George Lucas defends 'Star Wars' films against criticism that they feature 'all white men'

George Lucas defends 'Star Wars' films against criticism that they feature 'all white men'

"Most of the people are aliens!" Lucas exclaimed. "The idea is you’re supposed to accept people for what they are."

George Lucas wants to restore balance to the discourse.

While appearing at the Cannes Film Festival, where he is receiving the festival's honorary Palme d'Or, Lucas addressed criticisms of the Star Wars franchise, particularly the first six films. He pushed back against claims that the films feature "all white men," speaking up for the saga's diverse range of characters and female heroes.

"They would say, ‘It’s all white men,'” Lucas said, according to Variety. "Most of the people are aliens! The idea is you’re supposed to accept people for what they are, whether they’re big and furry or whether they’re green or whatever. The idea is all people are equal."

<p>JB Lacroix/FilmMagic</p> George Lucas

JB Lacroix/FilmMagic

George Lucas

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Lucas also pointed to the crucial characters of Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) as examples of people of color playing major roles in the films.  "In the first one, there were a few Tunisians who were dark, and in the second one I had Billy Williams," he said. "And the [prequels], which they were also criticizing, I had Sam Jackson. He wasn’t a scoundrel like Lando. He was one of the top Jedi."

While the films seek to portray all people, including aliens, as equal, Lucas also noted that he used discrimination against droids as an allegory for prejudice and racism. "That was a way of saying, you know, people are always discriminating against something and sooner or later, that’s what’s going to happen," he added. "I mean, we’re already starting with AI, saying, ‘Well, we can’t trust those robots.'"

Lucasfilm Ltd. Carrie Fisher in 'Star Wars'
Lucasfilm Ltd. Carrie Fisher in 'Star Wars'

Lastly, he took issue with complaints about the representation of women in the films, pointing to major heroes such as Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) as a counterargument to such critiques.

"Who do you think the heroes are in these stories?" he asked. "What do you think Princess Leia was? She’s the head of the rebellion. She’s the one that’s taking this young kid who doesn’t know anything and this boisterous, I-know-everything guy who can’t do anything and trying to save the rebellion with these clowns … And it’s the same thing with Queen Amidala.”

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He also defended the characters' femininity, saying, "You can’t just put a woman in pants and expect her to be a hero. They can wear dresses, they can wear whatever they want. It’s their brains and their ability to think and plan and be logistical. That’s what the hero is."

Lucas created the world of Star Wars, beginning with 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope. He directed and wrote that first film, as well as either contributing original story or writing the screenplay for the next five films. He also wrote and directed all of the prequels.

The popularity of the films and surrounding empire (toys, merchandise, Disneyland rides, TV series, books) made Lucas one of the richest men in America. He sold the Star Wars universe as part of Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012.

Lucasfilm Ltd. Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian in 'The Empire Strikes Back'
Lucasfilm Ltd. Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian in 'The Empire Strikes Back'

Related: Billy Dee Williams defends Lando selling out Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back

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Lucas has had minimal involvement in new Star Wars projects since, though he apparently was not happy with the three new films Disney produced because they didn't have enough "new" aspects. "'There weren’t enough visual or technical leaps forward,'" Disney CEO Bob Iger remembered Lucas saying in his book The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned From 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company.

However, one thing the new films and TV series did do is introduce even more heroic women and characters of color.

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