Fifty years after “Star Trek” launched a multiracial and multicultural crew into outer space, the “Star Wars” franchise has finally joined the diversity universe. “Rogue One,” the latest film set in a galaxy far, far away, boasts a wildly varied cast of human actors — Asian, Hispanic, African-American, Pakistani.
And in this fraught political moment, such refreshing diversity comes across as a rebuke to President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign.
George Lucas’ creation has for years been populated by humans who are almost overwhelmingly Caucasian, with the occasional minority thrown in for spice — Bill Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian in “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi;” Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu in “The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith;” and Maori actor Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett in “Attack of the Clones” and Commander Cody in “Revenge of the Sith;” and Jimmy Smits in “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith.”
But these earlier, pallid attempts at multi-culturalism don’t hold a candle to the range of colors and ethnicities in “Rogue One.” The heroes of the film, nearly all members of the Rebel Alliance attempting to steal the plans of the Empire’s ominous Death Star, include a Mexican (Diego Luna), Puerto Rican (Smits), Englishwoman (Felicity Jones), African-American (Forest Whitaker), Dane (Mads Mikkelsen), two Chinese men (Wen Jiang and Donnie Yen) and a British/Pakistani/Muslim (Riz Ahmed).
As if to heighten the contrast, the leaders of the Empire — who include a brilliant CGI rendering of actor Peter Cushing, who died in 1994 and appeared in the original “Star Wars” — are all preening Caucasian imperialists; you can imagine them goose-stepping around their space ships.
What can we take from this in the age of Trump? Let me count the messages for out President-elect:
1. Please. Don’t build that wall. You never know when a Mexican trying to cross the border might save the galaxy. Or at least be a good, hard-working member of society. In “Rogue One,” Luna’s Captain Cassian is a brave Rebel Alliance leader, willing to go on a suicidal mission to steal the Death Star’s plans. He’s not one of the Mexicans Trump has described as “bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and they’re rapists.” And in real life, there are plenty more like him.
2. While we’re at it, don’t set up a Muslim registry, or ban Muslims from entering the country. Riz Ahmed stars as Bodhi Rook, a former Imperial pilot with whiz-bang technical skills. He’s the kind of educated, high tech guy we need more of in this country. So why stigmatize him, or not allow him to work here?
3. See? A diverse group of people really can work together to produce a better society. If nothing else, that’s a key subtext in “Rogue One,” in which the character’s differences are not only put aside, they’re barely mentioned. It’s one of the most harmonious looks at a rainbow coalition ever put on screen.
I’m not saying any of this was intentional. Given Hollywood production schedules, “Rogue One” was probably in pre-production for a year before it finally went into production in August of last year. That was two months after Donald Trump announced he was running for President, which, at the time, many people took as some sort of cosmic joke.
So it’s highly unlikely the filmmakers were thinking of Trump when they made “Rogue One.” But its appearance in theaters just one month before Trump assumes the presidency is the height of irony — an inclusive piece of work that is a slap in the face to the least inclusive president in modern history.
Or you can look at it this way: if Donald Trump has embraced the Dark Side, “Rogue One” is definitely on the side of The Force.