In the midst of the attention LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling has received lately, J. J. Abrams released information about the cast of Star Wars Episode VII. As several others have pointed out, the cast is notable for its white maleness. Amanda Marcotte at Slate argues that this was Abrams’ chance to make some Star Wars history, since the previous movies haven’t had many women, either. She notes that Battlestar Galactica successfully integrated more women into its reboot, and explores the impact that gender equity in a major sci-fi franchise like Star Wars could have had on the genre.
By looking into the future (or the past of “a long time ago,” in the case of Star Wars), science fiction allows writers and filmmakers to imagine a world where race and gender boundaries have changed. The original Star Trek was noteworthy in part because of its racial diversity. J. J. Abrams is not necessarily opposed to the creation of strong female characters, as Alias and Lost show, but it is interesting that his recent history in the area of diversity is noteworthy primarily for his casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness and the lack of female characters in Star Wars. It is interesting to consider what Abrams’ Star Trek reboot would have looked like if he hadn’t been focused on finding actors who matched the race of the original cast.
Of course, a lack of diversity is more appropriate for Star Wars, which hasn’t always had the best depictions of race, as explained by Hooper in this edited clip from Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy: