While the upcoming Star Wars sequel is expected to become one of the most successful films of all-time, an international marketing campaign for the Disney film is drawing the wrong kind of attention.
A Chinese promotional poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is raising eyebrows among fans on social media, who are criticizing Disney for downplaying the role of a major black character.
china’s star wars poster shrunk john boyega because he’s black, absolutely disgusting behaviour. pic.twitter.com/3vARSxtXLI
— bruschetta dortmund (@meridiansour) December 4, 2015
Actor John Boyega, who plays the character Finn, is one of the leads in The Force Awakens. While little is known of the film’s plot, Boyega’s rogue stormtrooper has been prominently featured in the film’s marketing campaign ever since he first appeared in the inaugural teaser last November.
He can be seen in standard posters wielding a lightsaber alongside lead actress Daisy Ridley. However, in the Chinese version of the poster Finn has been downsized. Some fans think his relegation to a more minor supporting character is racially motivated. As the Independent notes, the character of Finn is even smaller than the droid BB-8 on the Chinese poster.
Fans sounded off about racism on Twitter:
Chinese Poster of Star Wars ERASED THE BLACK CHARACTER B/C THEY RACIST https://t.co/Pbj3R7zyMz
— Lipstick Alley (@lipstickalley) December 6, 2015
They actually removed John Boyega from the star wars poster in China..this world man
— BOBBY (@Bobby_Gizmo) December 4, 2015
Oh, come on, China. Really? Are they even trying anymore? I'm sure there's a great explanation for this one. https://t.co/folN1XaVRc
— Ling Ge (@lifesprettyge) December 4, 2015
Also noticeably absent from the alternate version is Han Solo’s Wookie sidekick Chewbacca, which a number of Chinese Star Wars fans were more concerned about than the downsizing of Boyega’s character.
“We are really disappointed that they took out Chewbacca,” one Chinese fan told the Wall Street Journal.
Another added: “The change that matters to me is not about the black actor, but more about taking out the image of Chewbacca.”
While some Chinese fans are upset about Boyega’s diminished role on the poster and Chewbacca’s absence, the WSJ reports that others are simply pleased to see actor Harrison Ford, who has a large following in the country, prominently displayed on the poster.
A person close to the Disney marketing campaign told the WSJ that changes to the Chinese Star Wars poster were simply made to make room for more “attention-grabbing spaceships and explosions.”
The film will debut on Dec. 18, a date that cannot come soon enough for major fans of the franchise. Secrecy surrounding the film’s plot is feeding the anticipation.
Yahoo News reports that Disney and Lucasfilm have taken such extreme steps to keep the film’s plot a secret from fans that many of the film’s biggest stars still have not seen the movie.
Among the mysteries fans are eager to solve is the fate of Luke Skywalker, played by franchise star Mark Hamill. Aside from a voice over in one of the early trailers, Hamill’s iconic character has been largely absent from the posters and trailers for The Force Awakens.
Watch a video compilation of all the trailers and promotional videos for The Force Awakens to date: