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Look Guys, We’ve Got to Stop Demonizing Poe and Finn

Yes, I know, I'm the no fun allowed police, but it's not funny.

Finn and Poe on Vanity Fair cover

Okay, in concept, the idea of a mock court martial for Poe after the events of The Last Jedi, which actually occurred at SDCC, is funny, but in practice? When you sentence him to ten years in a penal colony and joke about the death penalty? It’s really not funny any more. It becomes actually quite frustrating.

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The fact Rian Johnson chose to deliver a lesson about machismo and mansplaining through one of the franchise’s first Latino lead characters is hard enough to swallow, especially since Poe began his life as an example of non toxic masculinity in Greg Rucka’s Before the Awakening, every Poe Dameron comic up to the more recent issues, and even in The Force Awakens itself.

But now, with the fandom turning against him and people cheering for him to get punished for being a nuanced character dealing with bad leadership, it’s become tiring to be a Poe fan in the general audience. It’s almost as tough as loving Finn and dealing with people talking about how the film would’ve benefitted from his death and that he’s a coward who needed to be taught how to be a hero.

The problem is, as people race to write articles and hold panels to discuss whether or not Kylo Ren legally murdered Han Solo (spoiler alert: when you stab someone through the chest with a lightsaber, that’s called murder), people are just as quick to demonize both male leads of color in the sequel trilogy while praising white characters for the same reasons in the same breath.

Let’s start with Poe, as his SDCC “court-martial” is the reason we’ve been brought together on this fine day. Poe acts rashly, defies a superior officer’s orders on multiple occasions, and starts a mutiny when Holdo, in her wisdom, decides not to share any of her plan with him or others.

Let’s be clear, I’m not saying the chain of command should be disregarded if someone feels they’re not being let in on the plan. But Holdo’s withholding the plan affected enough people that Poe was able to stage a mutiny aided by Connix and other characters. If she had inspired enough trust in others, this wouldn’t have been a problem.

Also, interestingly enough, no one wants to court-martial Anakin Skywalker during The Clone Wars for frequently starting trouble and disobeying direct orders. There’s no talk of if Jyn Erso, had she survived, should have been court-martialed for stealing a ship and taking a bunch of soldiers to Scarif; the same goes for Admiral Raddus, who takes the entire Rebellion fleet to Scarif. Why is it that the man of color, who is defying a white woman, is the only one who’s being made to answer for his actions?

In the same vein, enough with the Poe-slapping jokes. I don’t want to hear more stories about white women we want to see slap Oscar Isaac, it’s lowkey gross. Same goes for him getting stunned, or for Holdo stroking his unconscious face. That would be gross if the genders were reversed, so why does it get a free pass in The Last Jedi?

Finn says "I'm in charge, Phasma" in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

And then there’s Finn. Finn, the beloved male lead of the sequel trilogy. Listen, let’s get some things straightened out about Finn. He is not a coward, or a traitor. He does not need to be taught a lesson about how to be a hero or that fighting against the bad guys is good. Finn is one of the most courageous characters in Star Wars history. He rebels against his training—he’s a child soldier who was only trained to fight—and helps Poe escape. He helps Rey, and goes back for her when no one else ever has come back for her. He faces off against his oppressors, Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma.

Yes, he tries to leave the Resistance. But he is not a member of the organization. His actions are thinking of Rey’s life, and his own, because he’s just escaped one organization that was grooming him to die for them. He does not owe the Resistance anything. His choices to help the Resistance are in part motivated to save his friends’ lives, and also because he hates the First Order. His final decision to stay and help the Resistance are even more powerful because he has found a cause that he’s choosing to fight for.

People are mad because they want the plotline of “hero rebels against abuse and brainwashing, fights back and kills abuser, and wins Rey’s affections” to be Kylo’s plot. They hate Finn for his “cowardice” when in the same breath praise Han, a character who also attempts to leave the Rebellion for even more selfish reasons multiple times. Worse, to say that the first black lead in the franchise should die to make the movie better is just so tone deaf. How would that make the film better? To leave the spot of male lead open for a white male character to step into?

There is no good reason to hate Finn. Plain and simple. And the same goes for Poe, who was a victim of poor writing and nothing more. So next time you think “finding a new way to demonize these characters will be funny,” try to find a different joke where characters of color in a majority white franchise aren’t the punchline. Violence against them is not funny. Turning them into villains while praising white characters for similar actions isn’t funny. If you want to change the Star Wars fandom, start by making it a safer space for fans of color who want to love their favorites.

(Image: Vanity Fair)

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Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.

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