This is the 25th post in a daily series. Read about it here and see the list of previous posts here. A new post about “Star Wars” will be posted every day for 40 days leading up to the franchise’s 40th birthday on May 25th.
The month before “The Force Awakens” came out, many fans wondered if an Amazon listing for a puzzle had spoiled a plot point. The puzzle featured Finn, played by John Boyega, and the listing stated Finn was Lando Calrissian’s son.
The listing circulated but fans started to notice something was off. Lucasfilm was mentioned as “Lucas Films” and the movie was not referred to by its official title. The product might be real, but the post seemed fake.
“The Force Awakens” came out a month later, and the movie did not confirm anything about the identity of Finn’s parents. The suspicious listing now seemed even less authentic. The listing is still up, though references to Lando and Lucasfilm were removed.
Logic dictates that if this was not an official listing made by anyone affiliated with the movie, it was made by some random person who would have no more insight into Finn’s family than anyone else. This was just an assumption. This person would not have had seen the movie, and would have no reason to believe that Finn was Lando’s son.
Well, no reason other than the fact that both Finn and Lando are black. And at least for a little bit, before suspicions were raised, people were willing to believe it.
The theory that Lando could be Finn’s father was not isolated to that Amazon listing. The possibility popped up in threads and message boards, with people musing as to who Finn really was. Some suggested he was a descendent of Lando and others said he should be related to Mace Windu. In most of those threads, at least one commenter raised the point that such hypothesizing was based on nothing but the race of the characters.
To be clear, Finn was not the only character whose origins were questioned. Rey’s backstory was the subject of theories, rumors, and debates. But in the case of Rey, fans had a little more to go on from the movie. The film showed a series of visions (and potential flashbacks) when Rey touched Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. Later, she was not only able to stop Kylo Ren from using the Force to read her mind, she was able to read his thoughts. And when she and Ren both tried to use the Force to grab Luke’s lightsaber, it flew to her. So because she seems to be naturally skilled in the Force, fans have wondered if she is the child (or grandchild) of a Force user we’ve already met. Two of the prevailing theories are that she’s either Luke’s daughter or somehow related to Obi-Wan.
In other words, the rumors about Rey’s potential parents are driven by the contextual clues we’ve seen, rather than the fact that she’s white, Obi-Wan’s white, and Luke’s white.
But not all of the theories connecting Finn to other black characters are based on race. Even Boyega and Samuel L. Jackson are excited by the possibility their characters are related. Of the possibilities suggested, Mace Windu seems like a more credible ancestor of Finn than Lando does. One hypothesis is that Finn was able to hold his own with a lightsaber (at least for a bit) because the Force is strong in his family. That might not be the most solid reason to tie the characters, but it’s a lot more interesting than “Hey, they’re both black.” And as we’ve seen before, “Star Wars” fans have theories about everything.
The various theories demonstrate a convergence of two trends: the willingness to assume characters who aren’t white could be related to other characters of that same race, and the willingness of “Star Wars” fans to try to connect the older characters to the new movies. There’s nothing wrong with the latter trend, of course, and we’ve seen that play itself out in the theories that Snoke could be Mace Windu, Palpatine, Darth Vader, or others.
But in this case, the desire to connect Finn to previous characters shows how limited the “Star Wars” movies have been in depicting people of color. Most of the main characters were either white men or aliens. And some of those aliens were based on racial stereotypes. Rey, Finn, and Poe offer a chance for the series to expand its cast of characters and make up for past mistakes.
It would be OK if it turned out Finn was related to a character we already met, especially if it meant Mace Windu could return to the series. But it would be cool if Finn could just be his own character, defined by nothing else than what he brings to the series.