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Racial Stereotypes? That Lucas Movie Menace Really Is a Phantom

May 29, 1999

Eric Harrison's feebleminded, politically correct analysis of characters in the new "Star Wars" movie ("A Galaxy Far, Far Off Racial Mark?" May 26) fails to make one extremely important observation: George Lucas has gone out of his way to create an endlessly heterogeneous world in which many species live together. The only racial message in "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace" is one of diversity and perhaps tolerance.

In that world, the humans represent humans and the aliens represent aliens. They are not metaphors for various ethnic groups.

The fact that some viewers perceive Lucas' creations to be ethnic stereotypes in our own world shows how biased they are. If you're going to be that way about it, you might as well complain that the only evil characters in "Star Wars" movies happen to be white males.

BRIAN FRITH-SMITH, Los Angeles

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I agree with Eric Harrison that there's plenty of racial stereotyping going on in "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace." The Gungans (Jar Jar being one of them) are too often portrayed as bumbling idiots, when it's well-known throughout the galaxy that they are a highly intelligent and civilized . . . um . . . people. Every Gungan I know is deeply offended, and I urge Gungans everywhere to sue Lucasfilm for this unconscionably offensive portrayal of their race.

As for the notion that the "Star Wars" creatures are based on racial stereotypes here on our planet, I think it's an even more elaborate fantasy than the movie itself.

JOHNNY CHO, West Hollywood

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Perhaps it is not the movie that is displaying racism. Perhaps it is the need of the editorialist to find fault and slurs where none exist. Look for entertainment and you will find entertainment. However, if you only look for insults, slurs and racism, that is all you will ever find.

KEN LEON, Thousand Oaks

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The point is that words and images are incredibly powerful. Carelessly used words and images are incredibly dangerous. By the same token--perhaps that was an ill-chosen word--declaring something racist is a powerful accusation. Making that accusation carelessly diminishes its power to make people think and change when confronted with true racism.

STEVEN DONG, Corona

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The greatest positive entity in "The Phantom Menace" is the Jedi Council of Elders. And the two strongest voices on that council belong not to any fair-skinned organisms but to Mace Windu, a black man; and Yoda, a small green thing. When white Jedi knights Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon appear before said council to ask permission to train young Anakin Skywalker, another white guy, to be a Jedi, they are flatly refused.

And what of young Anakin? He grows up to be Darth Vader, the ruler of the empire and one of the two most evil figures in the "Star Wars" series, the other being the emperor. Need I remind you that the emperor is also white? Yes, the two most evil beings in all of Lucas' galaxy far, far away are white people!

"The Phantom Menace" has a racial message to be certain, and it can elegantly be summed up in two words: "white bad."

MICHAEL BERTIN, Los Angeles

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Why is "Star Wars" always subject to such huge analysis? Was "Independence Day" criticized for its obvious stereotypes of blacks, Jews, drunks and gays? At some point, "Star Wars" became the pinnacle for the ultimate truth in peace, harmony and justice in the universe, rather than the giant storybook that it is.

JUSTIN SEREMET, West Los Angeles

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OK, so it's no secret George Lucas derives his inspiration from the joyful abundance of life forms here on the home planet. Emphasis on "joy."

Now, I'm certainly no www.official.starwars.fan, but it seems to me that a good story requires the elements of diversity and relatability to succeed with a human audience.

ED BRAND, Santa Clarita

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Eric Harrison forgot a few: C-3PO stereotypes Englishmen; Darth Sidious stereotypes evil old white men; Jabba the Hutt stereotypes fat gangsters; Anakin and his mother stereotype poor white trailer-park Americans; and Obi-Wan Kenobi stereotypes Alec Guinness.

Come on, people, get over yourselves! It's bad enough they're changing lyrics in Disney songs because of supposed ethnic slurs, but finding racist stereotypes in computer-generated aliens is beyond ridiculous.

ROBERT FULLER, Corona

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Harrison fails to mention that one of the most important members of the Jedi Council is Samuel Jackson and that the captain of the army of Naboo is Hugh Quarshie, both black actors.

"Star Wars" is a place where one can go to escape the ugly realities of our world, where people like Harrison, who look to interpret everything they see as racist, refuse to take the "Star Wars" universe for what it is: a place full of fantasy and wonder that people of all races and ages can enjoy. I sincerely hope very few people buy into the ideas that Harrison presents, since they only seem to cultivate more hatred in a society that can really do without it.

ALEJANDRO CASTRO, Los Angeles

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