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'Star Wars,' meet culture wars, the fan-time menace

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

In a video chat that went viral on YouTube, Spencer mocks the mega-hit movie as the latest product of liberal "SJWs" -- social justice warriors -- and the entire "Star Wars" series as "racialized as it never was before."

Among other gripes, he knocks the movie for featuring a "girl ... who acts like a man" in its lead (Daisy Ridley as Rey), a "black guy with a heart of gold" (John Boyega as Finn) and villains who are all "men, mostly white and ancillary." Message? "Wise SJWs," says Spencer, "can't trust these high testosterone flyboys."

Everyone has his or her own opinion, but hearing Spencer's opposition to "The Last Jedi" only made me enjoy the movie even more.

I'm old enough to remember when the only people of color in major science fiction movies were green or purple and came from other planets.

I was excited when the "Star Trek" television series broke the medium's color line in the 1960s with a racially diverse crew on the Starship Enterprise. I was also relieved. Hollywood was recognizing that, yes, earthlings of color have a future, too.

Nor was this a trivial matter among true social justice warriors. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a fan, as multitudes of us were, of Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Nyota Uhura in what was the first space-oriented series to integrate its cast.

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She almost left the show after its first season to pursue other offers when King, calling himself "your greatest fan," talked her out of it, as she told NPR in 2011. Thanks to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's decision to integrate the cast, she recalled King's telling her, "For the first time we are being seen the world over as we should be seen."

Positive images matter. TV often is the only opportunity many of us have to be exposed to people who come from races and backgrounds unlike our own. The biggest value to science fiction, in my view, is its ability to free our minds from present day realities to experience a taste of how much better things could be.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

(c) 2017 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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