Atonement for "Star Wars: A New Hope": The Real Reason George Lucas Funded "Red Tails"

There was not one Black person in this film

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Go watch it. Pop it in your DVD/Blu Ray player and enjoy the one movie that George Lucas regrets having made. Yes, the 1977 space saga is the basis for the massive money-making machine which helped Lucas buy Skywalker Ranch and become a billionaire, but outside of Star Wars: The Holiday Special this is the one story he regrets telling.

Why? Because the cast was whiter than the one in American Graffiti. Not one Black face is to be seen in the movie that introduced the world to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Wedge. Not one Black face in the entire film of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Not even Darth Vader himself is a Black guy (spoiler alert: Vader is the father of the blond haired, blue-eyed Luke).

Uber-comic book nerd Kevin Smith wrote a scene detailing this exact scenario in this boring film Chasing Amy (PK Note: Hooper is a Black Nationalist comic writer; Holden and Banky are hapless white guys:

Hooper: For years in this industry, whenever an African American character, hero or villain, was introduced – usually by *white* artists and writers – they got slapped with racist names that singled them out as Negroes. Now, my book, “White-Hatin’ Coon,” don’t have none of that bullshit. The hero’s name is Maleekwa, and he’s a descendant from the black tribe that established the first society on the planet, while all you European motherfuckers were still hiding in caves and shit, all terrified of the sun. He’s a strong role model that a young black reader can look up to. ‘Cause I’m here to tell you, the chickens is coming home to roost, y’all. The black man’s no longer gonna play the minstrel in the medium of comics and sci-fi fantasy. We keepin’ it real, and we gonna get respect by any means necessary. 

Holden: Ah, come on, that’s a bunch of horse shit! Lando Calrissian was a black guy. You know. He got to fly the Millennium Falcon, what’s the matter with you?

Hooper: Always some white boy gotta invoke the holy trilogy. Bust this: Those movies are about how the white man keeps the brother man down, even in a galaxy far, far away. Check this shit: You got cracker farm boy Luke Skywalker, Nazi poster boy, blond hair, blue eyes. And then you got Darth Vader, the blackest brother in the galaxy, Nubian god!  

Banky Edwards: What’s a Nubian?  

Hooper: Shut the fuck up! Now… Vader, he’s a spiritual brother, y’know, down with the force and all that good shit. Then this cracker, Skywalker, gets his hands on a light saber and the boy decides he’s gonna run the fuckin’ universe; gets a whole clan of whites together. And they go and bust up Vader’s hood, the Death Star. Now what the fuck do you call that?  

Banky Edwards: Intergalactic civil war?  

Hooper: Gentrification! They gon’ drive out the black element to make the galaxy quote, unquote, safe for white folks. And Jedi’s the most insulting installment! Because Vader’s beautiful black visage is sullied when he pulls off his mask to reveal a feeble, crusty, old white man! They tryin’ to tell us that deep inside we all wants to be white!  

Banky Edwards: Well, isn’t that true?
[Hooper pulls out his gun, shoots Banky]

George Lucas is well-aware of the new rules governing Hollywood (as denoted in Hollywood in Blackface and the Fast and the Furious article here at SBPDL) and he was quick to add Billy Dee Williams into The Empire Strikes Back as Lando Calrissian, the administrator of Cloud City (who, we should add, “snitched” on his friend Solo to the Empire) to cast. This added some much needed diversity to the lily-white cast, though he bust out the crayola casting for the three prequel movies that came out in 1999 – 2005.

It should also be stated these three movies are universally loathed by fans of the “real” trilogy.

Could this be the real reason Lucas decided to put up his own money to bankroll Red Tails, a movie that many hope will replicate the success of a similar film Remember the Titans (the latter movie was based on a true story, but the Black screen writer liberally added fabricated stories of racism)? Lucas wanted to atone for the all-white Star Wars, by making a movie that had no conceivable audience (remember, single Black women only have a net worth of $5 and a ticket to a movie costs double that) outside the United States.

What do you mean by that, you ask? Well, only in America do Black actors have any box-office pull. The rest of the world doesn’t subscribe to the belief in the supremacy of the Black Fictional Heroes, which is not good for a healthy return on investment Hollywood studios seek:

Dreamgirls has enjoyed a remarkable run, winning two Oscars, seeing Jennifer Hudson emerge as the toast of Tinseltown, and crossing the $100 million barrier at the domestic box office. But the musical’s greater financial situation tells a more troubling story — namely, the difficulty studios have in selling movies starring African-Americans internationally.

As The New York Times reported in a long feature yesterday, Dreamgirls has earned more than $101 million in the U.S. and Canada, but Paramount expects it will make little more than $60 million abroad. Which is particularly problematic in an era when Hollywood increasingly depends on foreign box office to drive profits. These days, 52 percent of movie earnings come from international markets. As BET Networks entertainment president and House Party director Reginald Hudlin says in the Times‘ story, “I always call international the new South. In the old days, they told you black films don’t travel down South. Now they say it’s not going to travel overseas.” At home, frequent box office champ Will Smith seems like the biggest star on the planet, but the Times quotes industry watcher James Ulmer as saying that Smith ranks no better than No. 12 in terms of worldwide bankability.

 The most common type of movie that Hollywood makes with African-Americans? Comedies. Yet among the top domestic grossers of 2006, every comedy (Talladega Nights, Click, Borat, The Break-Up) fared better at home than abroad; American humor apparently doesn’t travel well.Unfortunately, studios fear that black people don’t go to the movies,so they don’t make many different kinds of movies for black people(much like they don’t make many movies for women). But as the successof Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness (pictured) or Tyler Perry’s films (or, in the case of female-driven movies, The Devil Wears Prada)shows, those fears are misguided, a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the studiosmade more high-quality dramas with African-Americans, rather than broadgenre films, maybe international audiences would be interested. The industry certainly won’t know if it doesn’t try.

Considering that studios rely heavily on the international market to raise box office receipts, Hollywood is squeamish about green-lighting any film that is seen as “too Black.”

 Enter George Lucas, still trying to atone for that past lily-white mistake that is the genesis of his entire wealth. Enter Red Tails:

In an appearance on The Daily Show last night, George Lucas said that he had trouble getting funding for his new movie, “Red Tails,” because of its black cast.

“This has been held up for release since 1942 since it was shot, I’ve been trying to get released ever since,” Lucas quipped to Jon Stewart. “It’s because it’s an all-black movie. There’s no major white roles in it at all…I showed it to all of them and they said no. We don’t know how to market a movie like this.”

“Red Tails,” which stars Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Terrence Howard, is based on the Tuskegee Airmen, the group of pioneering black pilots who fought in the United States’ segregated armed forces during World War II. The movie is directed by Anthony Hemingway, the rare black director getting a chance to direct a big-budget feature.

Last week, Lucas told USA Today that he was worried that if Red Tails was a failure, it could have negative repercussions for black filmmakers. “I realize that by accident I’ve now put the black film community at risk [with Red Tails, whose $58 million budget far exceeds typical all-black productions],” he said. “I’m saying, if this doesn’t work, there’s a good chance you’ll stay where you are for quite a while. It’ll be harder for you guys to break out of that [lower-budget] mold. But if I can break through with this movie, then hopefully there will be someone else out there saying let’s make a prequel and sequel, and soon you have more Tyler Perrys out there.”

More Tyler Perry’s? Didn’t he know that Aaron McGruder worked as the screenwriter for Red Tails and is one of the more outspoken critics of Perry? Oh well.

Let’s hope that Lucas can finally put the abomination that is all-white Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope behind him with the film Red Tails.

Let’s also hope that the credits to his film don’t include the fabrication that the Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber during the war, as the 1995 HBO movie Tuskegee Airmen did:

At the end, the film details the unit’s accomplishments: 66 out of the 450 Tuskegee Airmen died in battle, they engaged and defeated Messerschmitt Me 262s, the first operational jet fighters, and they were awarded a total of 850 medals over the course of the war. The credits also note (inaccurately, but a common belief of the time) that the 332nd never lost a single bomber to enemy fire.

When myth becomes legend, print the myth or something like that, right?

Let’s be honest: only in a galaxy far, far way would you ever see a Black pilot truly save the day. Well, or Independence Day.



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