Canceling Gina Carano: Work Worthy of an Evil Empire

 
Lucasfilm’s firing of Gina Carano may go down as one of the more 'textbook' examples of public relations blunders.  This past week the studio and its umbrella company Disney detached from Carano, following the latest in a series of social media posts which betrayed the political incorrectness of the former MMA fighter.
 
Carano – who had been portraying rebel-turned-mercenary Cara Dune on the hit Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian – had shared the following on her Instagram account:
 
Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…even by children. Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?
 
Do note that at no point does Miss Carano refer to Republicans, conservatives, or any other specific ideology.  She merely made an observation about history: something often rhyming like poetry, as George Lucas himself noted.
 
Most Star Wars fans do not waste precious life waiting to pounce on an errant tweet.  Many are instead working real jobs, or raising children.  Or perhaps are children themselves, enjoying a brief few years of innocence… and should they have the politics of adulthood so crudely imposed upon them?
 
But there were enough cancel-culturalists (read as: an overly vocal minority with no real life of their own) to spin up #fireginacarano on Twitter, that Disney took notice.  And ideally, had the differences been that irreconcilable, the company should have quietly parted ways with Miss Carano, without ado or even any public notice at all.  That is what a wise and considerate company would have done.
 
But that is not what happened.  Instead, Disney made a political spectacle out of firing Gina Carano.  It did it to satiate the lusts of a fringe segment of toxic fandom that thrives on destroying others.  Disney could not have handled the situation worse.  And it will come to haunt them, sooner than they may be prepared for.
 
Let us look at the release to the press on the night of February 10th:
 
Gina Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm and there are no plans for her to be in the future. Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.
 
That statement does not fly.  For one thing Carano has not posted anything that could be remotely construed as “denigrating” anyone based on culture and religion.  A good lawyer could potentially make a libel case out of Lucasfilm’s choice of words.
 
But it is especially laughable since Lucasfilm’s statement does not pass muster when one considers the double standard it has selectively applied to Carano, in contrast to the greater leniency afforded others.  The Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal compared the Trump Administration’s handling of migrant children with Nazi Germany (though he has since removed it, perhaps after discovering that the “migrants” in his photo were actually Arab children at a soup kitchen).
 
And recently Lucasfilm hired Krystina Arielle – who boasts a history of racist tweets, including baseless accusations of white supremacy – to hosts its new High Republic podcast.
 
Lucasfilm even long tolerated the rabidly anti-Christian ravings of author Chuck Wendig, who was only finally let go from the franchise after tweeting that Republicans should “throw yourselves into a wood chipper.”
 
The day following Carano’s firing came the first quarter earnings call to the Disney shareholders.  Subscriptions to the company’s Disney+ streaming service were reported to be 94.5 million.  That is an admirable market share by most measures.  The long-term outlook however should concern Disney: it has been estimated that to be considered a success, Disney+ is going to have to reach 250 million consistent subscribers by 2024.  The service is enjoying robust growth now, but that is not going to last forever.
 
Outraging a substantial segment of the fan base of one of its most lucrative franchises is not doing itself any favors.  Within moments of word of Carano’s dismissal hitting the intertubes, #canceldisneyplus began trending on Twitter at least as furiously as did calls for the actress to be fired.  One of those Disney+ subscribers had been me.  I cancelled mine.  So did at least four other people I personally know.  I had barely watched any of the Star Wars animated series like Clone Wars and Rebels, all available on Disney+.  And now, I don’t really care to.  
 
Then there is the merchandising angle.  Star Wars media itself has from the very beginning been far less profitable than the merchandise.  Here especially, Disney cancelling Gina Carano is going to have detrimental effect.  YakFace is reporting that the firing has impacted the release of new Cara Dune toys.  While Cara Dune gear is a fraction of that devoted to the ubiquitous Baby Yoda, the tough and independent woman has a devoted legion of admirers.
 
And in a franchise where even the most fleeting of characters gets an action figure, the moneymaking potential is enormous.  Particularly when it was likely that Carano’s Dune was going to be at the center of the just-announced Rangers of the New Republic series.
 
And then, if nothing else, we are still left with the fact that Gina Carano was making a point about cancel culture.  Disney has demonstrated that Carano was absolutely correct.
 
If only Lucasfilm’s press statement had been more terse, or not been made at all.  But in their choice of words, within context of the situation with Carano’s postings, it doesn’t take the insight of Yoda to read between the lines.
 
The message has been transmitted loud and clear: Star Wars is not for those who will not embrace correctthink.  Anyone whose politics are inclined toward conservatism is especially not welcome.
 
Once upon a time, Star Wars was shared by us all.  But that time seems past.  The mythology doesn’t matter anymore.  It has been superseded by “The Narrative.”  And people who don’t believe The Narrative do not belong.  They are to be blacklisted.  Cancelled.  Branded as unworthy of livelihood.
 
Huh.  Sounds a lot like what was already happening before Kristallnacht.
 
I don’t consider myself hardcore rock-ribbed conservative, but even so… if Star Wars isn’t for everyone, why should I believe it’s still for me?
 
It never should have come to this.  Star Wars is supposed to be for everyone, regardless of race or creed or gender… or political beliefs.  It had become one of the precious few things that could cut across all the lines and unify us.  A few years ago there was a photo of a Yazidi refugee boy wearing a Star Wars t-shirt.  Even in distant Iraq, amid real turmoil, Star Wars was making a difference in someone’s life.
 
It may be Lucasfilm’s party, but they may have forgotten who brought them to the dance in the first place.  See that vast red swath of flyover country covering most of America?  That’s who have bought the bulk of the Star Wars toys, and books, and video games, and pajamas, and PEZ dispensers. 
 
The liberal-leaning enclaves along the coasts – whose voices have been perhaps too magnified by social media – cannot compare to purchasing power of that magnitude.  Or perhaps it is that Lucasfilm never forgot, but was instead corrupted by the dark side of corporate greed.
 
As for Gina Carano: none of us should worry about her.  Having met her several years ago I will vouch that she is a person of uncommon integrity in an industry that has chewed up and spit out too many who thought that they would never break.  Carano has just inked a deal with Daily Wire to produce and star in a new film.  Admittedly, Daily Wire’s effort in film is no global media conglomerate, but it doesn’t need to be.  As with all good things, it begins with small steps.  And if Star Wars imparted anything at all, it is that a scrappy resistance can take on even the mightiest empires.
 
I have lived and breathed Star Wars throughout my life.  Part of my living room is devoted to the saga.  During my first and likely last run for public office I produced a Star Wars themed campaign ad.  Star Wars is something that I had been looking forward to sharing with my own children someday.
 
But I don’t have to do any of that.  Neither do a lot of other people.  Nobody has to spend a dime on anything connected to the franchise.  Because when it comes right down to the basics of the matter, Star Wars is still only a movie.
 
 
Christopher Knight is a lifelong Star Wars fan, former editor at TheForce.net, and creator of the fan film Forcery.  Visit his blog at TheKnightShift.com
 
Image: S Woodside, via Flickr (satire)  // CC BY-SA 2.0