Maz Kanatamima: From Pretty to Pirate

If you’re a Star Wars fan at all, then you’ve probably already watch ed the trailer for JJ Abrams directed reboot Star Wars VII The Force Awakens.  And if you haven’t watched the trailer with Matthew Mc Conaughey, then you haven’t seen the trailer at all.

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I’ve been waiting to see the reveal of Lupita Nyong’o’s character.  Sure we have already seen Han, Chewie, and even John Boyega, as a black storm trooper, but we had yet to place Lupita’s lovely face in space. Here she is!

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Yep, that’s right, for all those black girls who rock looking forward to seeing a darks skinned sister traveling the stars, you’ll have to keep waiting.  Early reports had cast Lupita as Ventress, super-assassin and stylish shade throwing villain.

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But alas, we’ll hear her voice coming from the face of CGI created space-pirate.  According to wookipedia–experts in all things Star Wars–Maz Kanata is a pirate, and according to a Vanity Fair article, she can also tell fortunes by touching objects.  Okay–I don’t want to jump to conclusions about an old ugly creature with a rag on its head who can can tell fortunes *cough cough magical negro cough*.  By all reports, Maz Kanata is in charge of a sprawling castle and space outpost, so she’s sure to have some juice…. But in the looks department? Meh.

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The Star Wars series plays host to some strong and interesting women, but also a whole universe of racial stereotypes.  Most notably, West Space Indian Jar Jar Binks.

Don’t forget from the Asian-like traders to the animal like jungle creatures, lots of characters in the stars look suspiciously like stereotypes here on earth.

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J.J. Abrams is known for updating the Star Trek series, envisioning a multicultural mecca with strong characters of every stripe.  Creator Gene Rodenberry  designed Star Trek to be that way from the beginning.  Star Wars, on the other hand, traded in stereotypes to simplify a complex galaxy, so there’s a bit more heavy lifting to make the galaxy a post-racialtopia.  Let’s hope Maz Kanata is more than a do-rag-wearing-fortune-telling-Aunt-Jemima-looking African pirate.

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Susan X Jane

Susan Jane thinks a lot about media and race…a lot. She teaches Communications at Wheelock College, writes and speaks about media…and race... and generally encourages everyone she meets to think about the way media shapes their sense of self and their ideas and beliefs about the world. If you're reading this, she wants you to think about it too. Want to talk about it? Let's go.

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