Posted by Rodney
What does representation mean to you? Is it even Important?
I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since before I was born, or so my dad will tell you. It’s probably true, I love both sci-fi and fantasy in all mediums. The Hobbit is in my top 3 favorite books. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to see a new Star Wars as it released in the theatre for the first time. This desire was sated with the release of Force Awakens. I felt a similar itch as The Last Jedi (TLJ) came close to releasing. I realized that I’d never seen the sequel to a Star Wars movie released, so I was excited. This isn’t a review of the movie, one that has drawn the ire of many. This is simply a breakdown of my Last Jedi Experience.
I sat in the bar waiting to attend a double feature of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi in my Finn (by way of Poe Dameron) jacket. People kept coming up to me and complementing the jacket and a couple wanted pictures.
This was a completely new experience.
I’m not big into cos-play, known as costume play in which one dresses up like their favorite characters. I enjoy Comic-con in San Diego and other events well, generally not in costume. I’m more of a people watcher. However this year for Halloween the family went as Star Wars Force Awakens Characters and I got an amazing replica of Finn’s jacket.
Fast forward to The Last Jedi, of course, I had to wear this amazing jacket. I’m getting these compliments and feeling good and realized that I’ve never had an experience quite like this. Almost all of the fantasy lore I so love only has white lead characters. A guy walks off after a “Love the jacket man!” comment and I realize this is must be what white people feel like all the time. Ok, sure not all the time, just most of the time. It was the first time I’d ever really tried my hand at CosPlay and I was able to pick a lead that looks like me. To be clear “look like me” means a Black Male lead. This experience felt cool and blew my mind and got me wondering what would it have been like to be a little kid with that experience.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that this is important. That’s because in my life [also known as my limited bubble of experience] it hasn’t mattered.
Not to say it doesn’t matter, quite the opposite. I had a lot of things going for me and as much as I’d like to say I’m special and impervious to outside forces such as role models, I’m not. I’m blessed enough to have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and mentors that were my role models. This is why it didn’t matter to me, I was surrounded by people that believed in in me. When I said I wanted to be an astronaut no one ever said to me “no” or “that’s not crazy”.
This isn’t the case for all children.
The realization of how cool it felt to be rocking Finn’s jacket felt silly to me at first. As I’ve thought about it more and more I don’t think it’s silly. Not only is it how I felt, I presume it’s how many white mainly male people have felt for many years going to movies. To the point that it’s not even noticed anymore, it just is. There is nothing wrong with that. There is an issue with others not having the opportunity to have a similar experience.
This doesn’t at all cover how I felt about the Finn storyline in TLJ, and my thoughts may actually surprise you. I’m not about giving up spoilers so we can talk about it later.
Representation is important. Not all kids have the support I had, but a little bump of encouragement surely doesn’t hurt. We have tons of negative representation of black men, it’s time to flip the script (see what I did there). It doesn’t solve everything, it does, however, inspire and give hope.
I know the grown nerd feels both inspired and hopeful.