Way back in 2014, the Black Stormtrooper controversy raged. Thousands of SJWs took to the internet to denounce a controversy, which ultimately didn’t exist. And only one reporter at the time saw it to my knowledge. Sonny Bunch from Freebeacon wrote at that time:
Of course, this being the Internet Age, where Everything Is Terrible™, soon people were talking about the “black stormtrooper controversy.” And then, all of a sudden, there were a series of denunciations of all the “racist” Star Wars fans who freaked out because a black dude was wearing a Stormtrooper costume. This Mashable post is representative of the genre. But there’s something odd about this so-called controversy. All of the people writing about it just kind of take for granted that there’s some hardcore contingent of Star Wars fans who are writing that the series is ruined because a black dude is playing a stormtrooper. It’s just assumed that this is true.
But … is it? I mean, sure, I bet someone somewhere on the Internet is ranting about minorities taking the jobs of, um, Maori clones, because the Internet is a large and terrible place filled with any number of terrible (and probably large) people. That being said, if you search Twitter for “black stormtrooper,” you’ll find 1,291,074* tweets decrying the super duper racist people who are super duper butthurt about a black stormtrooper, and roughly zero** tweets from people are actually upset about the fact that a black dude was in a stormtrooper costume.*** Go back and read that Mashable post. You know what’s fascinating about it? There’re exactly zero pieces of evidence backing up the belief that there’s any “black stormtrooper criticism.”
Even so, the legacy media continued to perpetuate this myth in politically fueled articles.
Now a more recent article by William Proctor of Bournemouth University, UK, published 4 years later, in the May 2018 issue of the scholarly journal Participations, confirms what most of us have known all along. The article is entitled, ‘I’ve seen a lot of talk about the #blackstormtrooper outrage, but not a single example of anyone complaining’: The Force Awakens, canonical fidelity and non-toxic fan practices.
There are many interesting takeaways here, that echo the common sense from that initial Freebeacon article.
By conducting a discourse analysis on the hashtag in question, I want to show that the citation of #blackstormtrooper by journalists as unequivocal ‘proof’ that there is something rotten in the state of contemporary fandom is complicated by several factors if not outright debunked as little more than gossip or ‘click-bait’. Firstly, the hashtag was not created to protest Boyega’s role in The Force Awakens, despite multiple press accounts claiming so. In actual fact, #blackstormtrooper was first activated in 2010 — four years before the teaser’s release and two years prior to the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney — to promote Scrub’s alumni, Donald Faison’s series of parody Lego films marked by the same title. Secondly, by scraping the contents of the hashtag to analyse the discourse in full demonstrates unequivocally there is no evidence of overt racism contained within, but a series of quarrels regarding the constitution of Star Wars canon, that is, what is deemed ‘factual’ within the imaginary world — or what I term ‘canonical fidelity’. These findings demand that scholars fully examine the veracity of press discourses more robustly, as opposed to reproducing journalistic chatter without question and query. In this article, I call for academic methodologies and protocols to remain high on the agenda for future research into hashtag publics, internet ‘communities’ and conflicts and, perhaps more urgently, to confront the way in which journalists ‘cherry-pick’ from social media platforms and end up manufacturing controversy, be it intentional or not.
Ya don’t say.
A series of news reports (professional, amateur and/ or pro-am) castigated ‘geeks’ for turning to social media — for the purposes of this chapter, Twitter — to question the opening salvo of the teaser trailer: John Boyega dressed in the uniform of a First Order Stormtrooper. Fans, we are told, let loose with a barrage of racist invective on Twitter given voice by the creation of the hashtag, #blackstormtrooper. This article examines this so-called ‘controversy’. From the outset, I would like to admit that I followed these stories about #blackstormtrooper with a grim and cynical view of fan cultures. Faced with a variety of media representations telegraphing fans as racist, sexist and homophobic, I started to reevaluate the way I think about fan cultures generally. I strongly believed (incorrectly, I should add) that the political and ideological bent of fandom had been misrepresented by the fan studies discipline; or, at least, not fully wrestled with in any meaningful way.
And yet the fanbase was excoriated for several years over this purely imaginary controversy.
In this article, I will show that the inclusion of a black Stormtrooper is less about race than it is about what I call canonical fidelity. For a fan minority, the Boyega sequence was viewed as a perceived violation that disrupted pre-established continuity, largely based on arguments relating to canonical Clone Troopers being genetic replications of Jango Fett, played in Attack of the Clones (2002) by the non-white Polynesian actor, Temuera Morrrison. From this perspective, I will demonstrate how these fan interpretations are ‘not “merely” or “simply” about race’ (Deis 2007, 102), but, in the main, about issues related to canonical authenticity. To me, this convincingly demonstrates that scholars, like audiences in general, are not immune to the power of the paratext. What I have unveiled through the research process is that the formation of online racist discourse communities, as a discursive civil war between progressive and reactionary fan politics, is far too reductive, too simplistic and, put simply, quite wrong.
So at any rate, Mr. Proctor goes on at length for many more pages to prove what we’ve already known to be true since the very beginning. It’s as we always say, it takes years and sometimes even decades for SJWs to see what normal people will recognize instantly. Academia is not immune to this immutable law.
But the larger and more interesting question here is, where are all of the legacy media entities who breathlessly reported on Morten Bay‘s easily discredited study? Why did none of them report on Mr. Proctor’s article in May of 2018 when it was published? Well, as I indicated previously, the normal people among us already know the answers to those questions instantly.