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From Star Wars to 007: Why race representation matters

PICTURED: James Bond

THE FINAL instalment of the Star Wars saga is due to be released this year, entitled Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, and will complete the 42-year-long franchise’s overarching storyline.

Expected back to reprise his role as Finn is John Boyega, along with Daisy Ridley who plays Rey and Adam Driver as the villainous Kylo Ren.

The casting of John Boyega helped cement Star Wars as a more representative franchise – given that many wondered why a galaxy that spanned so many different planets was unable to find any non-Caucasian characters, with Billy Dee Williams’s Lando Calrissian and Samuel L. Jackson's Mace Windu being notable exceptions. But, why does race representation matter in fiction?

Why is race representation in Star Wars important?

For some, they may argue that it doesn’t really matter in a sci-fi setting, where viewers are more willing to suspend belief. However, with a franchise that has so many characters and covers decades of filmmaking, lacking race representation appears as more of a purposeful omission than an accidental mistake.

By being more inclusive in its casting - as can be seen across many other franchises such as Marvel's Cinematic Universe - films can allow viewers of many races to connect with what they see onscreen.

Given that Star Wars spanned such a craze of excitement about space and continues to be the referential point for anything space related, it is a franchise that wields a lot of power. Indeed, Alien and Moonraker were both released shortly afterwards, while the decades of spin-off films, TV series, comics and books have perpetuated our fascination with space. Countless video games and platforms rely heavily on this theme, from Star Wars releases such as Battlefront II and the soon-to-be-released Fallen Order, to even online casino sites where you can play Starburst online at Magical Vegas .

The Star Wars franchise is in a powerful position to influence popular culture, so more representation here can go beyond the medium of film.

Will there ever be a black James Bond?

Using a non-white actor to helm a global film series is a major talking point in another decades-old franchise, James Bond. Idris Elba was reportedly pegged to replace Daniel Craig, whose contract stipulates that Bond 25 will likely be his last outing as 007.

The decision to replace the Scottish/Swiss character with an actor of colour was received well by many, yet derided by series puritans who argue that Ian Fleming’s character was white and should stay that way.

This isn’t the first time that Bond has been up for a re-haul. Following Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal from 1995 to 2002, he vouched for co-star Colin Salmon, who played MI6 operative Charles Robinson from 1997 to 2002, as his replacement.

Despite the strong praise and the multiple screen tests, producers went with Daniel Craig. Given that the criticism against Craig was over his blond hair, it makes sense that producers may be reticent to overhaul the character too much.

John Boyega represents a watershed in casting non-white actors as leads in major franchises, which will hopefully lead a strong tradition of black and minority representation on screen in major franchises.

There is also little doubt that, should the James Bond franchise continue through the years, the character of James Bond will change in a major way to reflect a different kind of story and a different kind of hero, whether that be race, gender, or sexuality.

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