Social media exploded more vibrantly than the Death Star on Friday morning, when the teaser for Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens hit the internet and 30 theaters across the country. Excitement ran rampant on Twitter, where fans speculated on new characters and planets, and in the trailer's YouTube comments, which were — well — not so pleasant, as YouTube comments tend to be. Be warned, the comments get pretty rancid...
Throughout the comments section were several negative reactions to the first shot of the trailer, which depicts Attack the Block star John Boyega in one of the new Stormtrooper suits, lost and breathless in an endless desert. This shot, which was filmed in the desert on IMAX cameras, launched a wave of vitriol that unfortunately seems to be an all too common response when it comes to race and gender regarding certain iconic characters.
Not only were the bigoted comments on the upturn, but they were insistent that their knowledge of Stormtroopers strictly being clones was correct. It was as if thousands of voices suddenly cried out and said: "We know nothing about Star Wars canon!"
But John Boyega Played It Like A Pro!
Despite all of the nasty comments, John Boyega seems to be standing on his own just fine. He took to Instagram to express his excitement, gratitude, and a particular sentiment to his naysayers:
In a time where race is a huge, ongoing, and controversial discussion, it's completely ignorant to look at the reaction to Boyega as a Stormtrooper and claim that we live in a post-racial society — but the 22-year-old actor's response is absolute perfection, and the post's comments reflect just that. An outpouring of support has come from fans of all sorts for the young actor, and he stands confident in his role.
Why shouldn't he? John Boyega is a stellar actor, and from what I've heard/seen, a great guy too. His quick and simple response was great, and I hope he'll be around for all three movies, since Daisy Ridley is currently the only cast member signed on for the full trilogy.
What's more, even though he's rumored to be an Imperial-gone-good, Boyega's character could also be working undercover with the Alliance and donning the suit for that reason. Not unlike Han and Luke in A New Hope, or even Zare Leonis from Rebels, Boyega's character could have ulterior motives for joining the Empire. All of this is yet to be seen, but one thing's for sure: Not a lot of sci-fi trailers open up on the face of a young black actor, and that was pretty damn great.
Now, for those of us who aren't super clear on how clone troopers were phased out, here's something I like to call...
Stormtrooper History 101!
Barring the few people who may have been confused (which is totally fine!), the comments got pretty brutal when it came to fans seeing a Black Stormtrooper - from outright racism to firm stances on Stormtroopers still being clones, which were completely incorrect.
See, clone troopers were used until the end of the Clone Wars, when they were phased out by the Empire in favor of citizen recruits. The reason for this was because clone troopers had accelerated lifespans, which rendered them pretty useless after a year or two on the battlefield.
If they didn't die in battle, they were basically fifty year olds within a few years. (This, of course, didn't apply to Boba Fett, because of his direct DNA cloning - but let's not get into the tear-jerking backstory of the Fett family for now.)
More canon proof can be found near the beginning of A New Hope, when Luke Skywalker himself complains about not being able to follow his friends into the Imperial Academy, where recruits are trained to be Stormtroopers in hopes of moving up through the ranks of the Empire. See, to a civilian, the Empire was just the government's military at that time. You enrolled in the "army" to see the stars, travel, and defend innocent people - at least, that's what it looked like on the outside.
A more recent example popped up in [Star Wars Rebels](series:965946), which is part of the new canon, as an entire episode (the fourth, titled "Breaking Ranks") focused on showing off some of the earliest forms of recruitment training for Imperial hopefuls.
Ezra Bridger enrolls during an undercover mission for the Rebels, and befriends Zare Leonis, who is looking for his sister after she disappeared during her training. It's actually a great episode, and features some great voice work by Dante Basco, so I recommend it if you haven't seen it yet.
Also, If The Empire Is Bigoted Against Anyone, It's Definitely Not Other Humans...
The in-world prejudice we've seen in Star Wars has almost always been directed at alien species and droids, not humanoids. In fact, it's documented on several sites, but here's a quick and easy Wookieepedia article for you to check out.
The hatred from Imperials is also pretty clearly seen in Star Wars Rebels, where the man who led the slaughter of the gruff Zeb's entire species eggs him on in battle with as much bigotry as Disney XD will allow - it's soft, but it's obvious that the Imperials see themselves above other "savage" species.
If you dive back through the history of speciesism throughout the expanded universe and Star Wars canon, it gets pretty ugly. In the expanded universe, the alien General Thrawn's rise to power was a very, very rare instance, and plagued with struggles that only served to make the cold Imperial even more ruthlessly calculated than he already was. On several Empire stronghold planets, non-human slavery was legal, and prevalent.
Regardless of anyone's opinion, Boyega is in a Stormtrooper suit in the opening shot of the teaser, and that's that. He is, arguably, "a little short for a Stormtrooper" - height and weight requirements can be found in any military, and Boyega clocks in at 5'9" where most Stormtroopers stand at six feet tall - but outside of that, there's no reason why the Empire wouldn't want another able body for the battlefield... as long as they're human, of course.
Check out the Star Wars VII trailer (again!) right here: