While Star Wars is still a hot item in the United States, China’s responses to the latest Rogue One footage are mixed.
Rogue One now has an international trailer, meaning the entire world has been introduced to Disney and Lucasfilm’s first live action standalone Star Wars movie. But while the United States remains as excited as ever at the prospect of a new Star Wars movie, China’s responses to the latest Rogue One footage are mixed.
China accounts for a huge portion of the international film market. Their attendance at the box office is a big determining factor for Rogue One‘s worldwide success. If their responses to Rogue One turn negative, the resulting box office disfavor could have an impact on Disney’s investment in the Star Wars film.
China’s skepticism of the film results from the use of two Chinese actors, Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, as main characters. Some in China believe they are not in the spotlight enough, that they are more token representations of diversity than anything else.
The Hollywood Reporter talked to a film analyst in China to discover the polar nature of the country’s response to Rogue One.
"“There are mixed sentiments regarding the two Chinese stars,” Alexander Leung of Hong Kong-based social media analysis film Lamplight Analytics tells Heat Vision. “Some are saying saying they don’t believe the characters are pivotal to the plot at all; others are praising Disney for increasing diversity in the Star Wars franchise.”"
In Western society, we are forced to question whether casting one or two persons of color in a film among a cast of white people is simply an attempt at token inclusion. Tokenism means that a film will cast a person of color for the sake of “diversity,” but then not give his or her character anything important to do. The role of the person of color is subordinate or at best secondary to the main character, who is usually Caucasian. Iron Man could be perceived as an example of supporting tokenism, as Tony Stark’s sidekick is an African American who has little to do with the plot outside of helping Stark.
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I understand some Chinese film analysts’ fears that the actors representing them in Rogue One are only in the film for token roles. But in this case, I think China’s fears about Rogue One are unfounded. One need only take a look at the rest of the main cast of characters to realize Yen and Wen are not the lone ambassadors for diversity in this film. Riz Ahmed, whose family originates from Pakistan, and Diego Luna of Mexico are also main members of the cast with important roles – Luna as a Rebel Alliance intelligence officer and Ahmed as a cargo pilot and technicians expert. Additionally, the main character in the film is a female, which until the past decade has been a rare casting choice in the science fiction movie genre.
The diverse casting in Rogue One may or may not have been intentional, but it is there. It doesn’t feel like tokenism because everyone brings something different and important to the ensemble. Donnie Yen’s character, Chirrut Imwe, is a religious blind man who wields a staff as skillfully as the Jedi once wielded lightsabers. Jiang Wen’s Baze Malgus carries a big gun and has no faith in anything except his own abilities – yet he is Chirrut’s closest friend and protector. There is complexity to their characters which indicates thoughtfulness in their development. That complexity wouldn’t be there if their characters were thrown together at the last minute for the sake of casting actors of more than one skin color.
Most importantly, though, Baze and Chirrut have their own stories, apart from the plot of Rogue One. They are not dependent on the white lead to be important. They are by no means token.
What do you think about the diversity in Rogue One? Do you view any of it as tokenism? Do you wish the cast was even more diverse? Talk to us in the comments below.