All fantasy worlds draw from reality, and the Star Wars universe is no exception. As fans flock to theaters to see “The Rise of Skywalker” this holiday week, most of their minds will be on the grand visuals, enduring characters and exciting storytelling, and not on how the films reflect our culture — including its prejudices. But if we take a moment to think about it, George Lucas’s galaxy is, and has always been, far, far away from being an original or an inclusive creation.
Star Wars is shot with “Orientalizing” stereotypes — patronizing tropes that represent an imagined East, or the Orient, as inferior to the rational, heroic West. Think, for example, of the uniformed conformity of the evil Empire vs. the scrappy (American) individualism of the rebel heroes, the vague Eastern mysticism of the Force and its Shaolin-cum-Samurai practitioners, and the uncomfortable racial stereotypes embodied in the hookah-smoking Jabba and the miserly Watto.