Don’t get us wrong attorneys; we’re not saying that George Lucas hates all minorities. After all, his first bunch of Star Wars movies handled the subject pretty well with a notable exception or two. But somewhere between the first and second Star Wars trilogies, Lucas’ imagination seems to have deteriorated to the point where he started basing all of his alien races on stereotypes.
Watto and the Toydarians
Watto runs a pawn store in Mos Espa where he owns Anakin Skywalker and his mother. He’s is a greedy merchant, so obsessed with money and property that he even buys and sells humans as slaves. George Lucas obviously thought long and hard about what characteristics to give his ultra-capitalistic greed alien, and then decided that the most important feature was a long, hooked nose.
As if the nose and the noticeable Middle Eastern accent didn’t beat the audience over the head enough, in the second movie, Watto has gained both a beard and a spiffy hat that somehow looks familiar.
That’s right, Watto is Jewish. And apparently, he’s also embraced Hasidism by the time of Attack of the Clones. Perhaps that’s why Jedi mind tricks, associated with Christianity in The Phantom Menace via Anakin’s virgin birth story, don’t work on him? He obviously doesn’t accept the Midichlorians as his personal lord and savior.
Sandpeople, or Tusken Raiders, are Tatooine-based vicious brutes who live out in the desert. They wear long pale robes and keep their faces covered. And they’re apparently so incompetent and backwards that Ben Kenobi calls their blasting skills less accurate than those of the Imperial Stormtroopers.
And then there’s the fact that they are called sand people, for god’s sake. It’s no huge leap to figure out which ethnic group Lucas is trying to smear with this particular race of aliens.
That’s right, the Arabs are next on the long list of groups that Star Wars apparently has a problem with. And when it comes to the new trilogy’s depiction of Sandpeople, it’s no longer enough just to embrace racial stereotypes. Lucas must also make his main characters act towards them with chilling bigotry. After Anakin attacks a village of Sandpeople, ruthlessly slaughtering their women and children, he confesses the act to Padme, one of the enduringly ‘good’ characters who we’re presumably meant to find heroic. "They're like animals, and I slaughtered them like animals,” he says. “I hate them!"
“Anakin,” Padme responds to his anguished confession. “What’s wrong?”
In other words, a man has just told her that he has slaughtered a bunch of innocents of a different race, and she’s asking him what the problem is.
Nute Gunray and the Neimoidians
Neimoidians are the race who ran the Trade Federation, several members of whom conspired with Emperor Palpatine and several other evil dudes to undermine the Republic. They tend to talk in a funny accent, mixing up their ‘l’ and ‘r’ sounds. Their colony planets had Japanese-sounding names like Cato, Deko and Koru. They also wear funny hats and gowns that make them look like a cross between Chinese emperors and felt elephants.
We’re a bit confused about these aliens, though. Sure, they’re evil, cowardly and scheming like all the non-white races in Star Wars are, but Lucas didn’t really go for any of the ripe ethnic stereotypes that he could have. Nute Gunray is at no point shown enjoying Sarlaac tentacle porn, and the Neimoidians never once come at Anakin one by one to beat him with their kung-fu skills. But hey, maybe these scenes were just left on the cutting room floor.