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People of color made me a Star Wars fan

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The Star Wars universe finally feels diverse

Walt Disney Studios

Let’s address the elephant in the room first: I’ve been known to be a non-Star Wars fan my entire life.

[Warning: The following post contains spoilers for Rogue One.]

Before you dive headfirst into the comments to skewer me for being a nerd in his thirties who doesn’t like Star Wars, you won’t tell me anything I haven’t heard already. That said, the past year has changed me. I’m finally happy to call myself a Star Wars fan and I’d love to tell you why.

Star Wars has been a series with a nearly 40-year legacy with dozens of movies, books, games and more under its belt. None of those made an impact on me, except for the two most recent films.

The Force Awakens and Rogue One did one thing I haven’t personally seen a Star Wars property do: they made the human race feel diverse. For one of the first times, people of color were not only widely represented in the Star Wars universe, they were the main characters.

Without leaning too heavily on the plight of nerds of color not having representation in the media they love, it’s an undeniable fact that the original Star Wars trilogy was a product of the times they were filmed in. Filmmakers simply weren’t putting many people of color in their movies, let alone letting them be the main characters.

For decades, the idea of heroes in a galaxy far, far away looked like this.

Disney/Lucasfilm

Growing up, it always felt odd to me that out of all the intergalactic diversity in the entire universe that makes up Star Wars, humans were mostly white (yes, I know Lando Calrissian and Mace Windu exist). Other species of aliens, like the Twi’lek, have diversity, so why not the humans?

It’s a question I subconsciously had in the back of my mind, but never took the time to think about, let alone ask aloud.

I’d invite you to think about this: If the heroes of the day look nothing like you, your friends or your family, how easy do you think it would be to feel like you could become the hero? I can tell you that it’s not easy. If you can’t find a connection with your heroes in a deeply personal way, you may never feel that people like you could be the hero one day.

I’m not alone in this feeling. Even John Boyega’s friends didn’t believe he would be one of the heroes of The Force Awakens. Imagine that.

But after watching the two most recent Star Wars films, something in me changed.

Rogue One Walt Disney Studios

For once, there were heroes that looked like me, my family and my friends in this universe I’ve been told for my entire life was worth caring about. I finally have people in this universe I care about because they look like the people I care about. I finally have some good Halloween costume options!

Representation and diversity is not only a conversation I’m having now, with you, it’s something the entertainment industry recognizes as something we need to discuss.

The Force Awakens was the seed that made me feel like the Star Wars universe could be for me because of its diverse casting. Rogue One sealed the deal with its nearly entire POC main cast.

For some, the ethnic background of who heroes are doesn’t make a difference. I get that. For others, this is a significant change. It fills me with a hope that Star Wars fans have enjoyed for decades. I get it now. I feel it. The Force is with me. (And I am one with the Force.)

For decades, people of color got behind the strength, charm and power of characters like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. People have built their entire lives around worshipping them and making them their personal heroes. Now, a new generation of fans can look up to people like Finn, Poe Dameron, Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus. That gives me so much hope and pride.

I’m finally a Star Wars fan because of them. And I hope you are fans of them too.

To hear me talk at length about this and other aspects of Rogue One, check out this video.

*SPOILERS* Rogue One Wrapup

Star Wars: Rogue One is out now. Our ragtag team of nerds saw it, and now they are going to talk about it. Many Bothans died to bring you this information. Huge spoiler warning!

Posted by Polygon on Friday, December 16, 2016

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