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What the new Star Wars casting says about women and race | Deseret News National
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Jordan Strauss, Associated Press
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What the new Star Wars casting says about women and race

The Star Wars series is boldly going where it hasn’t gone before.

Yes, that was a Star Trek reference.

Anyway, the Star Wars production team announced two new casting decisions Monday, bringing in Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o and “Game of Thrones” actress Gwendoline Christie to the film.

At first glance, this is a fan pleaser. As Deseret News National explained Monday, fans had been looking for more women in the film, given the first cast announcement featured two women — one of whom was Carrie Fisher, who played the legendary Princes Leia, and the other an unknown actress in Daisy Ridley.

But now, Nyong’o and Christie highlight a shift in the direction for the upcoming Star Wars movies. It’s no longer just a cast of white males, Slate writer Aisha Harris wrote on Monday.

“We still don’t know what characters the new Star Wars actors will be playing, but at least we can be assured that the Star Wars universe will be a little less male-dominated and lily-white than it has been in the past,” Harris wrote.

And Nyong’o specifically shows a shift in the Star Wars culture. She is the first black woman to be in a Star Wars movie, making this new trilogy, and any movies thereafter, a historic achievement, Vox writer Alex Abad-Santos reported.

“Nyong'o's casting is also the first time a black woman will appear in a Star Wars movie,” Abad-Santos wrote. “The first time in franchise history, spanning six movies. That's something worth celebrating. But it also makes you wonder what's been going on at one of the most lucrative franchises in movie history for the last 30 or so years.”

The Vox writer may have forgotten about Gin Clarke, though.

Abad-Santos also reported that Star Wars isn’t all that different from other Hollywood films. White actors account for 89.5 percent of all roles, while non-white make up 10.5 percent of roles, he wrote.

But is this a smart direction given the way non-whites are seeing movies? A UCLA study found that minorities account for 44.1 percent of moviegoers, which is higher than their near 36 percent representation of the entire United States population.

“It is important to note here that minorities are over-represented among the ranks of frequent moviegoers, those who contribute most to overall box office,” the study said.

With these new cast members, though, this might change. And, with more women, it could bring women back to the box office. Time magazine reported Tuesday that movies with strong female characters in lead roles — like “Frozen” and “Maleficent” — tend to do better at the box office.

“Getting a lot of women to see your movie is not essential to its success,” wrote Eliana Dockterman for Time. “Superhero and monster movies will continue to draw big crowds: 'Spider-Man,' 'X-Men' and 'Godzilla' all had at least $90 million opening weekends. But courting more women certainly doesn’t hurt. After all, females make up 51 percent of the population.”

It seems Star Wars is trying to appeal to that audience.

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com Twitter: @herbscribner