MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry is has pretty strong feelings about Star Wars, and not all of them are good. She thinks George Lucas’ triology is racist because of who voiced Darth Vader. Seriously…(via Digitas Daily)
It’s completely possible Harris-Perry was joking here, but probably not. This is the same Harris-Perry who had a panel mock a picture of Mitt Romney and his grandchildren, before later apologizing. Her comments just show a lack of knowledge about the Star Wars subject matter. Here’s a fact about Star Wars: David Prowse, the white actor who played Darth Vader, was never supposed to actually voice Darth Vader. From the documentary Empire of Dreams.
There’s also a wide-circulated rumor amongst Star Wars fans that Prowse had no idea he was actually going to be dubbed over by James Earl Jones. In fact, Prowse’s face is never seen in the triology either. Lucas hired Sebastian Shaw to be the “face” of Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi. So, if anything, Prowse got the shaft, not Jones or Shaw (except in the BluRay relese of ROTJ, but that’s a different story).
I honestly don’t expect people to do their research before popping off on a subject, especially Star Wars. That stuff has been relegated to people who have entire bookshelves full of stories about Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa-Solo, Lando Calrissian, Ulic Quel-Droma, Kyle Katarn, Boba Fett, and Grand Admiral Thrawn. They can even talk about the difference between the X-wing, Y-wing, and B-wing; and and why TIE Defenders are awesomely clumsy and TIE bombers are slow as all get out. There are entire websites devoted to the Star Wars universe, including some which have created their own world out of what George Lucas originally envisioned. Star Wars may be a cultural phenomena, but not everyone is going to be completely swept away by it. There are plenty of people out there who just “like Star Wars” without being “in love” or obsessed with it. The same thing can be said about cars, sports, comic books, Game of Thrones, politics, music etc.
But it’s important to note it’s not just Harris-Perry who has spouted off about a subject without doing her research. There was a widely circulated rumor in 2011 that Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales, would end up being bisexual. It has to do with a widely misinterpreted comment by Italian artist Sara Pichelli to USA Today.
“Maybe sooner or later a black or gay — or both — hero will be considered something absolutely normal.”
Morales’ sexuality never came up in his Ultimate Spider-Man book, but that hasn’t stopped a variety of websites from running with Pichelli’s quote, without looking at context. It’s unfortunate when something like this happens, but isn’t surprising because we’re human. We like rushing to judgment on quotes without looking at the context and why they were being said. It’s why “gotcha questions” have become such a thing, and politicians are so apt to point out when they’re misquoted. There’s a reason why “context is everything” is a thing among those who want detailed discussion.
This is why I’m always hesitant to rush off into the outrage machine, when something controversial is said. It’s more important to look at the surrounding quotes or question, to see what was actually being said, and how the person was responding to it. This isn’t really a shot at the “listen and react” crowd, because there are a lot of times when what’s being said is actually what’s being said. But it’s also a call to be cautious on certain controversial quotes. It’s a bit maddening, but sometimes it’s worth sitting back and looking at what’s actually being said before immediately reacting to it. It certainly does a better job and keeping people from looking horrible moronic and misinformed, like Harris-Perry does with her “Darth Vader was racist because he was black before he was white.” Sometimes, a voiceover is just a voiceover. With respect to David Prowse, I’d rather have James Earl Jones voice Vader than anyone else because it’s more menacing and just awesome to hear. That’s all Lucas, who isn’t exactly a conservative, was doing. Suggesting otherwise is just ridiculous and shows a lack of knowledge on the subject.