas didn’t scrutinize everything a little more critically this time around. “He’s been criticized before,” she says. “So he had a choice.”
It’s not that she’s opposed to Latin-looking baddies per se. She just wishes the occasional swarthy good guy would get as much on-screen time as the villain.
“Jimmy Smits had all of two lines in the whole movie,” Guzman says. “And Samuel Jackson had like five. Then there’s the bad guy.”
For pop-culture professor Robert Thompson at Syracuse University — who has yet to see Clones — the issue boils down to whether Lucas really wanted to tweak Anglo fears.
He’s inclined to say no, attributing Lucas’ occasionally confusing choices to “a certain degree of cluelessness. Look at Jar Jar Binks. The moment that guy comes on the screen, you wonder what in the world they were thinking. This isn’t 1957. Didn’t anybody say, ‘Have you paid attention to what this guy is doing?’ ”
The sad thing, he says, is that the Star Wars saga is also “about tolerance and dignity. But then you’ve got this ‘camino’ thing, which sounds a little creepy, and swarthy people who march in uncountable masses.”
Thompson calls the imagery in Star Wars a “great big Rorschach test, not just for the people who watch the movies, but for Lucas himself.” With the latter, that leads him to two possibilities.
“One is that this is coming out of the id of the creator without translation — a West Coast fear of the Latino population in America.” (Lucas grew in the 1950s in Modesto, Calif., the agricultural town immortalized in American Graffiti, and one visited annually by thousands of migrant workers.)
The second hypothesis, he notes, is that it’s all deliberate — a way to prompt deep emotional response in audiences by probing “a phobia that’s afoot in America. And that’s the scarier interpretation.”
Or, as some argue, perhaps it’s all stuff and nonsense.
Knowles at aintitcool.com keeps emphasizing on the fact that Temeura Morrison, the actor who plays Jango, is Maori.
When asked how audiences are supposed to know that, he says, “How can
you tell? You stay for the end credits. Is his name ‘Raul Julia?’ No.”
But even if Jango was meant to be taken as a Latino, others just don’t see a problem.
“At least we’re in the picture,” says Hollywood producer Michael Gonzalez with a laugh.
“I mean, what did we have before — Lt. Torres on Star Trek? It’s just a movie,” he says. “It’s just fun. And you’re going to hit a stereotype one way or another. At least we get some screen time.”
In any event, Guzman doubts most Hispanics will notice, if only “because they’re so used to seeing images like that of themselves — little dialogue, always being the bad guy. It’s going to take the intellectual community to call Lucas on what he’s doing.”
Latinos are now the nation’s largest minority. But box-office analyst Adam Farasati — who argues Hollywood rarely takes minority concerns into consideration — doesn’t see any collateral damage to the film’s profits.
“The only real issue is that Attack of the Clones is one of most anticipated movies of all time,” he says from RealSource’s Los Angeles office.
“And beyond that, any type of media attention — even negative — really just creates more hype for a film that has hype coming out its ears.”
Since their racism argument has the mental acuity of a quail that just ate soap, I don’t feel sorry for the politician or the professor who–wait, shouldn’t they be dismissed and put into jobs where they don’t need to think about what they’re saying? Anyway, I don’t feel sorry for them. I mean, I do, but only because they’re in Detroit.
And George Lucas is richer than Satan’s embezzling accountant, so I don’t feel sorry for him either. He probably laughed from inside a burning barn full of $100 bills, because he can afford actual clone medicine.
The only person I sorry for is reporter Michael Hodges, who did a fine job treating this like it was a real news story. Like…he researched it, called up people to get a fair and balanced opinion, and produced something that you’d think was an important news story if you forgot it was about a bunch of people who think George Lucas hates Hispanics because he cloned a Maori guy. Sure, the actor who played Jango Fett isn’t even Hispanic, but you see, the offended people think he “looks totally Latino.” Wait…isn’t that kind of a racist thing to say?
Normally when somebody criticizes something for stereotypes only they can see, it merely exposes their own wacky prejudices. Like when somebody says “HELL-LOOOO!! Admiral Ackbar? A talking fish? Could he BE more gay?” we can all just turn our heads and stop thinking about Star Wars. But an argument as asinine as The Latino Clone Who Wasn’t Actually Latino echoes in the recesses of your mind forever if you’re not careful to ignite it with a flamethrower and sanitize your brain with something more intelligent, like three hours of Drexler’s Class.
I’m not a racist, but I play one on TV. Two, in fact. So that means I know racism when I see it, probably better than real racists, who tend to live in denial. And let me say first off, nobody’s denying he looks kinda…I dunno, Argentinian, maybe. But try to remember that Hispanic culture spans two continents and a number of facial features. Conquistadors didn’t just have sex with the Indians while they killed them; they also assisted the Portugese with the African slave trade and all the rape that accompanies slavery. So it was a pretty safe bet that Jango could look like he came from one of four continents, including the entire Western Hemisphere (not that he did…).
Christ. I’m the first to say there are some things that really look like racial stereotypes in the new Star Wars movies. Why? Because their major inspiration was ol’ 60s serials, which is where the more-Asian-than-Asian Nute Gunray came from. But this isn’t one of them. A) He’s freakin’ Kiwi. B) No stereotype accuses Latinos of being overly ordered and imperialistic — it would be worse if he had a German accent. C) Who the Hell wouldn’t want to be Jango Fett? He’s bad ass.
Why they think this is one thing, but why they’re offended is another. It isn’t like his name is Poncho Fett and he’s a lazy drunk. He’s the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s been playing characters like that for 30 years, and we never hear any whining out of Austria. They probably like being portrayed as hulking badasses. And looking back at the entire 20th century, they’re in way more of a position to complain about that stereotype than a few middle-class folks from Detroit.
Cripes, after the beating Latinos have taken for 30 years at the hands of Western cowboys, you’d think they’d be itching for their turn to be the best bounty hunters around. Lord knows the French would like that chance, but we don’t give it to them because YOU’RE THE NUMBER ONE GUN, HISPANIC CULTURE! The New World Order salutes planet Hispania and all its shiftless citizens, who are finally allowed to take up arms and do our dirty work! Congratulations! Or, as you might say in your alien tongue, Congratulado! Estamos muy happidad usted welcomar al universo de STAR GUERRES! Now go kill our enemies.
If it was me, I’d be complaining because the Latino looking guy wasn’t actually Latino. I mean what’s to complain about? He’s a tough guy. He’s a good father. And even without that armor, I’d be scared to fight him. He’s even got a tough voice, which, I might point out, is blatantly New Zealand. I know it’s easy to ignore when you’re hell-bent on getting offended, but the fact that Jango talks with a New Zealand accent kind of undermines his credibility as a Latino.
So you’re kind of down to his being olive-skinned. Come on, give your heritage more credit than that. Your culture provided us with salsa, Cuban sandwiches, and Shakira and a million things that aren’t even roaringly Hispanic. Stop minimalizing yourselves.
For that matter, I know a ton of Hispanics who on their darkest day can’t compete with the one-eighth of me that’s Italian. So at this point your case is basically that he looks like half the world, and he visits a planet that’s phonetically identical to the arbitrary word “Camino.” It’s not like he wears Guerrilla armor or comes from planet Plumifero. Unless George Lucas’ bold statement is that Latinos don’t own cars, I don’t see what’s so offensive.
Let’s just say this again: JANGO FETT IS A BAD-ASS.
Nobody wants to be Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan sucks. All he ever did was screw up Anakin, hide for 20 years, and throw away the chance to kill Vader. Everybody wants to be Jango. In fact, if your child thinks Jango is Latino, don’t disillusion him. I’m starting to wish I were Latino now, just so I could play Star Wars and pretend I was Jango Fett, or at least pretend I was a New Zealander playing Star Wars, and HE could pretend he was Jango Fett. Also, I wish I were alive.
So what if George Lucas thinks Latinos make the ultimate fighters? That’s like a man complaining about being stereotyped as well-endowed. Maybe it’s true and maybe it’s not, but either way, you don’t want to convince somebody on the street otherwise. Although, seriously, that’s a hurtful stereotype that minimizes the human being.
Unlike being JANGO FETT! Nothing could be more implicitly human than killing anyone who crosses you.
And I’m not sure Lucas is wrong. I don’t know what kind of name Figueroa is, but if it’s Hispanic, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me there’s any bloodline tougher than the one that produces felony-offense spitballers.
Ms. Guzman went on to say that the group was “very offended by Lucas’ portrayal of Hispanics as a bunch of stone-age aboriginal subhumans. This is racism of the worst degree.” Maori spokespeople responded with objections to Lucas depicting the New Zealand people as “ignorant Detroit community leaders, now clearly the most laughable group in the world, or at least in this debate” When asked if any member from either group had ever actually seen a Latino, the Hispanics punched out a mirror and shrieked, while the Maori responded by unleashing their massive and stereotypical clone army upon reporters.
Important points to remember:
1) The clones aren’t evil! They saved the day! Without them the Jedi were toast!
2) Who cares if the Stormtroopers in A New Hope look like the KKK? They’re the BAD GUYS. If they represent white America that’s not presented as a good thing. This is like when CAP objects to Satan doing evil stuff in End of Days
3) Jimmy Smits had a short but big role, so not only are Latinos bad-asses, they’re high-ranking, spiritually peaceful bad-ass GOOD GUYS who adopt homicidal maniac’s children and raise them to be sweet maidens.
4) Lucasfilm, which managed a rigid front of “EVERYONE LOVES JAR-JAR NO MATTER WHAT YOU HEAR” was so unprepared for this even they were shocked in responding to it.
5) The guy. Wasn’t. Latino.
STEREOTYPES ENFORCED: That accent, merciless business practices
BUT: Cowardly, Not very smart, Lack beautifully insane culture