Brown Bounty Hunter Business

Fact: Boba Fett is a lesbian.

It’s a memetic headcanon that emerged, as far as I can tell, earlier this week.

Within hours, it had evolved into “Boba Fett is a trans lesbian” (of colour, but that should go without saying, since Boba Fett was played by Maori actors Temuera Morrison and Daniel Logan.)

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If you read OP Sashayed’s Boba Fett Is A Lesbian 2k16 tag, you can see it was all rollicking good trolling times, baiting homophobes, TERFs and transmisogynists alike.

Sadly, it’s not all fun and games, and we’re about to talk about the prioritisation of certain voices in fandom and the white-washing of Maori people. Hooray! (Also discussion of transphobic tropes and transphobia, so please tread carefully.)

After these rollicking good trolling times, Noelle Stevenson posted WHO IS BOBA FETT? WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THE PREQUELS, 2000 words about how Boba Fett is a white, cis lesbian. As of now, it has 3,904 notes.  All but a handful of the comments are positive.

Stevenson was aware of #bobafettisalesbian2k16:

That was a link from Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, who has also linked Stevenson’s trans-erasing and ethnicity-changing take along with Sashayed’s original in her fandom newsletter.

It’s possible that Stevenson didn’t know about the trans reading, but then:

Well, I’m pissed off.  Taking a man of colour, and headcanon involving a trans woman of colour, and turning both into a cis white woman?

(Spoilers: agender shapeshifting lizard played by cis women don’t qualify as trans representation.  Don’t even play that card.)

This is trans-erasure and whitewashing.  Or, as Friend of No Award Bismuth says:

sorry you weren’t happy enough with people talking about boba fett as a trans maori woman and had to jam a white cis-looking woman in there, OP, i know how overstocked the world is on cool trans women in sci fi

[Steph aside, quick trans 101: “we don’t know who’s under the helmet now. trans lesbians.” LET ME BE CLEAR, we’re not saying Stevenson is being intentionally transphobic here. However, you may be aware of the generally transphobic idea that a trans woman is a man in disguise. It’s a “that’s a man in a dress” kind of comment. It is common of TERFS and other gross people. ANYWAY, that’s directly where my brain went with this tweet, and I found it distressing.]

I never really got the appeal of Boba Fett.  He turns up a couple of times, hangs around Vader a bit, dies.  His mystique seemed to boil down to “he looks cool”.

I still don’t have particularly strong Boba feelings, but I love that (a) he and clone-progenitor/father Jango were played by excellent and attractive Maori actor Temuera Morrison, and (b) they share DNA with the clone troopers, about whom I have unexpectedly developed feelings.

It’s rare to see an Indigenous person in a space opera.  How many can you name?  Star Trek: Voyager had Chakotay, a mix-n-match of stereotypes and Native American cultural influences, whose significant moments were always signalled by pan pipes.  Babylon 5 had various Indigenous peoples as extras to signify the spiritual diversity of Earth.  Sandra McDonald has her hilariously awful Outback Stars series, where “Aboriginal runes” guide humanity as they colonise interstellar space.

When an Indigenous person appears in science fiction, it’s usually to impart some traditional wisdom and provide an important learning experience for white people.

But then there was Jango Fett, here to produce and train a clone army, raise his clone son, collect some bounties and blow some shit up.

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I didn’t even realise what that meant to me until I noticed how much Jango/the clones/Boba were being whitewashed in The Clone Wars and Rebels.

The great advantage of Star Wars being set in a galaxy far, far away is that it gives us a chance to see people of colour in roles completely separate from contemporary real world issues.  Or, at least, it should.  (This could, of course, lead to a problem where white people use that as an excuse to not address contemporary real world issues at all, but I’m going to assume that people reading this post understand the difference between realism and escapism in art, and agree that there should be room for both.)

Of course, Star Wars is still created in a contemporary real world context, so it can’t be detached altogether from issues.  For example, Lando gets hated on for betraying Han, when in doing so he sacrificed a tiny handful of individuals for the wellbeing (he hoped) of an entire city — a terrible choice, but a noble motivation — and the most prominent actress of colour in the entire franchise is hidden behind motion-capture CGI and fills the role of the Magical Negro.

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(That is not to say that Lupita Nyong’o should be criticised for choosing a CGI-heavy role.  She isn’t obligated to show her face and body to the world, which is the subtext I see in quotes like, “You take one of the most beautiful woman in the world and put her in mo-cap?”  The problem is that, with Maisie Richardson-Sellars’ role cut, she is the only woman of colour there.)

What does this have to do with Boba Fett, you ask?  Aside from the whitewashing in the cartoons, because I’m not planning to shut up about that any time soon?

Well, fandom is pretty racist. JUST IN GENERAL.

I remember, back in the day, some grumbling about casting a Maori actor as Boba Fett’s progenitor, and adding his voice to the special edition of the Original Trilogy. (Even though that was clearly the best edit ever made.)

“That’s just because everyone hated the prequels,” says a hypothetical devil’s advocate.  No, there is legit overlap between “I hate the prequels and everything about them” and “I hate that Boba Fett isn’t white.”

The human characters in Star Wars Rebels are all intended to be mixed race, and while I think that making your characters ambiguously brown is a cop-out, both fan art and official merch often portrays them all as straight-up white.  (There is also a separate debate about whether Ahsoka’s features have become more European than in The Clone Wars.  Disney really doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to Star Wars spin offs…)

Which brings us back to Trans Lesbian Boba Fett.

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I made a couple of posts on Twitter and Tumblr, then slept on it, and decided I was still angry when I woke up.  And that was before The Mary Sue picked it up. Hence now we come to this post.

Try to look surprised when I tell you that the most critical comment at TMS is about Zam Wessell being an agender lizard.

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And I’m like, you know, we all stuff up.  But when the whitewashed, trans-erasing post is getting thousands of notes, and the posts pointing out that it is not great at all get almost nothing … well, I can’t think of a clearer example of minority voices being overridden, even as their ideas are pushed to the sidelines.  (This is, of course, partially a Tumblr problem — it is much, much harder for people with fewer followers to make their voices heard than it was on LJ or Dreamwidth.)  The Mary Sue didn’t even bother linking to Sashayed’s original, trans-friendly version of the idea, but gives Stevenson — the big name in fandom, creator of Nimona and Lumberjanes, very much a fan-turned-pro — all the credit.

I usually like Stevenson and her work, but she is part of a bigger problem here.  One of the refrains in fandom right now is representation matters.  We love a heartwarming story about African American children seeing themselves in cosplayers of colour.  We get angry when people talk about feeling excluded from popular culture because they never see themselves depicted. But we’re still capable of turning around and perpetuating the lack of representation.

I am not claiming to be flawless.  I didn’t even see the transerasure until it was pointed out to me, and I expect that there’s a lot to say on that issue that I just don’t know about.  I’m not here to say Not All Cis White Ladies.

But I learn — slowly — because I see people talking about issues.  And that’s why it’s troubling that the people talking about this specific issue seem to be shouting into a void.  We don’t even get an echo.  There’s not even a conversation.

IN CONCLUSION: #bobafettisatranslesbianofcolour2k16

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6 thoughts on “Brown Bounty Hunter Business

  1. Futurus Essay

    I started watching The Shannara Chronicles last week– yeah, yeah, guilty pleasure. But I was astounded at how many well-meaning reviewers were criticising the show for having an ‘all-white’ cast. And I’m like, what? One of the main characters is played by a Maori man, and one of the more prominent secondary characters is played by an Aboriginal woman. I pointed out the error to one of the reviewers, and got a response which basically consisted of ‘They don’t count because their skin is too light.’ While I agree that post-apocalyptic America looks overwhelmingly white on the show, erasing the contribution of actors of colour is kinda racist in itself.

      1. Futurus Essay

        It’s… okay? Bear in mind that I think the books are sort of empty-calorie comfort food, but I think that has its place. It’s kind of lazy to criticise a Tolkienesque fantasy for being Tolkienesque, but certainly it is heavy on cliche. That said, the show makes a lot of really smart decisions with the adaptation. One thing which really distinguishes the Shannara universe from other fantasies is that it is set in the future rather than some quasi-mythical past, and the show really emphasises that in its visual language. It’s sort of steampunkish, rather than medieval. Elves wear waistcoats with pockets and buttons, and aristocrats carry sabres. There’s one scene where the main ‘peasant’ character is wearing something clearly descended from a T-shirt, which was kind of fun. The younger generation of characters speak in a very contemporary and colloquial way, which makes sense but takes some getting used to. The first two episodes are very heavy on info-dump, in terms of building the world and introducing the characters. By the third episode it has kind of relaxed a bit and eased into story-telling mode, and becomes a lot more fun. I also think it was smart to start the show with the second book, because that was where the series finally started to come into its own. All the little nods to Maori culture are awesome too. Manu Bennett seems like a nice guy, and I love that he makes the ‘mentor’ character unabashedly Maori– I couldn’t help but smile when he greeted the Elven king with the hongi. It’s weird seeing Aussie and Kiwi actors I recognise from Neighbours and Home and Away trying to pull off dodgy American accents. I love that two of the three young heroes are women, and also that they were not afraid to write out some of the male characters and replace them with new female ones. That said, if you’re looking for LBQTA representation, you won’t find it here, which is a bummer. Basically, MTV was looking to make a genre show which was heavy on lore but more family friendly than GoT or The Walking Dead, and I think they’re succeeding. There are enough glimmers of potential in the first few episodes to give me hope it could become something special.

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