In the years since the final three Skywalker Saga films, Star Wars fandom has been infiltrated by a subset of quote-unquote “fans” dedicated to toxic masculinity, racism, and sexism. As a fan myself, particularly of the novels and comics, I honestly at times wonder if there is a space for Black women and women of color in the fandom, and even cast within the series, considering that even men are subject to racist vitriol on the regular. Beyond that, it has been frustrating to see such a lack of Black women within the film adaptations.
Not discounting Naomie Ackie’s badass performance as Jannah in The Rise of Skywalker or Kelly Tran’s adorable Rose Tico, it’s safe to say that the reception from audiences (or fear of) has limited the number of women of color in the cinematic universe. Tran endured the harshest of backlash when The Last Jedi premiered in 2018, which led her to deactivate her social media accounts. Death threats, a ridiculous fan-edited version of The Last Jedi without women, and numerous racist memes featuring Tran herself permeated the fandom.
While it is considered hyperbole to suggest that the Star Wars fandom has a race issue, it always comes back to one question: Why this particular character? Mace Windu or Lando Calrissian have been ceremoniously used for tokenship when this question arises, many not knowing that in the grand scheme of social hierarchies, Black men have always held a step ahead of Black women when it comes to visibility. With the Skywalker Saga finished and options arising for the next Star Wars cinematic franchise, I want to highlight one of my favorite characters as a proposition for Disney to take the right next step into.
Rae Sloane first appears in the book A New Dawn, written by John Jackson Miller, as a cadet of the Empire. She comes from meager beginnings, leaving her home planet of Ganthel to pursue a life of purpose within the galaxy. She is canon and is not a diverse plugin that many fans have accused Disney of falling prey to. Eventually, she becomes Vice-Admiral of a Star Destroyer after she provides an important tip to Darth Vader. Her rise to power is sustained by her voraciousness and deeply entrenched belief that the Empire stands as a solution to the lawlessness of the galaxy. Sloane is the catalyst for many events that occur in the cinematic Star Wars universe. She raises Armitage Hux, prevents the untimely death of Vader as he headed to quell a Twi’lek rebellion, and personally assists in the hunt of Kanan Jarrus, the famed Rebels leader who was considered “the last Jedi” after the Clone Wars. With such an important role, it is hard to understand why she would not be featured in the films.
Sloane is not the prototypical Black woman who embodies the pursuit of left-leaning righteousness, as most of the galaxy’s protagonists have been written to have. While an exception to this rule would include Val in Solo: A Star Wars Story, she is still reduced to a sacrificial offering to save her cis, white male counterparts. Ciena Ree, the Imperial pilot from Claudia Gray’s novel Lost Stars, is loyal to the Empire because of her upbringing but eventually softens when her lover and childhood friend Thane Kyrell reappears into her life after defecting from the Empire.
Meanwhile, Sloane, empowered for her quest of notoriety and legacy, keeps only her interests in mind as she plows through the galaxy and the Resistance. In Empire’s End, she adopts the stance of rebuilding a stronger and better Empire. She takes Armitage Hux under her wing and begins the process of creating a new order, a First Order, to rule the galaxy. This hardline personality makes sense for the Kylo Rens and Snokes of the universe, but being a Black woman capable of creating an Empire of her own — it would virtually remove the central focus from the white space dictator to another era of possibility and diversity of the Star Wars fandom. It would also provide another tangent within the Blackness as a monolith narrative that is too often replicated in cinema across genres. Perhaps this is the reason Black characters are regulated to the position of sidekick or third party support, even in fictional galaxies. Since Sloane was a predecessor in many ways for the First Order, it would make perfect sense for her to have been involved in this past decade’s saga. Hux, who received virtually no backstory in the films, would have been the perfect introduction for Sloane and the history of how the First Order came to be.
If the Star Wars universe truly wants to achieve a multifaceted film feature series, there has to be a consistent delegation of what characters are included in order to represent its actual audience. The fanbase is not just comprised of this toxicity — and even Space Dad Mark Hamill has condemned the trolls and supported the efforts of Boyega when he called out the harmful behaviors of the fandom. But while the actors are only a small component of the powers that be, it should be in the best interests of Disney and Lucasfilm to listen to the elements of the fandom that both promote respect of the story and continue to strive for a safe space in the galaxy we all know and love.