In an entertainment industry that all too often celebrates European features, to come across a main character played by a person of color is rare. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Guatemalan/Cuban actor Oscar Isaac plays an X-Wing pilot for the resistance, better known as Poe Dameron. The Force Awakens grossed $529 million in its opening weekend, scaling the charts to be one of the highest-grossing Star Wars film.
Poe Dameron is a combination of warmth, charisma, and a fierce heart. He encapsulates everything we expect from a rebellion fighter. However, what’s remarkable about Poe is that he is the first main Latino based character in the Star Wars franchise. He is a symbol to Latinos who grew up with Star Wars. He represents everything Latinos aspire to be in western media: front and center.
Latinos do not get full representation in mainstream media. We are usually written off as sidekicks, drug dealers and delinquents with no proper education. We are stereotyped and generalized as being below the standard of what it is to be privileged. Poe Dameron breaks those barriers as Hollywood attempts to impose on us.
Within the enthusiastic community of Star Wars lovers, some are particularly motivated to whitewash Poe’s Latino portrayal in their fanart. Even though director J.J. Abrams did not specifically state Poe Dameron is Latino in the Star Wars universe, all of us viewers can agree upon the fact that he influences Latino entertainment.
Witnessing this act of whitewashing demonstrates that people are still uncomfortable with the fact that Poe is not the “default” in Hollywood. The “default” being that he is not portrayed as a white man. It’s upsetting to see because Poe gives hope to Latinos who never saw themselves fully represented in western entertainment. Erasing Poe’s Latino portrayal defeats the purpose of his importance in the franchise.
He is the stepping stone in allowing a more realistic approach on how we view our society. Poe Dameron’s ethnic origins are still a mystery within the Star Wars verse, but we cannot deny the certainty in our realm of reality. He is highly considered a groundbreaking character for Latinos everywhere. Furthermore, we must normalize non-white positive character portrayals. This means when we create content supporting a specific film, we cannot erase their non-white features. As consumers of Hollywood entertainment, we cannot sink back into the “default”.