On Saturday night, Steven Melching, one of the writers on Star Wars Rebels, tweeted a character sheet of Captain Rex in Return of the Jedi gear (which was previously shown at Star Wars Celebration Orlando) and wrote, “This is happening.”
Some fans went straight to their fan sites and published the news. (UPDATE: Melching stated that it was not a confirmation.) Others got super excited because this was some sort of confirmation to them. And another part of the community shared their opinions opposing the creative decision.
I was somewhere in the middle, trying to support the friends who were excited about the news and to appeal to the friends who were opposed to it.
I should preface this by saying that I’m Latina. I was born in Puerto Rico and I was raised in New York. I’m also part Ecuadorian. My mom and I are pale and burn in the sun. My dad shares the same color as Captain Rex, and even though he’s not Maori, I’ve had the pleasure of living with and learning from them when I was in New Zealand. It’s not lost on me that I’ve had it “easy.” I’ll never forget the conversation my dad and I had in his car one day when he told me, “You’ll be fine because you can pass.“ What he meant by this is that because I look White, I’ll be okay. I still tear up thinking about it because it dawned on me later in life that he hasn’t had it easy because of the way he looks.
People who know me will know that I’m an advocate for diversity and representation in media. Just because I haven’t talked about it lately doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on the conversation.
So in response to Melching’s tweet, I wrote this on Twitter:
I’ve gotten used to not voicing my opinions on Twitter because of reasons, but I feel like I need to share my 2 cents on this. When people were talking about Rex being in RotJ, I have to admit that I wasn’t really for it because the actor is White. That said, I’ve changed my mind since then. I have a friend who told me that the creators are making the effort. They are taking what used to be a White male and replacing him with Rex. It’s sort of like Iris from Flash. (PS. I love Flash). So while I used to be all “I really dislike this theory,” I actually like that the creators are trying to make a difference. And that they are conscious about the fact that diversity and representation are important, which is why they are making that change. So yeah, those are my thoughts. You’re welcome to disagree. That’s totally cool. I’m just focusing on the positive side of this.
I received positive responses. After all, I ended it with saying that having a contrary opinion is okay. You don’t have to agree with me, just like I don’t have to agree with you. The important thing is that we listen to each other, so I went around to see what everyone else was talking about. Needless to say, opinions were heated.
The general belief, from what I gathered, is that Rex has been Whitewashed. Personally, that’s not what I see. What I see is something similar to what other creators have done in other shows and movies.
It’s like that example I mentioned earlier about Iris West in CW’s The Flash. I can point to an old DC comic with a White, red-headed Iris and say, “That’s Iris.” But it won’t be the Iris you’ll see on screen because she’s played by Candice Patton. On that same note, I can point to the man in Return of the Jedi and say, “That’s Rex.” But it won’t be the Rex you see on the character sheet or in Star Wars: The Clone Wars or in Star Wars Rebels. We can do the same with Heimdall and Nick Fury. (Thanks to my friend for those examples.)
Ultimately, it’s not that Rex is now White, it’s that the White man has been replaced by Rex.
I won’t deny, however, that there has been a serious issue in Whitewashing the clone troopers and other characters of color, particularly in merchandising. Take the Captain Rex Funko Pop!, the clone trooper LEGO minifigs, or the Hasbro action figures in past years. I completely understand because I’ve gone down saying, “Rex is not White.”
So when this theory about Rex started circulating throughout social media last year, I groaned in frustration because it was adding to the problem. It wasn’t until a close friend of mine—another person of color—made me realize that they’re actually trying to add diversity into the scene. Again, it’s not that Rex is now White, it’s that the White man is now Rex. I started to embrace it more and got excited when I saw him show up in his Return of the Jedi gear on the big screen at Celebration Orlando.
It demonstrated to me that the storytellers are listening. They’re aware that we have a diversity problem in the older movies and they decided to do something about it with a fan favorite character. Not only was the theory fun and amusing to them, but it was an opportunity to change things up.
But with every piece of entertainment out there, not everyone can be pleased.
So how about this for a compromise? The creators should leave that character as is, and instead, add Rex to the scene in a future story.
Obviously, given how animation works, what’s done is already done, but in the future, I hope that things of this nature are given a closer inspection by the powers that be.
Bringing it back to the fan community, I also think it’s important to listen to each other rather than scream at each other, dismiss opinions, make sarcastic comments, or rant to likeminded friends. None of those responses are productive. Instead, they just contribute to the toxicity that already exists in the fan community, and it could potentially turn people (who are unaware of the situation) away from our cause.
If you still don’t agree with me, that’s totally fine. You are entitled to your opinion. I can’t impose my opinion on you, and you can’t impose your opinion on me. I also can’t control your reaction to the situation. I can only control my own reaction. Before, I used to get so mad and it would ruin my entire day when someone just refused to look at things my way. These days, I’m trying to be more open to other people’s thoughts and not take them as a form of attack on me or my ideals. Instead of aggressively approaching people on Twitter with my opinion or ranting to the virtual wind, I thought it best to write them out here in a space that’s meant to be welcoming.
Finally, please remember that I understand the importance of diversity and representation. Just because I share a different opinion than you doesn’t mean that my desire for equality is less important or that I’m blind to the issue altogether. These issues are important to me, just as they are to you, and even though we’ll go about it differently, these are things that I will continue strive for.
May the Force be with you!
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