(WARNING: The following contains major plot SPOILERS for the recently released Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, albeit largely ones that the beginning of Episode IV: A New Hope gives away all by itself. Proceed with caution, though — or, y'know, trust in The Force.)
Now, in a year dominated by divisive discourse, political factionalism and LOUD, ANGRY SHOUTING, it's perhaps a little surprising that one of the angriest, shoutiest groups of all — the alt-right — opted to expend a whole lot of its energy trying to boycott #RogueOne, 2016's shiny new entry in the ever-expanding #StarWars movie universe.
Rogue One is, after all, a tale of plucky underdogs battling against an evil empire and (ultimately) succeeding in revealing the dark truth lying beneath its clean and shiny veneer. In other words, it's a movie about precisely the sort of movement that members of the alt-right — a catch-all term for a large number of groups, ranging from militant neo-nazis all the way to plain, old, white nationalists, eager to relabel themselves as something less threatening sounding — tend to describe their de facto figurehead #DonaldTrump's victory in the 2016 presidential election as being part of. In other words? The alt-right should, on paper, be able to pretend that Rogue One is a movie about them being heroes.
Except, of course...
White Nationalists Really Aren't Going To Like 'Rogue One'
Y'see, anyone attempting to redefine Rogue One as an ode to the white nationalism of the alt-right is, at some point, going to come up against a distinctly problematic barrier. Rogue One is — at its heart and on its sleeve — expressly ideologically opposed to some of the alt-right's core values, and to the sort of behavior that tends to follow on from their proposals.
Now, the tricky thing here, of course, is that the alt-right isn't anywhere near as cohesive a movement as a phrase like "core values" would seem to apply. A loosely-affiliated collection of often directly competing groups, it's difficult to ascribe more than a handful of unifying themes and beliefs to the group, and even those that are generally applicable of course have exceptions. What is possible, though, is to recognize that virtually all alt-right groups contain elements of white nationalism, white supremacism (both of which are essentially just fancy terms for racism), and what is often referred to as masculinism (which is really just "glaring, outright sexism" hiding behind a wafer-thin curtain of respectability).
All of which are ideas that Rogue One is both expressly opposed to, and makes a compelling and moving case against. For instance:
'Rogue One' Is The Story Of A Rebellion Against White Nationalism
Think about The Empire for a second. A monolithic, authoritarian and very, very white organization, it's long been famous for defining itself by both its inherent superiority, and by being distinctly limited in its inclusivity. In other words, it's a pretty perfect example of the implied goals of white nationalism, an ideology that argues that different races are inherently incompatible with one another, and that moves towards multiculturalism and racial equality are inherently disadvantageous to white people. The Empire, in effect, is the shiny, white end point that white nationalist ideology is aiming towards.
And Rogue One is a movie about blowing it the hell up. Heck, not only that, but it's a movie about a rag-tag team of diverse, badass heroes doing whatever it takes to stop a shiny, white fascist state from (permanently) shutting up those of its citizens that don't agree with it. Which, of course, means that...
'Rogue One's Cast Is A Walking, Talking Refutation Of White Supremacism
Y'know, that whole sub-category of white nationalism that essentially takes its basic premise (of racial incompatibility) and extends it to state that white people are inherently superior to everyone else. Now, sure, it does so using thoroughly debunked science and morally bankrupt ideological justifications, but that hasn't historically stopped it from being horrifyingly effective. If you're wondering what caused the vast majority of pogroms and mass killings throughout history, not to mention the Holocaust, the slave trade, and pretty much every act of colonialism ever, it's — in large part — some version or another of racial supremacism. The very same kind that many members of the alt-right indulge in like some sort of weirdly racist frosted cupcake.
The problem for any similarly racist Rogue One audience members, of course, is that it's a movie all about how a Mexican spy, a British-Pakistani pilot, an African-American militant and a pair of Chinese combat experts help the film's only white lead to defeat a bunch of sinister, old, white men who're trying to blow up planets for loosely defined reasons. In other words? A bunch of highly-skilled, charismatic scoundrels from incredibly diverse backgrounds work together to defeat a dastardly group of angry, militant white people. The only way it could be more obviously a refutation of the alt-right and its white supremacist undertones is if it featured a character named Milo Yiannopoulos using inflammatory language to stoke up hatred against the Jedi, Mon Calamari and leading female figures of the rebellion.
Speaking of which...
'Rogue One's Lead Makes Masculinism Look Even More Silly Than Usual
The third key feature of the alt-right is, of course, masculinism — an ideology often referred to as the "Men's Rights" movement, but more accurately described as thinly-veiled sexism. Another broad movement, its proponents range from outright misogynists who believe that women are inherently inferior to men to supposedly "progressive" masculinists, who simply feel that the current unraveling of centuries of institutional sexism isn't fair to men. Which, of course, it technically isn't, but only if you consider fairness to be the same thing as "keeping all the privilege you've illogically had for your entire life, at the expense of those who that same privilege has been screwing over for their entire lives."
Masculinism, then, is the same basic belief system that propped up claims that #TheForceAwakens' #Rey was a "Mary Sue" — a concept that essentially redefines equivalently awesome female characters to the likes of Luke Skywalker and John McClane as being "unrealistic," for reasons that apparently start and end with their having a vagina. It's also, of course, the core conceptual framework that helped a businessman turned reality TV star who once bragged about sexually assaulting women (and routinely advocates politically-motivated violence, threatens minority groups, and is famously less effective at making money than a standard investment portfolio) to become president on the basis that he's somehow more trustworthy and capable than a hilariously over-qualified woman who wasn't very good at storing her emails in the right place.
It's also, of course, precisely the sort of thinking that #FelicityJones' #JynErso would take one look at, turn her head to the side, and then shoot at point blank range. She might loosely act as a sort of #HanSolo to Rey's #LukeSkywalker, but the rogueish, snarling Jyn is also very much her own damn character, thank you very much. In fact, she's exactly the sort of kick-ass, complicated, deeply-flawed hero that a whole lot of movie fans spend much of their time clamoring for — who also just so happens to have a vagina. Which, of course, shouldn't make the slightest bit of difference to anything, but does in fact ensure that a whole lot of people will emerge from a movie about a badass hero trying to save the freaking Rebel Alliance saying that "it's unrealistic for a woman to be that good at shooting/climbing/jumping/leading/existing." Heck, there'll even be people out there arguing something to the effect of "she did a pretty good job — for a woman," because "progressive" masculinists need something ridiculous to say too.
In other words?
The Alt-Right Would Be Well Served By Continuing To Boycott 'Rogue One'
After all, if all of the alt-right, white-nationalist misogynists out there collectively went into a darkened room for two hours to watch a group of competent, charming women and people of color doing awesome stuff, who knows what might happen? They might even open their minds, and think about strange, oft-mocked concepts like "common humanity," "equality" and "basic human decency."
And that, in the end, is the last thing that any leading figure on the alt-right actually wants their followers to think about.
What do you think, though? What do you think Rogue One is really about? Let us know below!