The upcoming Star Wars movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, may prove unpopular with a sizable chunk of its fans thanks to public comments written by two of its principal creators. It could also hurt the movie’s performance at the box office.
In the days after the recent election, Rogue One writers Chris Weitz and Gary Whitta expressed their disdain for Trump publicly on Twitter. This wouldn’t—nor should it—be an issue, as the two of them should be free to support or reject whichever political candidate as they please, but they leveraged their creation to drive their point home.
“Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization,” wrote Weitz in a now-deleted, and ill-conceived tweet. Gary Whitta, who was the original writer for Rogue One, replied to Weitz with an addendum: “Opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women.”
The two writers were rebuked not just by Trump supporters, but fans of the Star Wars franchise who saw what should have been a highly-anticipated film being dragged through the mud with local, earth-bound politics.
A tweet by Chris Weitz with a safety pin upon the Rebel Alliance symbol to indicate their stand in support of immigrant minorities remains active. For a short while, both Weitz and Whitta changed their Twitter avatars to the altered logo.
Star Wars against hate. Spread it. pic.twitter.com/Dtf5uqpxba
— Chris Weitz (@chrisweitz) November 11, 2016
Safety pins aren’t worth frothing over, but the creators’ choice to use imagery and other narrative elements of Star Wars to promote their political opinions only created fears that the upcoming movie would be doing the same. Would it be a soapbox for their progressive views, or would it be able to stand on its own?
Like the original Star Wars, Rogue One isn’t without political overtones—nor should it be expected to be otherwise. Even as George Lucas drew inspiration for the first film from Japanese sources like Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, the original Star Wars also served as a form of subtle protest for his opposition to the Vietnam War back in 1977. In turn, Rogue One is set to reflect life under an occupying force in a post-9/11 world, but with Americans substituted with cartoonishly evil villains and mindless Stormtroopers. The narrative is a progressive’s wet dream.
By alluding to the Third Reich instead of American forces in Vietnam, Lucas could create a story that distanced itself from contemporary politics. After all, the Nazis’ actions during the Second World War solidified them as the bad guys in history. This is not the case with Rogue One, which draws upon events that remain contentious to much of the American public, if not the rest of the world.
Market analysts speaking to The Hollywood Reporter say that the actions of the writers may end up strongly hurting the movie’s performance at the box office.
“With any business, it’s better to leave politics out of a product you’re trying to sell to consumers,” says Tony Wible, an analyst for Drexel Hamilton. “You have to separate your product from personal opinions. If you err, social media just becomes an amplifier of the message.”
Given the writers’ eagerness to use of the film as a prop against Donald Trump and a soapbox for their opinions, it may see a strong backlash as cinema-goers reject their sermonizing and refuse to see the film in theaters. After all, look at what happened with Ghostbusters.
If I hear the line “Lightsabers can’t melt plasteel beams,” I’m walking out of the theater.