Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
“Rogue One won my heart through ethnic diversity; the number of non-white characters in major roles stretches long.”
Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Director: Gareth Edwards 👨🏼🇬🇧
Writers: Chris Weitz 👨🏼🇺🇸 and Tony Gilroy 👨🏼🇺🇸
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
As a casual viewer of the Star Wars franchise with no especial nostalgia for it, I still had a great time soaking in the high production values, lovable band of misfits, and beautifully-executed action scenes of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Enjoyable as it was, however, the film lacked the kind of originality and depth I seek in truly outstanding pieces.
Rogue One stars a female lead and passes the Bechdel Test, but beyond that the representation drops off a cliff. Of the first 20 cast members listed in IMDB, just two are women (the characters of Jyn Erso and Mon Mothma).
GradeMyMovie.com Assessment: 9% of creative decision-makers were POC
Rogue One won my heart through ethnic diversity. The number of non-white characters in major roles stretches long: Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, etc. and this film won extra brownie points for breaking the token rule when it cast not just one, but two Asian actors—Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang. Sometimes the blatant pandering to a moneyed Chinese audience can get annoying (I’m looking at you, The Great Wall), but in this case, I am all for appealing to a global audience if it comes with the positive side effect of featuring a diverse cast.
Not overtly represented, but the relationship between Chirrut and Baze (played by Yen and Jiang) could be read into as romantic. Additionally, the director, Gareth Edwards, has said to Yahoo Movies, “I don’t mind people reading into it, I think that’s all good. Who knows? You’d have to speak to them.” I like the ambivalence Edwards takes with their sexuality and think that it reflects the approach we should take in real life: “Are they together or just friends? Who cares; ask them if you really want to know.”
Bonus for Disability: +0.5
Chirrut is a fantastic fighter who happens to be blind. The portrayal of his abilities borders dangerously on the "Disability Superpower" trope, as detailed by Corinne Duyvis on Disability in Kidlit, but thankfully it avoids offense by giving Chirrut a personality and character development that has nothing to do with his eyesight.
Mediaversity Grade: A- 4.50/5
Sometimes, I like to think that the modern iterations of Star Wars and Star Trek borrowed successful things from each other. The Star Trek reboots injected high-octane action in the tradition of George Lucas’ Star Wars; in turn, Star Wars took a cue in ethnic diversity trail-blazed by Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek.
We see that diversity in full effect in Rogue One and in the end, both series are stronger for it.