Data Journalist

Fans of The Force Awakens and Rogue One say racism and police profiling are top social issues

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is released tonight, and before fans flock to see what Disney has in store for the space saga’s newest heroes, YouGov examines just how much Disney’s diverse casting has impacted the saga’s fan base.

The Star Wars films have typically done well with most age groups; Baby Boomers (33%) make up a majority of fans for The Original Trilogy (Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi) followed closely by Gen Xers (29%) and millennials (24%). The new Star Wars movies under Disney (Episode VII: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) have attracted more millennial fans (32%) while keeping Gen X  (29%) and Boomer fans (28%) entertained as well.

The movies have always been centered around a coming-of-age story – fans of the new films watch Finn and Rey navigate the universe and grow into their destinies as how Anakin and Luke did in the older movies. What’s different is Disney’s decision to feature a young woman and a black male as its leading characters – and that may be the very decisions that inspires a surge of fandom in both female and minority millennials.

Disney’s casting of Daisy Ridley as Rey and Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso appears to have been a hit with young women. YouGov Profiles shows that while the largest group of female fans of the original trilogy are Boomers (31%), only a quarter of those fans are young women (25%). Female millennials appear more drawn to the newer Star Wars movies, comprising more than a third (36%) of women who say they like the Force Awakens or Rogue One.

The Force Awakens’ diverse cast may also be what draws minorities to the movie. Compared to the original Star Wars trilogy, the new movies have managed to turn more minorities into fans. YouGov data reveals that while only one in five (20%) of fans of the Original Trilogy were minorities, the newer Star Wars movies saw an uptick in their minority fanbase by six percentage points (26%).

John Boyega's role as Finn in The Force Awakens may address certain racial issues that speak to minorities. Indeed, when it comes to the issues that fans consider important, racism and police profiling divide the two groups. Fans of the new Disney Star Wars movies say that they consider racism (24%) and profiling (29%) some of their top issues, while fans of the original trilogy say those issues matter to a lesser extent (20% and 26%, respectively).

The Star Wars universe has always emphasized inclusiveness – the Force is, after all, a part of all living things in the universe – and Disney’s decision to focus the story on black and female characters ensures that the space saga will speak to fans who don’t see themselves represented enough in Hollywood.

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