No one enjoys American movies more than an abolitionist.
I love movies. If I wasn’t a socio-politically aware American black man I would probably be writing nothing but movie reviews. But since I’m a movie lover and a socio-politically aware fellow, I am compelled to speak on where these two things share the same space.
“This is our chance to make a real difference.” ~ Jyn Erso
I love Star Wars. Strange enough, the more I become intelligent on Black History (which is, technically, white history) the more I love Star Wars movies. The more street photography I do on both black protest and whiteness political rallies, the more I love these Star Wars movies. When I say love these Star Wars movies, I’m not talking about how people generally overuse the word “love”. How I love in this case, it just doesn’t compare. No, you like those blueberry pancakes; I love these Star Wars movies. Nothing compares to being able to see our entertainment through a scientifically minded, socio-psychological lens.
When I saw Rogue One last night, all I saw was a Black Lives Matter Movie.
I’ve seen a few reviews for this movie already. I read articles, saw youtube video reviews, and even listened to podcasts on this movie (Couch Tomato is great!). Everyone is talking about a multitude of angles here: how it’s a spy thriller, how it’s a war movie, how it compares to the other Star Wars movies, etc. The only thing I have not seen was a societal critique piece, which is precisely what this movie is. So while this is not a traditional review, I will state the fact that I might have spoilers.
“I’ve been recruiting for the rebellion for a long time.” ~ Cassian Andor
Rogue One is a Black Lives Matter movie. Sure, the characters are not majority black. Sure Black Lives Matter isn’t explicitly stated. But if you knew the movement as an objective street photographer — like me — you’d know that it’s clear that this is a Black Lives Matter movie by far. Right now, I’m going to go through a series of quotes and moments in the movie that reflect the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It’s not a problem if you don’t look up.” ~ Jyn Erso
When this line was uttered by the lead hero of the movie, this was the moment where I really saw the Black Lives Matter movement in this film. You see, this line was an answer to the mention of the Imperial Flag waving in the air. I’m paraphrasing here, but when I saw this movie all I saw was Forest Whitaker’s character ask the hero, who was at the time very noncommittal to the
rebel civil rights cause, how does she handle seeing the racism flag waving in the air everyday, and she answered with “It’s not a problem if you don’t look up.”
The reason why I instantly saw Black American life in this scene is because we as black people have numerous, if not the majority of black people, complacent in regards to this fight against racism as a whole. Forest Whitaker, looking like a Star Wars version of Frederick Douglass with that afro looking like gray fire, asked this of the hero and the hero gave an answer that many socio-politically aware black people know of. In story Saw Gererra, Whitaker’s character was considered a “very radical” rebellion leader. Every black intellectual speaking against systemic racism is called this in America. White supremacy is so normalized it’s a “radical act” to speak out against it, to mention it.
“Save The Rebellion! Save The Dream!” ~ Saw Gerrera
Her answer might not have elicited an emotional response to the white folks in the theater at the time, nor most of the black folks in attendance which were few. But for me, my stomach dropped harder than a rapper’s mixtape. Her response was so realistic, it was gut-wrenching. Her response was a painful reminder of how we have people who are suppressed, oppressed or flat out persecuted and that pass a blind eye and deaf ear over the fact that they are under the circumstances which they are. How do most black people in America for example, handle the notion that city/state police have a radically different license to kill them? By not looking up, that’s how.
“Orders? When you know they’re wrong? You might as well be a Stormtrooper.” ~ Jyn Erso
This quote came from the hero character once she began to realize her fight in the struggle. She says this to a morally gray character who is a part of the rebellion himself.
I can imagine this as the sentiment we as black people have towards police officers, and the white people who continue to enable their incredibly wide license to murder innocent black people. This reminded me of the “the job is dangerous” excuse. This phrase goes out to all those “blue lives matter” people who don’t realize they are practically the Brown Shirts in 1934.
“What Chance Do We Have? The Question Is What Choice.” ~ Jyn Erso
This is another gem from the main hero of the movie. This quote takes place in a meeting that hundreds if not thousands of protest organizers understand. You see, this took place at the beginning of the third act of the movie where the Rebel Alliance had a roundtable meeting, where folks just could not agree to get anything done. The average movie goer probably saw this scene as unnecessary drama, like, “why do they always argue this stuff?”
The funny thing here is that this is the true reality of the protest organizer, especially a Black Lives Matter meeting. White America seems to think of BLM in very simplistic, COINTELPRO’d Fox News media terms, as if they are one monolithic group. This is false; Black Lives Matter is a charter-based organization with decentralized leadership that is based on location. Technically, Black Lives Matter is infinitely an alliance of many different people with different ideas towards action, and, this lack of agreement in this scene, the loss of hope, the failure to understand circumstances, the failure to take risk, ALL OF THIS IS REAL to a protest leader. Black Lives Matter should technically be called the Black Lives Rebel Alliance, because I can guarantee that 96% of the protester’s meetings go just like this.
With that being said, this quote of Jyn Erso hits the nail on the head. It’s not about chance; it’s about choice. There’s no such thing as a rebellion that’s built on respecting chances. Chances are always slim. With MLK, chances were slim. With Malcolm X, chances were slim. With Fred Hampton, Huey P. Newton and Geronimo Pratt, chances were slim. While all chances were slim these people were about choices; decisions. That was the true then and it is true now.
“Light the place up. Make 10 men feel like 100.” ~ Cassian Ardo
Speaking of the different character types in a protest meeting, Cassian’s quote in the third act of the movie reminded me of the type of protester that want to whole system to burn. I call these protesters blood knights. The blood knight protester might be a person who may enjoy the fight more than anything else. The intent for the blood knight protester is to make others who are privileged to feel the pain of those who are lacking said privilege. While Cassian’s quote here doesn’t exactly line up with what I saw, I did see got what I got out of his quote and it’s worth a mention. Civility needs to take a side seat in the face of oppression. Light the place up.
Black in Star Wars
After looking at a few quotes, allow me to engage the symbolism. In Star Wars, the principle villains are white and male, a pretty homogenous group looking precisely like what your “alt-right” prefers America to be. Americanized Nazis.
More to the point is what it means to be black in these Star Wars movies. The symbolism of black in Star Wars was pretty striking in the first act of the movie. You see, the character in white, Orson Krennic (who’s cape is drenched in Klu Klux Klan imagery), is an Imperial Officer tasked with the duty to pull a reluctant weapons engineer out of retirement. He brings with him a interesting variant of the storm trooper — the death trooper.
The stormtroopers we all are familiar with are white, no different than Whiteness itself. These guys, the death troopers are black. These guys in the black gear, to me, was symbolic to how systemic oppression isn’t without it’s pets. When a black person is aware of oppression and speaks out against it, that person’s life gets harder. When a black person support that said oppression against his tribe, life gets easier, and he can be elevated to an elite status within white society. These black ass death troopers were clearly more elite than the common stormtrooper. In movie, if stormtroopers are the common, average Marine, these guys are clearly Navy SEALS.
The appearance of black in Star Wars has always been symbolic, and Rogue One doesn’t deviate from standard. The number one weapon of white supremacy is a black man (or woman) indoctrinated into it, believes it holistically, and engages in the destruction of black people, which includes intelligent black thought, with an ongoing sense of enthusiasm.
Darth Vader makes an appearance in this film and his scene in the third act of the movie, the violent one, was menacing. Darth Vader — the top symbolic black guy in Star Wars universe — was incredibly ruthless here. His savage assault on the rebels at the end of the movie was symbolic to how blindingly ruthless the American black conservative is concerning race relations in America. Black conservatives typically deputize themselves to police up black people, which ranges from tone policing to outright (or alt-right?) sabotage and destruction.
“There’s more than one prison. I think you carry yours wherever you go.” ~ Chirrut Îmwe
Overall: Star Wars is about Rebellion and Protest
“There isn’t much time. Every day they grow stronger.” ~ Jyn Erso
When I saw this movie the other night, It was on short notice that I realized that this was a Black Lives Matter movie. Out of being on the streets photographing these protests, on top of seeing how meetings go, talking to people, meeting people, this was a movie on BLM.
I imagine that if you support police violence, you might not like this movie. If you support Tomi Lahren, you might not like this movie. If you voted for Donald Trump, you will not like this movie. These movies are clearly not for you.
I have no idea how a lot of folks out there who support unjust regimes and systems can watch this film and not see themselves in the villains in the movie. If you support any of the following stated, you will need your safe, white supremacist echo chamber because there’s no way you can see for example, Donald Trump, or any supporter of unjust systems in the rebellion.
The rebellion in every Star Wars movie is protest culture. It’s Black Lives Matter. It’s Dakota Pipeline. It’s the oppressed, suppressed and persecuted doing more than just speaking truth to power. If you are a person who speaks truth to power, protest and engage in taking on oppressive systems… you’re going to love this movie.