According to James Whitbrook at io9, Star Wars fans are super concerned about the new animated Disney+ show The Bad Batch.
This, we are told, is because the five-member team of elite clones has been “whitewashed.” The clones—or Clone Troopers—first introduced in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, are all copies of Boba Fett’s dad, Jango. Jango was played by Temuera Morrison (who plays Boba in The Mandalorian). Morrison is part Māori, with some Scottish and Irish heritage as well. He has very tan skin, and the Clone Troopers all look just like (an animated version of) him.
Here’s an image io9 included of Morrison as Jango (on the left) and old-man Boba (on the right):
And here’s how the Clone Troopers look next to the Bad Batch crew:
As you can see, one of the Bad Batch—Tech—is indeed a bit paler than a Clone Trooper. But the difference is mild at best, and both Crosshair and Hunter look about the same skin tone. The skin tone itself appears a bit lighter in this show than Morrison’s skin—but only if you’re looking at young Morrison. Old Morrison-as-Boba is a bit less tan.
Images like this have been used to “prove” that LucasFilm’s Clone Troopers were darker-skinned in The Clone Wars:
But I’m pretty sure that lighting is a factor, as other images from The Clone Wars show lighter-skinned clones, like this one:
Each member of the squad has, to varying degrees, radically different facial structures compared to standard clones as part of their designs, but also varying tones of complexion. Some characters, like Wrecker and Hunter, trend to a darker skin tone, while characters like Crosshair and Tech—who also have significantly lightened hair colors compared to the black hair of usual clones—are presented as much lighter-skinned.
Whitbrook goes on to discuss Omega (who is played by Asian New Zealander Michelle Ang) is also lighter-skinned with, I hate to say it, blond hair!
All this has lead to fans concerned about the show’s visual changes—which to them can be read as at best somewhat ignorant, and, at worse, as a racist creative decision—to rally on social media. Utilizing the one-page site hoster Carrd.co to share a collection of comparison pictures and anti-racist resources created by Tumblr user CloneHub, fans troubled by the depiction of these characters have united under the hashtag #UnWhiteWashTBB, asking Lucasfilm to at least acknowledge concerns and make efforts to alter The Bad Batch’s design and aesthetic choices as the show progresses.
It’s interesting how these types of articles are framed. Clearly Whitbrook sympathizes with these fans and agrees with their outrage. But instead of writing a piece arguing the case, he chooses to let the fans do the opining for him, and then wraps things up with a broad, vague, rather lukewarm “Disney needs to do better” crescendo. There are more steps to take for equality in Star Wars because some people on Tumblr are mad that a couple clone variations on a show for kids have slightly paler skin. But I thought Disney was completely overrun by SJWs and the entire sequel trilogy was just one big social justice circle jerk?
I’m so confused.
Look, I’m sure everyone means well. I’m sure Mr. Whitbrook genuinely wants Star Wars to be a safer space for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting a giant fictional property like this to appeal to as many fans as possible. If you’re Disney, you definitely want that, because you can sell more toys and theme park tickets.
But the lengths people go to create controversy out of thin air never ceases to amaze and befuddle me. The Bad Batch isn’t whitewashing anything. That’s absurd on its face. Even the article in question mentions that this is all likely a lighting issue in the animation software.
Other than Echo, who’s a “Reg” though a cybertronics-altered one, the Bad Batch’s members are genetic mistakes. They’re different from the other clones. Wrecker is huge. Crosshair can actually hit things. Hunter has longer hair and wears a cool bandana. A cursory glance of this crew vs. their “Reg” counterparts and you’d simply think, “These guys all look quite a bit different from one another and from the general clone population.” It would take some ideological wriggling to go from there to “whitewashing.” You’d have to be on the prowl for something to be “concerned” with in order to get from there to here. And yet here we are.
Yes, Omega is blond and white which are big differences from Jango but, and here’s the thing, she’s also a she! Maybe she’s supposed to be pretty much the opposite of her clone daddy. Maybe she’s supposed to be the furthest thing possible from Jango Fett. Maybe our default shouldn’t always be “that’s racist!”
Maybe that kind of reaction to every little thing makes actual discussions about racism that much harder to have.
Remember, Echo was drained of color because he basically died and came back as a robot. That’s not whitewashing.
Perhaps the best example—only example?—of whitewashing is Caleb Dume aka Kanan, and even there I’m extremely skeptical.
I dunno, Kanan isn’t far from white in Rebels (and—gasp!—he’s voiced by a white dude also!) I mean, he’s definitely a bit more tan and his hair’s darker, but I’m also a bit more tan and my hair is also darker than when I was a kid. This is actually super common for human beings. Maybe Caleb Dume was kind of pale and awkward and he grew up to be handsome and rock a tan. I’m more concerned by that kid’s deep, grownup voice than by his skin color.
We’ve really lost the thread, haven’t we? Whitewashing is the purposeful replacement of people of color with white people. You take a comic book about an Asian girl and cast a white chick in the role. That’s whitewashing. It happens. We can debate how much of a problem it is all we like, and it probably needs to be tackled on a case-by-case basis.
But this isn’t whitewashing.
This is lighting. This is a story about genetic mutations that might result in some genetic changes like different sex or skin tone. This is manufactured outrage peddled by the usual suspects. By people who care more about signaling that they’re Deeply Concerned By Racism than by actual racism. I swear, they get more entertainment from complaining about this nonsense than from the show itself.
As for me, The Bad Batch is pretty good so far. Nice animation, great voice-acting. Nothing that’s really gripped me just yet, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m never sure if Star Wars will delight or disappoint. Usually both.
And that’s fine. It’s not real.
None of this is real. It’s just a TV show for kids.
Episode 2 of The Bad Batch airs today on Disney Plus.