Unequal Pay, The Acolyte, Amandla Stenberg, Jodie Turner-Smith

Star Wars’ ‘The Acolyte’ Labeled The ‘Most Diverse’; But Is It Too ‘Woke’ For Fans? 

This isn't the first time Black actors engulfed in the 'Star Wars' franchise have faced a racist backlash.

The new Star Wars spinoff series, The Acolyte, has been praised for its diverse cast but the Black-female leads still aren’t holding a force with the audience. 

Streaming on Disney+, the series stars Amandla Stenberg in the dual roles of Osha and her evil twin Mae. Co-starring is Jodie Turner-Smith as the twins’ mother and lead of witches seeking to induct them, Aniseya. With only four of the eight episodes premiering since its launch earlier in June, the show has received negative feedback. Its 14% audience score is even lower than the Star Wars franchise’s much-panned 2008 film, The Clone Wars

While labeled “the most inclusive and diverse live-action Star Wars project ever,” critics deemed the series “simply underwhelming” on top of feeling “woke.” 

Showrunner Leslye Headland is the first openly queer person to lead a live-action project set in a galaxy setting. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Headland assured members of the LGBTQ+ community that they would be well represented in the series and instantly thought of Stenberg— who ​​identifies as nonbinary and gay—for the lead role. 

Critics, including Tesla founder Elon Musk, feel the legendary franchise is pushing “woke” propaganda. “She’s more deadly than the Death Star!” Musk wrote on X in response to a photo of Headland.

As Headland was fighting off a certain demographic of criticism, Stenberg battled “intolerable racism” from the franchise’s fanbase, which she responded to with a music video posted on Instagram. Comments on the video continued to reflect negative feedback for the actress’ performance and pushed on The Acolyte simply not being as good as previous Star Wars series.

“Dear @amandlastenberg … I am black and a #StarWars fan (well… a fan of everything before Kathleen Kennedy). My point is, I have tried being positive with the #Acolyte but I am not a fan…,” @ksadmusic wrote. 

“It sucks storywise and I do not blame you but your performance so far as well does not even help the situation. So now that I am outright saying I do not like your show… does that make me racist as well? All my black friends seem to agree.”

This isn’t the first time Black actors engulfed in the Star Wars franchise have been riddled with racist backlash. In 2015, John Boyega made headlines after it was revealed he would be the lead as Finn in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He spoke out about the backlash, even calling Disney out in an interview with GQ Magazine. “You get yourself involved in projects, and you’re not necessarily going to like everything,” Boyega said. 

After Moses Ingram was cast as a villain in the 2022 film, Obi-Wan Kenobi, she was flooded with racist comments on social media, including use of the n-word. After responding, saying, “there’s nothing anybody can do about this,” the official Star Wars Twitter account took a stand posting, “If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”

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