Unwhitewash Star Wars: The Bad Batch #UnwhitewashTBB
Unwhitewash Star Wars: The Bad Batch #UnwhitewashTBB
We the undersigned are Star Wars fans reaching out due to our deep concerns with the new series, Star Wars: The Bad Batch. We feel that elements of the show, including many character models and aspects of the writing, are alienating and harmful to fans of color.
When George Lucas first created Star Wars, many fans latched onto the cast of characters with a range of personalities and backgrounds, and they did this because everyone was able to see a little bit of themselves in Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando. The theme that anyone can be great regardless of one’s upbringing, that fighting for what’s right is always ideal over doing what’s comfortable, and that a family can be found in anything is what has drawn so many different people to Star Wars for decades.
These themes were the main driving force behind the writing of the clones in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Fans of the series can easily attest to the message that DNA does not determine value, and that what matters most is who you are, not what you are. The clones’ collective arc did away with the idea that a name, a face, or a particular upbringing determined skills or intrinsic value. This is the message that fans most identify with the clones, and they were excited to see the continuation of that message as far as the series went. Many fans see themselves in the clones in one way or another. Neurodivergent and disabled fans see themselves in characters like Hardcase, Wolffe, and Echo. Many fans of color were excited for the breadth and depth with which the clones were written, and Māori and Polynesian fans were glad to see themselves as heroes.
These valuable lessons and representation were in part why the introduction of Clone Force 99 – also known as the “Bad Batch” – came as a shock to many. Where The Clone Wars had spent over a decade building on the aforementioned themes, it was as if The Bad Batch had come specifically to do away with them. Sergeant Hunter, Tech, Wrecker, Crosshair, Echo, and eventually Omega weren’t intrinsically valuable despite their sameness the way all other clones are. The Clone Wars (and later, Star Wars: The Bad Batch) makes it clear that these clones are intrinsically valuable because they’re different. Where Fives had said on Kamino and on Umbara that they were clones but they were also people, that they shared blood but that they were individuals with opinions worth listening to, who had rights that were being violated and who needed to stand up for themselves, The Bad Batch is almost the total opposite. The Bad Batch clones are special because their blood is special; their DNA is so different from Jango’s that they have an edge over the “regs” that they refuse to acknowledge as their battlefield and familial equals. This message already unsettled many fans, but what added salt to the wound was the appearance of the members of the Bad Batch. In The Clone Wars, it is made clear that they have genetic enhancements that give them skills and advantages regular clones do not have, like Tech’s genius and Crosshair’s sniping abilities. Their differences are desirable mutations. Their desirable mutations also made them white.
The term “whitewashing” began to take hold with the release of the story reels in 2015, but since The Clone Wars had been canceled, many fans did not say much because they did not expect the Bad Batch to ever be fully animated. When Disney revived The Clone Wars for one final season, these same fans were dismayed to see that not only had nothing changed, it was as though the whitewashing became worse with the full render. Tech looked and sounded like a British man. Many people likened Hunter to Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo (or to the actor himself). There was a lot of confusion over Echo’s complete lack of melanin and Crosshair’s dramatically narrowed features and yellow undertone. Fans were also disturbed to see that Wrecker, the clone who arguably most resembles Jango, is characterized by a number of negative racial stereotypes, including being violent / short-tempered, intellectually inferior, and to quote voice actor Dee Bradley Baker, “childlike”.
The release of the trailer for Star Wars: The Bad Batch only solidified fans’ feelings of disgust, dismay, and hurt. It looked like the creators of The Bad Batch had lost interest in telling a story about underdogs and people without special upbringings or innate abilities, instead choosing to base the premise of the show off the idea that being genetically superior is what makes a hero. Additionally, since the series began airing we have seen other characters altered, including Saw Gerrera (lightened skin tone, straight brown hair, and the return of light-colored eyes) and Caleb Dume/Kanan Jarrus (lightened skin tone, lightened hair, lightened eyes). To fans of color, the message of The Bad Batch was clear: to be special, to be the hero – to be genetically enhanced and desirable – one must be white, or near it.
On March 30th, 2021, the social media campaign using the hashtag #UnwhitewashTBB was started by Twitter user @Clonehub7567. It began simultaneously on Tumblr under the same hashtag. Other fans quickly joined the movement, as the stated message was simple and clear: undo the whitewashing in The Bad Batch and commit to accurate representation for people of color in both art and in writing.
Since that day, #UnwhitewashTBB has expanded to include more than just racism, colorism, and featurism. As the series continued, members of #UnwhitewashTBB became aware of various other issues with the series, the two largest being ableism and antisemitism. The ableism was made apparent in Tech’s coding as “on the spectrum”, according to voice actor Dee Bradley Baker; Echo’s treatment as an amputee (being sold and otherwise ignored); and the potential issue with Wrecker’s large facial scar, single eye, and his behavior and personality. More details can be found here: https://unwhitewashthebadbatch.carrd.co/#abttbb The antisemitism is in Cid, the broker that the team works with. She is a Trandoshan woman, a lizard species popular in Star Wars. She’s greedy, and she has an accent associated with New York Jews. On top of this, she is being played by a Jewish voice actress, Rhea Perlman.
On July 26, 2021, the #UnwhitewashTBB movement released a survey to gauge the general audience’s feelings about the series. Within days, we received hundreds of responses, and the numbers continue to climb.
When asked what their favorite element of the series was, most (38.1%) said “Cameos”, followed by “Main Characters” (25%), “Art / Animation” (19.8%), “Other” (13.1%) and “Writing” (4.9%).
When asked about their least favorite element of the series, the order was “Writing” (33.8%), “Main Characters” (22.5%), “Other” (19.7%), “Art / Animation” (19.2%), and “Cameo Appearances” (4.8%).
Respondents were asked to read various pages in the carrd, and were then asked again about their opinion on the series.
Upon reading the carrd, respondents were given the opportunity to explain their final feelings on Star Wars: The Bad Batch.
“...their skin is a little too pale. As someone who is part Māori, this is very important to me.” - Respondent 581
“...The show has failed greatly in many aspects but especially in their whitewashing and it's appalling that we can look at earlier seasons of TCW and see the clones' skin gradually becoming lighter and lighter. There are no excuses for it. I know that since I already had strong opinions on this my response might not adequately reflect the "average" viewer, but I'm glad that this is being talked about. Particularly in the field of animation this is very avoidable, the fact no one on their team throughout the very lengthy and grueling production process said nothing tells me that their team has severe issues and a lack of diverse representation in positions of power that needs addressing asap. I love Star Wars and it is has always had these issues but it is high time they start actually changing especially as the fanbase has never been as diverse as it is now. Apologies if I strayed from the main question here!” - Respondent 735
“I can't watch without noticing the whitewashing.” - Respondent 679
“I would just like to elaborate on the ableism aspect. As a amputee myself, I don’t like how Echo’s trauma has been ignored. The whole reason he is with the BB is because of what he went through. Losing one limb, never mind multiple, it’s extremely difficult. They made it seem like just because his prosthetic can be of use on missions, that means he isn’t grieving the loss of his actual hand. There is no healing or evolution. It also feels wrong to only address the fact that echo uses prosthetics for the sake of hacking into machinery. Prosthetics are so personal and become a real part of who you are as a person.” - Respondent 130
“Overall feelings about the series: It's disturbing that this misrepresentation is so pervasive in the project.” - Respondent 616
“...I can't believe Star Wars is still doing this, and that an entire team of animators with a huge budget can't get skin tone right. I didn't even know the clones were supposed to have a NZ Māori accent until a friend told me. That's a big deal, since I live in NZ and hear it every day. Also, casting a white man to voice a Māori accent, and then having him do an awful job at it? Shame on you, Disney.” - Respondent 209
“As someone who is neurodivergent myself, Tech and Wrecker just. sting, you know? in a “is that really what you think of us” kind of way.
“As a fan of color, its irritating and painful to watch and be brushed off as "lighting issues" and see justifications made by white fans and producers...It also feels very bad to me that TCW spent 7 seasons with several arcs emphasizing that the clones were all as individual as a 'normal' person, but then undo all that with TBB, which centers a group of "special" clones (who are suspiciously white) and have them treat the "regs" as a homogeneous group who are lesser than them, and then expect us to find it within ourselves to put that aside to enjoy the MCs. The way the treat "regs" is very offputting and it made me dislike them since their introduction...Star Wars is no stranger to racist and antisemitic media, but I must say, the blantancy of Sid, a greedy lizard who essentially financially enslaves the protaganists, being Jewish-coded and being protrayed by a Jewish voice actress is really next-level even for Star Wars. As a Jewish fan, it really grates on me.” - Respondent 40
“I’m disabled and autistic, and the ableism is appalling to watch. Watching Echo be treated as subhuman for needing machinery to survive makes me feel like having implants to keep my spine from breaking itself would have me be the pitied member of any group. I am disgusted by the blatant antisemitism, as a fair number of my friends are Jewish and it hurts me to think that people can so easily hate others based on internalized stereotypes. Me and my friends have also critically analyzed the fact that, despite being clones of a character portrayed by Temuera Morrison, for some reason the bad batch look nothing like him in any way. No resemblance in any way: just a bunch of someone’s badly worked characters fraught with disgusting writing decisions and design choices that make no sense. It makes me angry to think that the writers for this show, and to an extent any modern writer, would believe that using harmful tropes to make a story is acceptable and someone brings in profit. I tried to watch it out of fact that my family likes Star Wars and we all grew up watching it, but all of these unhealthy assumptions and terrible choices in terms of writing and design leave a bitter and nauseating feeling.” - Respondent 605
From the start, there was a striking pattern from respondents: regardless of one’s initial feelings surrounding the series, its characters, and the writing, not only did most people’s opinions decrease upon reading the #UnwhitewashTBB carrd, the vast majority of respondents (ratings 1-3, 77.1%) were not excited for a prospective Season 2 of The Bad Batch. The most commonly cited reason for this the racism/whitewashing, antisemitism, and ableism.
Supporters of #UnwhitewashTBB are as diverse as the viewers themselves. We all have differing understandings of what a solution to the offenses in the series may entail, but we are all joined under these four goals, stated in our carrd:
1. An end to the racism, whitewashing, and colorism/featurism. We all want to see a group of clones who share the skin tone of the man they are copies of. While some of us want complete model rehauls that make the Bad Batch look Māori in general, others of us would prefer it if the clones all shared the standard clone model. Regardless of the specificities, we are demanding an end to the racism in Star Wars: The Bad Batch that has prevented so many of us from fully enjoying this series. We want to be able to see ourselves, our features, and our racial and ethnic identities on screen without them being lightened, narrowed, straightened, or villainized once we hit the screen.
Fixing these means not placing the only representation fans of color have on screen in the Empire, and having people who look like us be heroes rather than supporters of a metaphor for a Nazi regime.
2. An end to the ableism in Star Wars: The Bad Batch. Disabled and neurodivergent fans have expressed continued dismay at the treatment of Echo in the series, from his being sold as a droid to his near nonexistence within the plot. Lots of autistic fans see themselves in Tech and enjoy his character for that reason, but they feel his representation is leaning heavily into stereotypes. Echo must be a full member of the team, and Tech must stop being a stereotype.
3. An end to the antisemitism. Cid is a gross stereotype of Jewish people, who have suffered enough over the centuries and to this day without having to see themselves dehumanized as a mean, greedy lizard person on screen. The antisemitic traits in Cid--whether they be the voice/accent, the personality, the species, or all three--must go.
4. An acknowledgement and apology from Disney and the Star Wars: The Bad Batch team. Fans of color, Jewish fans, disabled fans, and neurodivergent fans have been hurt and alienated by the actions of Disney and the writing/design team for The Bad Batch. Disney has made posts standing up for Black and other marginalized people before. They can do it again.
Fans across religions, cultures, abilities, and various racial and ethnic identities have been hurt by the portrayal of The Bad Batch, from their physical appearances to their writing. This letter is a plea from those fans to Disney, Lucasfilm, and the creative leaders of Star Wars: The Bad Batch. For decades, Star Wars was meant to be for everyone, regardless of the traits that make us different from one another. We are asking that that tradition continue, that our voices are heard, and that you unwhitewash The Bad Batch.
***PLEASE NOTE: Donations collected on this petition are fundraising by Change.org and are not affiliated with this campaign!