The old white dude Jedi problem haunted the Star Wars Expanded Universe, entirely by accident. But they never managed to fix it.
If you know me at all, you know that the Star Wars world is by far my favorite fictional universe and favorite media franchise of all-time. Nine of the eleven theatrical Star Wars movies are in my Top 50 favorite movies list, I have shelves upon shelves full of Star Wars books and comics (I have about 75% of all Star Wars Legends novels that were released in hardcover, and over 50% of the Dark Horse comics in omnibus or trade paperback form).
But most of all, what I love about the Star Wars universe is its ability to tell all sorts of stories, large epics or small-scale romps, and just get so weird and idiosyncratic that it can tell the kinds of stories you just can’t get anywhere else.
Star Wars is so deep into magic and mysticism that it falls completely away from the realm of science fiction and turns into a fantasy adventure that just so happens to exist in space. And yet, thanks to forty years of weird authors having way too many freedoms, we also have dudes that put all the science and effort in the world into making realistic all of the non-Force parts of the franchise. Yes, that same franchise that has sound in space.
There’s literally thousands of Star Wars stories out there for you to enjoy, for the most part divided into two timelines– the Expanded Universe “Legends” timeline that encompasses Episodes I-VI and 90% of material produced before 2014, and the new “Canon” timeline that encompasses the movies, the CGI cartoons, and anything produced since Disney took over Lucasfilm.
And for how good Lucasfilm has been since they started their new continuity, there is certainly something missing from these new stories because of how tightly controlled the continuity has been. They really are intent on building a cohesive, fleshed-out shared universe that ties every story together in small ways… and that kind of hurts it because you don’t get these one-off comics where there’s an assassin protocol droid named C-3PX or the Sith have a power struggle 5000 years before the movies, and you don’t get villains like the trans-dimensional space god Waru, and you don’t get characters whose entire existences are fleshed out in trading card flavor text.
Alas, I do miss the old Expanded Universe… but I’m not sad that it’s ended. Well, I wish it got more of a conclusion, but I understand why it had to reset. The whole endeavor, for the 35+ years it lasted, had some major, crippling flaws that came with trying to piece together hundreds of stories that were never really meant to work together all that well.
Case in point here is… What the hell are all these old white dude Jedi doing in my space adventure?!
Yeah, I hear you there in the back calling me an SJW cuck, but let’s step back a second and realize that none of this was “intentional;” it was the result of a very large and very hectic shared universe worked on by countless individuals over many decades, a large portion of whom where themselves white men, and working in a culture where white dudes were simply the norm in any fiction.
So as the universe began to be more carefully managed, and as the stories set after Return of the Jedi formed their very own distinct identity in the form of New Jedi Order and Legacy of the Force, we got this conundrum where half the main Jedi are WASP-y lookin’ human men.
This is Star Wars, right? A universe with so many aliens that some of the dudes in the background of A New Hope still have barely been featured in anything else. A universe with a billion worlds to explore, and based on a property that actually had a budget so the aliens aren’t all just dudes with rubber appendages on their heads (sorry, Star Trek). But thanks to the slow-ball rolling of the shared universe coming together, we accidentally ended up with a timeline where, at a critical point, we were accidentally inundated with old white dude Jedi. A whole torrent of them making up half the entire Jedi Council as of the Legacy Era books.
Let’s go down the list:
Hey, we know Luke. I know Luke. This isn’t the Luke from the new movies. This is a Luke who pretended to turn to the Dark Side to kill a clone bodyswap version of Darth Sidious and then accidentally fell to the Dark Side for real. This is the Luke who had a romance with this Jedi whose soul got trapped in some computers or whatever for 30 years. This is the Luke who fought some eldritch abominations.
And anyway, he’s basically the classical vanilla version of the old white dude Jedi. He has decades of experience behind him, and he’s a calm leader with a strong moral center, except that time where his wife got killed by a crazy lady with a lightsaber whip and he chopped her head off.
Corran Horn was the main character of the X-Wing book series, a kind of thematic counterpart to Han Solo and Wedge Antilles in that he’s the straight-edged police officer while those two were a smuggler and a space pirate-turned-hotshot pilot, respectively.
But then he got turned into a Jedi in the very good book I, Jedi, where he is trained by Luke as the first batch of new Jedi trainees (via an entire book-long retcon), and then he gets in some hijinks involving really convoluted continuity stuff thanks to author Kevin J. Anderson. It turns out that Corran’s grandfather was a Jedi all along and never told anyone! He’s part of a whole family of Jedi (oops, the prequels really messed up some of this backstory).
And then he got old… And, as you can see, he became an old white dude, and one of the senior members of the Jedi Council because he was a popular character among the writers… though not QUITE as much among the readers as far as I’m aware. Writers love the dude, and that’s OK. Well, except for the fact that he looks about 90% the same as one of his other Jedi trainee partners…
So unlike Corran Horn, this dude’s like, the edgy Shadow the Hedgehog version of Luke. He’s evil for a while but gets redeemed, but even past then, he’s always the sarcastic, darker foil to whatever Luke or the other Jedi are proposing. And, despite a ten year age difference from Luke, he’s pretty much exactly as old and white as any other old and white dude by the time of the Legacy of the Force books and after.
Honestly, Kam Solusar doesn’t really deserve to exist. Not that he isn’t interesting; he’s this random Force sensitive guy who’s a Dark Jedi of some sort, and then duels Luke and joins him after being beaten. Up until the prequels kind of ruined his backstory (he’s supposed to be the son of a Jedi and a former Jedi himself), he was a good mirror to Luke in that he actually knew of the Force and knew of his family, but lost it all.
But he only exists because the comics and novels didn’t coordinate very well back in the early 90s, and so he treads the exact same ground as Kyp Durron while not being quite as dynamic. The best he can say is that he has a lot better hair. In the end, he actually appeared in the same Jedi Academy books as Kyp Durron (and a retconned-in Corran Horn), making for a bunch of young white dudes… that became old white dudes later on.
This guy’s a bit of an odd case from the others in that he wasn’t created early on the Expanded Universe, nor was he created for a story earlier in the timeline and reused; he was created already as an older white dude in the New Jedi Order books, and got even older as the stories went on. He’s a hardline pro-government dude who basically has zero fun and gets way too involved with all the machinations that come along with it, and really the epitome of what you’d expect in a story with the old white dude Jedi character clashing against the younger and more idealistic characters. Strangely, though, he appears to actually be YOUNGER than many of his peers, notably Luke and our next entry…
Kyle Katarn is a weird case too!
If you don’t know, Kyle is the Chuck Norris-like badass from the Dark Forces games, a Rebel spy who shoots everyone and gets the plans to the Death Star. Then, he becomes a Jedi in his own right by discovering his father’s hidden past as a Jedi Knight before the Clone Wars (which sounds almost identical to Corran Horn, whoops).
But because he’s from the video games, he was ignored and forgotten by the books and comics. He got retconned into the Jedi Academy storyline via the well-named video game Star Wars: Dark Forces 3: Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast, which I guess was a full-story retcon to I, Jedi’s full-story retcon. So he was there next to Kyp and Kam and Corran… Wait a minute it’s all K sounds… what the hell… why were these all different characters when they could be the same dude?
Anyway, he finally appeared in in the very last New Jedi Order story, and then thanks to his large fanbase, he appeared in practically every single book after that. A main character at last. So he finally got his due, but in the process… he became like all the other Ks. An old white dude indistinguishable from the rest just by virtue of looking and acting the same as all the other guys.
And so all six of these old white men are on the Jedi Council for most of the later Star Wars books; that’s way too white and way too male. But among other prominent Expanded Universe Jedi, they are joined by two more old white dude Jedi not on the Jedi Council:
Jaden Korr, Kyle Katarn’s apprentice in one of the video games who quit the Jedi or something like that (nobody knows except the people who read those really weird spinoff books he was in)…
…And Keyan Farlander. Who’s this? He’s the most destructively retconned character of all-time, that’s who. Remember the end of the first movie?
He was the unnamed Y-Wing pilot who survived the Death Star along with Wedge, Luke, and Han and Chewie. A damn war hero, that’s who, and he didn’t even get a medal! Anyway, he was in the X-Wing video game, like the really old flight sim one from the early 90s, and instead of appearing again, they just kept retconning him into other stuff, like a retroactive cameo in Return of the Jedi.
Then, like pretty much every other character on this list, he finally appeared again in the New Jedi Order books as a Jedi, though not a particularly important one since he was mostly gone after that. Interestingly, in the new canon, he was replaced by a woman who ALSO barely appears in anything after her initial appearances. Does this count as a win for diversity or a win for irrelevant side characters who just happen to be war heroes?
Also, note with this guy. His name ALSO starts with a K! Jaden Korr is the only exception and his last name is a K! What the hell is happening here?!
Honestly, it’s not the fact that there are seven old white dude Jedi that are basically “Luke, but kinda different” that is a huge problem. This is a franchise that dates back to the seventies, after all, and the gathering of all these characters is mostly an accident brought on by a very long and messy continuity.
They’re all fleshed-out, interesting characters who have appeared in countless stories and people are very fond of. On an individual level, they’re fine. As a cluster together, though, that’s where it gets really boring and confusing.
What sucks is when you look at the prequel movie Jedi Council and see what went on there…
…It’s a bunch of alien dudes!
This is what Star Wars is all about!
Except for Obi-Wan and Anakin, there was not ONE old white dude Jedi on the entire Jedi Council in any of the prequel movies. The closest you can find is Mace Windu, who is an old black dude. Also, because Mace Windu wasn’t created to be the main character of some spinoff novel, he doesn’t have a vaguely heroic and/or dark personality; this dude’s arrogant, angry, and ends up being straight-up evil. Mace Windu is way better than any of the Ks, and as a bit of poetic justice, the C in his name is pronounced with an S.
So this is what the Star Wars Expanded Universe was accidentally forced into. With a bunch of fan-favorite or plot-important characters just happening to be white dudes, they were boxed into a corner where, unless they start killing half the cast off, they are stuck with all these white guys that make up over half of the Jedi Order.
And obviously they aren’t going to just kill off these beloved characters. They didn’t even
To be fair to them, they eventually rectified this in the far future of the timeline with Star Wars Legacy‘s Jedi council:
Unfortunately, this one takes place a hundred years after everything else, long after all the white guys are dead. There was seemingly no other way to fix their demographic problem except the inevitable march of the passing of time.
This isn’t THE reason I think that starting over with a clean slate was a good move by Lucasfilm when they started the new movies, but it is symptomatic of the growing hulk of a mega-billion-dollar franchise that was nearly as mired in continuity as a superhero universe. When a huge bulk of the main cast of your series has about the same makeup as an Expendables movie, only without Terry Crews or Jet Li, it may be time for a refresh.
(Also, if you read this far, and you are a Lucasfilm executive, please bring back Star Wars Legends because it’s really lame how many plotlines were left unresolved. White guys or not, give us more Legends!)
Read my other Star Wars posts!