The first creator of a ‘Star Wars’ series stands up against toxic fans: “If you get involved in racism and hate, you are not a fan” | Television

The first creator of a ‘Star Wars’ series stands up against toxic fans: “If you get involved in racism and hate, you are not a fan” | Television
The first creator of a ‘Star Wars’ series stands up against toxic fans: “If you get involved in racism and hate, you are not a fan” | Television

The first creator of a series of Star Wars has a message for followers who criticize the diversity he has introduced into The Acolyte: “If you get involved in sending messages of racism, intolerance or hate speech on the internet, I don’t consider you a fan of Star Wars”. Leslye Headland is not ashamed to repeat it to anyone who asks her. This is what he told EL PAÍS during his visit to Madrid, prior to the broadcast of the episode in which he presented a community of lesbian witches led by Jodie Turner-Smith who have offspring through some galactic ritual. The episode has attracted numerous sexist comments on social networks, driven by that almost religious euphoria that characterizes the brand.

“Destroy this episode Star Wars?”, titled a video on YouTube with more than 500,000 views. “This has gone too far,” said American right-wing commentator Ben Saphiro. But for Headland this is a personal journey: “I don’t want all of us fans to be judged by that type of audience.” The also co-creator of Russian doll She’s a writer and director, and she doesn’t let anyone tell her what it’s like to be a fan of Star Wars. Headland grew up as an unrepentant follower of the saga created by George Lucas, and she shows it in every sentence, in every corner of the universe that she describes in detail. She has been a student of her world since the eighties. Although the focus of her series on Disney + is free: “I sold it as Kill Bill crossed with Frozen”.

Trailer for ‘The Acolyte’.

His demand for inclusion has a personal cause. Headland acknowledges that he always lacked a space in Star Wars in which women had more to say. In his personal twist on the franchise, he has tried to fill that gap: “Being a fan growing up was not easy. It wasn’t until my adult life that I felt more comfortable saying openly and proudly that I loved Star Wars. When I started playing role-playing at 30, I felt like I hadn’t been able to express all that internal universe before. I wish I had known that escape existed. Girls’ vision is necessary and they need to be accepted in fiction, but they are not exposed to that until they are older. As a child, you are just pushed to copy what your friends do.”

The Acolyte has at its center the same thing as all the stories of Star Wars: parents and children, apprentices and masters, wife and husband, brother and sister, baby and adoptive father. “Family is DNA,” she points out. The twin daughters of the galactic witches are precisely the protagonists of the series; two sisters who have decided to follow different paths of strength. This division triggers a confrontation with the dark side that begins with the murder of a jedi. To these heirs of Anna and Elsa Frozen They are played by Amandla Stenberg, a black lesbian actress, also attacked online, who has just published a rap against toxic and sexist followers. Around him, the Korean Lee Jung-jae, the Spanish-British Dafne Keen, the African-American Charlie Barnett and the Filipino-Canadian Manny Jacinto.

Margarita Levieva and Jodie Turner-Smith, in an image from ‘The Acolyte’.Lucasfilm Ltd. (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

This family theme is also something personal for Headland. The screenwriter recognizes that her lack of relationship with her sister is what inspired this conflict: “The term ‘sister’ is used colloquially to say that you are very close to someone, that you have an unbreakable bond. I have two sisters, and that is not my experience. Of course there is love for growing together, but above all there has been conflict, fights and a lot of feelings of not feeling accepted among us. So I thought there was a lot of ground to explore.” She wants her characters to find out who they are and what their power is, but “not in their relationship with others, nor because of what is expected of them.” A theme of independence that captivated Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy, who also has a twin.

Kennedy also gave him the freedom to place The Acolyte in an unexplored plot in time, where followers did not have to do homework to find out, without Skywalker or the Empire in between: “It happens in the time they call the High Republic, there is no galactic war, no exploding spaceships, no stars of death. The Jedi here are not the losers, but the monks who dominate. What we maintain are laser sword duels and martial arts. I was interested in the context being different, and that there being no danger of stepping on the official canon.” To get that context he soaked up Asian films. The screenwriter quotes her references at length, beyond Frozen: “I saw again yojimbo, Sanjuro, Rashomon, Ran…a lot of Kurosawa, but also the Shaw brothers, drink with me, Lady Snowblood, Tiger and dragonWong Kar-Wai, A Touch of Zen…”.

Amandla Stenberg, in an image from ‘The Acolyte’.Christian Black (Christian Black / Lucasfilm Ltd.)

In The Acolyte He has thus managed to mix his two passions: “Star Wars It was on my mind all the time in my adolescence. I wrote fan fiction and music for the saga. I read books, played video games. Then I moved on to other things, but that hobby always stayed with me.” That is why he does not let the most enraged followers tell him what strength is, a concept that Lucas himself has assured that no one understood after the first film, from 1977: “I am guided by the words of Yoda, who said that it was a powerful ally, which surrounds and unites us. For me it is a source of energy with which each individual connects. Everyone can do it, but there is a group of devotees who study it until they achieve Buddhist monk training. They connect with the force on another level, but it does not mean that a civilian cannot have a connection with it. It’s just not the same experience,” he explains.

Will your version now be official? “What is official or not has always been confusing in Star Wars and it has been changing for decades. When Disney arrived it broke with all the previous books. “I have been fortunate to have the freedom to place myself in another era.” And also to feel safe enough not to pay too much attention to internet comments.

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