On the 'Rogue One' boycott and the thin white male ego

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

"Rogue One," the first in a series of standalone films set in the "Star Wars" universe, hits theaters everywhere this week. I'm sad to report that I haven't seen it (as it was not screened in advance for Columbus critics). I'm happy to report that I will see it, and with great excitement.

So instead, I'll discuss the movement to boycott the movie that's spread among alt-right types under the #DumpStarWars hashtag. To be clear, this isn't so much of a movement as it is a momentary Twitter trend, but in light of our recent election results, it warrants discussion.

Fueled by some tweets from "Rogue One" screenwriters drawing parallels between the villains of "Star Wars" and modern white-nationalist politics, the boycott effort spread based on some (act surprised) fake reports that the film's ending was reshot to include anti-Trump scenes.

Let's stop for a moment to consider that "Star Wars" has long-established Nazi overtones for its baddies. Darth Vader's headgear was inspired by helmets worn by Nazi soldiers. The foot soldiers of the Empire are called Stormtroopers. This isn't exactly subtle.

And if seeing Nazi overtones in a villain evokes an anti-Trump message, one might want to reflect on why they think that particular shoe fits.

Prior to this, "Rogue One" was lamented on the right as feminist propaganda for daring to once again have a strong female lead (Felicity Jones). It was also blasted for its ethnically diverse cast. "The Force Awakens" faced similar backlash for its lead and, gasp, a black Stormtrooper?!

We could go on, from the furor over "Mad Max: Fury Road" among men who showed up for the car crashes and felt bait-and-switched into a subversively feminist message to the fanboy hissy fit over the female-led reboot of "Ghostbusters."

So I have this to say to some of my fellow white male moviegoers: Why are you such thin-skinned crybabies? Most movies cater to you as the primary audience, but must they all? Who are the real cupcakes? Do you need a safe space?

I've found that even some of my colleagues in film criticism have trouble empathizing with a female lead character. Or an LGBTQ character. Or one of color. You do realize that most of these audiences are asked to do this with pretty much every movie?

One review of "Rogue One" has a critique that it lacks a strong male lead to counter its female lead. The reverse of that is true of the vast majority of movies, and we're talking about a group that is half of the human population.

So if you're spending the weekend boycotting the new "Star Wars" flick, good on you. I suspect it will be about as successful as the boycott of the musical "Hamilton" when the weekend box office comes out. And I'll enjoy "Rogue One" a little bit more knowing you won't be there.