George Lucas wasn’t trying to be subtle when he decided to call the villainous soldiers of his Star Wars series “stormtroopers.” Borrowing the name of the Nazi Party’s original paramilitary wing was one of the many ways Lucas drew clear parallels between that regime and his fictional Imperial Empire (though the Empire could stand in for any totalitarian power, Lucas has noted that its militaristic uniforms were directly inspired by those in Nazi Germany). To reflect the World War II movies of the 1970s, he stocked the Empire with white British actors who curtly barked orders and committed atrocities with stiff upper lips. That symbolism carried over to last year’s Star Wars sequel The Force Awakens, where the Empire’s successor, The First Order, was introduced conducting a rally that looked straight out of Nuremberg.
Chris Weitz, the writer of the upcoming Star Wars spinoff Rogue One, was drawing on these long-established parallels when he tweeted a few days after the election, “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.” It’s one that’s opposed in Rogue One “by a multicultural group led by brave women,” chimed in Weitz’s co-writer Gary Whitta. Weitz had strongly criticized President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign on Twitter (and has continued to challenge the transition), but he later deleted that particular comment and apologized for its overt politicization of “innocent” escapism. The move prompted industry speculation that backlash from Trump supporters could hurt the film’s box-office results. But though Weitz’s comments may be stoking controversy in the immediate aftermath of a divisive election season, it’s unlikely that they’ll do lasting damage to Rogue One’s ticket sales. Hollywood creators have long inserted ideological slants into their movies, and even when “politicization” of movies does hurt box office, there are usually other factors at play.