George Lucas apologizes for “white slavers” remark about Disney

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George Lucas has issued a statement saying he misspoke regarding Disney and his comments they were “white slavers,” while talking to Charlie Rose. The statement collected by USA Today:

“I want to clarify my interview on the Charlie Rose Show. It was for the Kennedy Center Honors and conducted prior to the premiere of the film. I misspoke and used a very inappropriate analogy and for that I apologize. I have been working with Disney for 40 years and chose them as the custodians of Star Wars because of my great respect for the company and Bob Iger’s leadership. Disney is doing an incredible job of taking care of and expanding the franchise. I rarely go out with statements to clarify my feelings but I feel it is important to make it clear that I am thrilled that Disney has the franchise and is moving it in such exciting directions in film, television and the parks. Most of all I’m blown away with the record breaking blockbuster success of the new movie and am very proud of (J.J. Abrams) and (Kathleen Kennedy).”

This has sparked so much discussion online today it has been pretty nuts.

I think Lucas did use an analogy that was hyperbolic and insensitive. I think his deeper meaning was that the corporation he sold it to wants to extract as much capital from the investment as possible. Lucas could have taken more lucrative steps to make Star Wars even more “pop” than it already was. Had he made the sequel trilogy, it would not have been a retro film nor used a familiar art design we’ve already seen before.

I don’t for a second think George Lucas thinks anything is wrong with the work Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams did. My impression is that he cares, respects, and loves that if anyone has his “babies” and is working on them, it’s these people. That said, I don’t think he is the kind of guy that admires the corporate structure of Disney or their desire to be less than daring with the current generation of Star Wars. A film like The Force Awakens is stellar, but far from daring. It is really great but fails to really break new ground (besides the casting).

The Force Awakens does break new ground in that its main heroes are not white males exclusively. The main hero is a woman and our other two heroes are black and Latino. That is where the new film really pushed the boundaries compared to what has come before. Star Wars: The Force Awakens looks like the world we live in. Some people are using that as a damning example of why George Lucas is a racist and these people are either trolls or terribly stupid. (Maybe both?)

The first three Star Wars films are very much a product of their time. A New Hope doesn’t really do that well with representation. It perhaps breaks some gender stereotypes with Princess Leia but that is the general extent of it all. The Empire Strikes Back introduced Lando (played by the excellent African-American actor Billy Dee Williams) and the follow up Return of the Jedi was a bit more diverse still. The Phantom Menace features Natalie Portman as the film’s main protagonist and those films were still progressing in terms of representation. If not for George Lucas pushing that envelope a little further each film, mainstream movies might not feature as much representation today. The Force Awakens took it a step further thanks to what came before. It was progress via progression. A New Hope never could have come out featuring a female lead, a black guy, and a Latino. It would not have been funded in 1975. Today it can and did happen thanks to people like George Lucas.

George Lucas used a poor analogy. He admitted as much. Hell, he didn’t even really finish the analogy in the interview as he knew it was the wrong comparison. But the guy has given billions to helping education and the underrepresented in the United States. The guy also gave away most of his Star Wars money to help people in all walks of life. George Lucas has done more good in this world than you or I will ever have the opportunity to do. To use it as an opportunity to jump on the guy because of a poor analogy he didn’t even finish is really opportunistic and cowardly.

If anyone has the qualifications to express their distaste for something in Star Wars it is George Lucas. As a community we spend our online lives discussing what we liked or didn’t like about Star Wars. Why is George Lucas, the creator of the beast itself not allowed to comment? I believe George Lucas liked The Force Awakens. I doubt he deeply respected it on some levels and probably admired it immensely on others.

We know George Lucas isn’t a racist. He’s a guy that misspoke using a bad analogy.

 

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