Did woke criticism of Star Wars fall flat? Reactions labeled leftist arguments as ‘absurdities,’ ‘waste of time.’

An opinion piece in the Scientific American argues against the use of the acronym JEDI for referring to social justice work.

The article said the franchise engaged in racism and 'ableist tropes.'

University of Michigan and Arizona State University researchers and alumni published an op-ed in Scientific American this fall making a case against the use of the acronym “JEDI” for “describing programs that promote justice, equity, diversity and inclusion” due to its ties with Star Wars.

The researchers argued that the acronym’s association with Jedi characters in the blockbuster franchise is “problematic” because the “name JEDI [justice, equity, diversity and inclusion] can inadvertently associate our justice work with stories and stereotypes that are a galaxy far, far away from the values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.”

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But not everyone is taking the criticism seriously. 

Executive director of Speech First Cherise Trump told Campus Reform that she thought the article was “satire” when she first saw it. 

“But unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case,” she said.

The article proposed that the term should be approached with “great caution” if not eliminated “entirely” for five reasons: 

  1. JEDI is an “inappropriate mascot” for social justice work. The authors describe the Star Wars character as a “religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.).” 
  2. Star Wars “conflates ‘alienness’ with ‘nonwhiteness” because “nonhuman species” are characterized with “racist stereotypes.” Offering an example, they argue that “ableist tropes” are used to portray Darth Vader’s “physical disability with machinic inhumanity and moral deviance, presenting his technology-assisted breathing as a sinister auditory marker of danger and doom.”
  3. The use of the term would contribute to “corporate capital.” Using the acronym would give Disney “free advertising” which would “commodify” and “cheapen” social justice work. 
  4. JEDI “threatens” inclusion as those who are not Star Wars fans or are unfamiliar with the film may feel alienated by the term. As an example, the authors bring up that studies have shown that the Star Wars and Star Trek memorabilia in computer science classrooms can promote “masculinist stereotypes.” 
  5. JEDI distracts from meanings of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion due to its tendency to “evoke imagery.” The researchers hope to avoid the reference becoming an “institutional buzzword” that is “more slogan than substance.” 

Responding to the article, executive board member of Arizona State University College Republicans Clay Robinson told Campus Reform, “When our universities should be researching solutions to the world’s greatest problems, we are wasting our time focusing on ‘correcting’ absurdities in pop culture that do nothing to improve society.”

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“This is a clear example of ‘woke-ism’ rotting our academic institutions. We need to push back against this illogical ideology that destroy[s] our common sense,” he continued. 

In the article, the researchers proposed the alternative acronym “DEIJ” (diversity (D), equity (E), inclusion (I) and justice (J)) and “dije” instead. 

Trump commented that, “The absurdities we often hear from the left when they are attempting to regulate speech is a testament to how determined they are to undermine our constitutionally protected rights.”