Darth Vader, ‘Star Wars’ Racist? Melissa Harris-Perry Takes A Galaxy-Wide Reach

Star Wars fans will likely think that MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry has joined the dark side of the Force with her recent claims that Darth Vader is a representation of how racist Star Wars really is. The MSNBC host made the Darth Vader claims during her eponymous talk show, and it was enough to get radio host Rush Limbaugh’s attention.

“This is literally mentally unstable sick,” he said, according to Media Matters.

Harris-Perry said that Darth Vader was an example of Star Wars’ racism because he was “totally a black guy whose name was basically James Earl Jones,” the Washington Times reported.

Darth Vader, "Star Wars" Racist? Melissa Harris-Perry Takes A Galaxy-Wide Reach [Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for GLAAD]New York Times Movies and TV critic Wesley Morris was stunned that Harris-Perry could discuss Darth Vader’s impact on the racism in Star Wars all day. Morris was part of a panel discussing racism and gender in light of the upcoming premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Mediaite took Harris-Perry to task for her lamentation about Darth Vader, noting that James Earl Jones only provided the voice to the Empire’s Sith Lord while David Prowse, a British actor and weightlifter who stands 6 feet 4 inches tall, was the man behind the suit. In fact, Star Wars director George Lucas had always intended that Prowse’s voice, which he felt was not intimidating enough, be replaced by Jones, who is 6 feet 1 inch tall. Jones has never been seen on screen during the Star Wars films.

In addition, Harris-Perry said that Darth Vader had previously cut off a white man’s hand and never claimed his son. She noted that “as soon as he claims his son and goes over to the good, he takes off his mask and he is white,” according to Breitbart.

Mediaite said that Harris-Perry’s claims about the symbolic racism of Darth Vader do not make sense when it comes to his skin color once his mask is removed. The site said that with the grown children of Darth Vader — Luke Skywalker and Princess (now General) Leia Organa — being white, it would not have made a great deal of sense if Darth Vader was revealed to be of some other ethnicity.

Harris-Perry did not just reach for racist claims when it came to Darth Vader, either. Mediaite said that during the same panel discussion, Harris-Perry implied a comparison between African Americans and Wookiees, the tall, hairy, and bestial creatures that were most often seen alongside Star Wars scoundrel Han Solo.

Darth Vader, "Star Wars" Racist? Melissa Harris-Perry Takes A Galaxy-Wide Reach [Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]Following Princeton University Professor of Politics Amaney Jamal’s assertion that people need characters they can identify with in movies, Harris-Perry recalled a childhood memory in which she would frequently marry her Barbie dolls off to her Chewbacca doll, rather than Ken.

In sharing the memory with the panel, Morris seemed taken aback, while Harris-Perry concluded with “I have concerns about my own childhood now.”

As Star Wars fans and anyone familiar with the franchise will know, Darth Vader was quite tall and imposing, ready to choke anyone who was unable to think on his feet or who was simply expendable as he strode around in his all-black uniform and cape. While there are certainly racist and sexist overtones to Star Wars, regardless of the episode watched, Darth Vader may not be the ideal embodiment of the racism Harris-Perry apparently saw.

It is worth noting that throughout the series, Darth Vader was effectively in charge of armies of stormtroopers, which were clad in all-white armor. This, however, was not discussed during Harris-Perry’s statements about how Darth Vader is a clear illustration of the racism present in Star Wars. What was obvious, though, was that Harris-Perry needs to bone up on the basics of Star Wars. Fortunately, there is time for her to “do, or do not,” to paraphrase Yoda.

[Photo by Clemens Bilan/Getty Images]