Given what we know from Finn in the various canon novelizations, do you think his depiction in the film serviced him well? Finn is clearly an intelligent, strong, brave, skilled individual, however that doesn't seem to be what many took away with. They've simply written him off as a sanitation worker or the "new Jar Jar". Is this purely fandom racism or poor character development and do you think there's room for improvement?
I think by and large the film serviced him well. We know that he’s intelligent, strong, brave, and skilled because we were shown that in the film. I think there are two major things going into people’s inability to see that Finn is an incredible hero: racism and hyper/toxic masculinity.
As to the racism, it’s been scientifically proven over and over again that white people have significant difficulty empathizing with Black people in real life and on screen. Also given rampant media stereotyping, it’s difficult for people to see Black people outside of basic stereotypical boxes. So even when confronted with a multidimensional and incredible character like Finn, all they see is “comic relief” or “sidekick.”
This is why it’s really important that writers understand that you can’t just write a Black character in the same way as you would a white character. More work has to be done to play up their goodness, heroism, and complexity otherwise people will rely on stereotypes or throw away lines (i.e. how Finn once worked in sanitation when he was a trooper in training and stationed on Starkiller base) to erase all of that. For example, this is why the slow burn relationship build up with Black female characters isn’t successful…folks will just see her as the “strong friend/sidekick who don’t need no man” and won’t see the build up and then will act surprised when it happens. The media needs to spend time just showing Black women being loved and valued and romantic interests and after that settles in the mass consciousness, then we can do the slow burn (or at least both at the same time…bc the will they or won’t they thing alone just isn’t working).
As to the hyper/toxic masculinity, folks aren’t used to male heroes like Finn. Finn is vulnerable, acknowledges his feelings and fears, and is compassionate and empathetic. A lot of men (of all races) I’ve talked to who didn’t like Finn and claimed he was useless kept bringing up “he never won a fight” and “he was unconscious at the end” as “reasons” why he was “useless and weak.” They also always make mention of how Rey, “the girl,” defeated Kylo when Finn “couldn’t” (not taking into account Kylo’s injury, Rey tapping into the Force, and the fact that Finn wielding the saber and injuring Kylo at all w/o consciously using the force is huge). All of that is rooted in the idea that male heroes need to be invulnerable and kill and win all the time and “be better than the girl” by whatever metric they set (note: Finn & Rey are obviously equals and anybody insinuating otherwise has a problem). Finn’s subversion of hyper/toxic masculinity is so important. But that kinda adherence to toxic masculinity keeps people from seeing that Finn is literally the catalyst for the entire film, the reason the plot keeps moving forward, the emotional center of TFA, and obviously on his own hero’s journey.
I mean, it’s a trilogy ffs. Neither Finn nor Rey have reached their full potential. John already told us “Finn ain’t playing no more.” But somehow people think that because Rey’s force sensitivity was made more obvious in the first film that somehow Finn is less important or not a lead or whatever nonsense and it’s all truly ridiculous and rooted in problematic shit that people need to work through.
tl;dr: racism and toxic masculinity are a hellavu drug and white writers don’t understand the extra work they have to do with Black characters to mitigate the effects of those isms on how Black characters are interpreted.
Do you think that Finn could indeed be a Skywalker? I've just recently become a part of the cult following to believe this theory to be true and buy into the several facts supporting it. However many still believe Finn to be a "coon" sidekick esque character to Rey who's similarities to Luke are purely aesthetic. The character of Finn was originally speculated to be Lukes son before Boyega was cast. Do you think Disney would be as bold as to make the Skywalker line black from here on out?
I do think Finn could be a Skywalker and the thought of it being true fills me with joy and giddiness and my credit score jumps a full 100 points. Here are my two tags for that: Finn Skywalker and Finn Skywalker talk.
Try not to let what other folks think of Finn and his importance to the narrative bother or distract you in terms of what theories you think are viable. Racism is a hellavu drug and it keeps people from recognizing basic and obvious truths. Finn is clearly the male lead, the co-lead, and as much of the hero of the story as Rey is. The movie, the writers, the directors, the actors, the powers that be, the authors of novelizations etc. are all telling us as much. Folks who can’t get past their own racism are the ones who are unable to recognize that.
I follow a lot of R*ySky folks so I can’t agree that her similarities to Luke are “purely” aesthetic. However, I will say that her and Luke being white and Finn being Black is the biggest reason why the Finn Skywalker theorist club is so small. If he was a white dude, like he was originally conceptualized as, the Finn Skywalker theory would have as much traction as the R*ySky theory does. Because they both have really obvious and purposeful parallels and connections to both Luke & Anakin. People just dismiss the possibility of Finn Skywalker out of hand because he’s Black (evidence by the fact that folks were already theorizing about Finn Skywalker when he was assumed white but it basically disappeared once John was cast). Which doesn’t make sense because Rey, herself, didn’t have to be white. They auditioned multiple women of color for the role, including Black women. It would be interesting if we could somehow do an experiment and make Finn white and Rey Black and see how many people watch the film and think Rey is the Skywalker versus Finn. Given that they were open to casting either Rey or Finn as Black (bc lol it never would’ve been BOTH of them) then it seems obvious that if either of them is a Skywalker, being Black wasn’t a disqualification.
As for Disney, I think either way this pans out–Finn or Rey Skywalker–we’re getting Black Skywalkers regardless. If Finn is the Skywalker, great! If Rey is the Skywalker, that’s good too. She and Finn are getting together either way and the next trilogy will be about their kids :) I honestly think this is why John had to audition so long. The Disney execs and likely a lot of others had to be brought to Jesus. Thirty years ago, George Lucas wanted to cast a Black guy as Han Solo but didn’t want to deal with the fallout that comes when you pair a Black guy and a white woman in a film. I think they’ve learned from that and this time did the right thing and cast the best man for the job instead of just the best white man for the job (no shade to the love of my life’s best friend!). The movie, script, and novelizations are all pointing obviously in the direction of Finnr*y. If we don’t get Black Skywalkers, I will literally feel like they robbed us all.