Anticipation for the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens is reaching a fever pitch, and the teasers and trailers give every indication that director J.J. Abrams will do right by the franchise. But while nothing will ever beat the originals in the hearts of most nerds, there’s one important way this new trilogy can improve on its predecessors: on-screen diversity. That’s why I’m holding out hope that the new Star Wars movie features plenty of Landos.
The original Star Wars trilogy may have defined the American movie blockbuster for decades, but all those aliens aside, you’d be hard-pressed to call it diverse. In the whole galaxy, there was apparently just a single Lando, played by Billy Dee Williams, who, while complex, memorable, and ultimately instrumental to the rebellion, was still undeniably a secondary character, and not even in the first film.
It’s been almost 40 years. Hollywood can absolutely do better.
To give credit where it’s due, The Force Awakens has taken a big step forward by putting a Lando front and center. As the ex-Stormtrooper Finn, John Boyega is already making waves as the new face of the franchise. But let’s not forget that the prequels hyped up Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu, and he somehow ended up being the sole Lando in that entire trilogy!
...Having more Landos on screen isn’t going to fix everything all at once, but it’s a start.
I mean, think about it: How crazy is it that even the droids have had way more screen time than any Lando so far?
No matter how prominent the character, a single Lando just isn’t enough. Inevitably, that character ends up saddled with having to somehow represent every Lando, an impossible feat and an absurd double standard. Landos should be allowed to be heroes, villains, love interests, rogues, strong, weak, kind, cruel, and everything in between, just like any other kind of character.
This isn’t limited to Star Wars—sci-fi and fantasy in general seem to have a Lando problem, one that stretches back decades. Obviously, having more Landos on screen isn’t going to fix everything all at once, but it’s a start. Frankly, it’s the bare minimum.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: What kind of message do we want to be sending to the young people who come to these movies looking for heroes that look like them? Something like, “Sorry, kid, but this one isn’t about you”? Or is it time to start making sci-fi movies that take Landos beyond stereotypes and show them as fully realized, flesh-and-blood characters we can all root for every bit as much as Han Solo or Luke Skywalker?
I’ve already got my ticket to The Force Awakens, and I’m sure I’ll leave the theater as thrilled as everyone else. But if there are hardly any Landos on screen, I’ll be leaving disappointed too.