Whitewashing controversy envelops Star Wars: The Bad Batch

The Bad Batch premiere "Aftermath"
The Bad Batch premiere "Aftermath" /

Star Wars: The Bad Batch has been well received by fans and critics alike, with the new look into the rise of the Empire winning plaudits as a fitting spiritual sequel to The Clone Wars. However, with just two episodes aired, the show has already become embroiled in a developing controversy, with fans highlighting how characters in the show have been “whitewashed” to appear lighter-skinned than the actors behind the voices.

Whitewashing is when a production either hires caucasian actors for non-white roles or lightens the skin of a character to appear closer to being white, with these incidents usually being seen as marketing endeavors by the studio.

The writers at the Unwhitewash The Bad Batch website argue that the issue has been prevalent ever since the initial release of the story reels for The Bad Batch. With the issue extensively highlighted on social media for over a month, critics argue that Disney has essentially doubled down on their actions, ignoring calls from alarmed fans following the release of the show’s trailer at the end of March. Prominently featured amongst many highlighted incidences on the site is that Dee Bradley Baker, a white actor, has been cast as the Bad Batch themselves.

The Bad Batch is the nickname given to Clone Force 99, an elite unit of experimental clone troopers first introduced during The Clone Wars. All clone troopers in the Star Wars universe are derived from the DNA of Jango Fett, who was portrayed by Temuera Morrison in 2002’s Attack of the Clones. Morrison went on to play Boba Fett in The Mandalorian. New Zealander Morrison is of Mãori, Scottish, and Irish descent, having a darker skin tone than Baker.

While Baker featured in The Clone Wars as clone troopers, fans pointed out that the clones of The Bad Batch are noticeably lighter in tone than they previously appeared, despite also being derived from Jango Fett’s DNA.

Fans accuse Disney of whitewashing Star Wars: The Bad Batch

While most of the controversy is focusing on Clone Force 99, it isn’t the only thing fans are taking issue with. There’s also the appearance of Jedi Caleb Dume, later known as Kanan Jarrus.

Jarrus was a vital member of the Star Wars: Rebels cast and appears in the new show during his days as a young padawan apprentice. Writing on social media, fans have pointed out that the model for Caleb also looks a lot whiter than he previously did, some scenes during the opening episodes making him appear to be as light-skinned as Anakin Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The ongoing controversy over the show is not the first time in recent years that Disney has been accused of racism, with many fans bringing up their outrage over the company sidelining John Boyega when promoting The Force Awakens in China. Equally, while not the responsibility of Disney themselves, Rose Tico actress Kelly Marie Tran received significant amounts of racist abuse online following the release of The Last Jedi.

According to a report from Gizmodo, the production team behind The Bad Batch is aware of the whitewashing controversy and has begun to make changes to the show, blaming the issue on lighting effects that will be minimized in the future. While the report seems well-founded, neither Disney nor Lucasfilm have issued a statement on the claims or what’s been done to rectify the issues, alarming many Bad Batch fans.

The third episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch will drop tomorrow, May 14, on Disney+, with Episodes one and two already available. Concerned fans will undoubtedly be eagerly watching to see just what changed are made.

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