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Amandla Stenberg is a Perfect Lead for a Star Wars Series

The Acolyte leading lady has been down the franchise fandom road before and has no fear of confrontation, for better or worse.

Image credit Getty Photo/ Emma McIntyre

NOTE- Amandla Stenberg is non-binary and uses the pronouns she/her and they/them but prefers the latter. She/her is only used when quoting from an interview or publication.

Recently, after previous rumors, Amandla Stenberg was officially announced as the lead of one of my most anticipated Star Wars projects, The Acolyte. Although the past three Star Wars series had male leads (The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Andor), the toxic f*ckboys (and f*ckgirls) will come out for the culture wars when it drops.

Corny.

Tired.

Predictable.

Not new for Star Wars fans and not even new for Amandla Stenberg, who is a Star Wars fan (the actress reads the novels and listens to Star Wars podcasts). Because, unlike John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran, and Moses Ingram, Amandla Stenberg has faced this foolishness in another franchise’s fanbase.

Image credit Amandla Stenberg

When they were just 13, Amandla got cast in a breakthrough role: Rue from The Hunger Games. And yet, despite the clear description in the novel of Rue not being white, people still felt the need to let this child know that they were not THEIR version of this fictional character from a fantasy world. Imagine having such little imagination that, in your head, a dystopian world that comments on class and forces children from poor communities to compete in a battle royale competition is still all white. Rue is described in the text as having “dark brown skin and eyes.”

Based on the description, the actress playing Rue probably should have been played by a darker-skinned actress, which is a point of criticism Stenberg has faced from the left. They have addressed issues of colorism within Hollywood but still get criticism for taking up space with light-skinned privilege.

“If we lived in a culture in which people read or listened, then I think I would care a lot more,” she said. “But it doesn’t really matter how many times I express my true perspective on colorism or how many ways I try to decenter the privilege that I have, or it doesn’t matter how I try to virtue-signal that outwardly.”

- Interview with The Cut

Colorism is a real problem in Hollywood (and other film industries), specifically for women of color. And that is a reflection of the value we place on “whiteness” or “proximity to whiteness” and far too heavy a burden to put on Amandla Stenberg, who has helped to bring awareness to those issues.

But the overall experience of The Hunger Games was unfair for Stenberg. And the studio did little to back them up. A decade later, Stenberg has made a name for themselves inside and outside Hollywood. The Bodies, Bodies, Bodies star has become a prominent Civil Rights activist for the Black and Queer community, receiving the 2019 Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award.

Image credit the Cut, photograph by Lea Winkler

But they have also had to navigate so many difficult situations around social media and have come out of it not afraid of confrontation but sincere with how they communicate. Their most recent controversy came when an NYT critic reviewed Bodies, Bodies, Bodies and commented about the film being a “95-minute advertisement for cleavage.” One DM comment that she should have been watching the film instead of focusing on their tits later, and the NYT critic publicized Stenberg’s tweet, called them homophobic, and blocked the actress. It was an odd response from the critic, but Stenberg took to their Instagram stories to explain that they meant it as a joke.

The truth is that both parties stepped into it (Stenberg should have not DM’d a critic, but the critic overreacted). But Stenberg has already brushed the whole thing off and moved on while the critic still tries to clout-chase. It will be interesting to see how they handle the roller coaster that is Star Wars fandom, but Amandla has grown up in the minefield that is social media and franchise fandom and seems ready. In the same interview with The Cut, Stenberg says that they do not have a sense of trepidation about cancel culture, particularly concerning social media.

“I consider myself one of the lucky ones because now I don’t have to live with some perverse, distorted Catholic guilt…This guilt that seems to derive from the Catholic Church around if I am a good person or not. The world decided that I’m not going to Heaven, so I’m fine with that. See you in hell!”

Like I said. A perfect The Acolyte leading lady.

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