We might be witnessing one of the most clever viral marketing schemes of all time. Could there be method behind the madness surrounding the casting of Star Wars Episode VII?
Lucasfilm, now a subsidiary of Disney, dropped their big casting announcement on Tuesday. Along with “the Big Three” of the original trilogy – Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford – the cast of new characters included several men and only one woman, the virtually unknown Daisy Ridley. By Wednesday, Movieplot was reporting on a wave of anti-patriarchal indignation rolling across social media. A sample:
Eliza Thompson at Cosmopolitan wrote:
There is absolutely no reason why there can’t be new characters added to account for the lack of women in the original trilogy and the newer trilogy.
Annalee Newitz at IO9 quite elegantly wrote:
Myths are powerful things, because we learn who we are by telling stories. When are we going to let little girls and kids of diverse races have fantasies as powerful as those given to white boys?
Here’s the rub. Wednesday also saw a second announcement from Lucasfilm indicating that a second female cast member was yet to be revealed. This proves noteworthy not just in light of the backlash over too few women in the cast, but because previous casting rumors indicated a very different direction than Daisy Ridley. The Huffington Post expounds:
Daisy Ridley appears to have nabbed the role that at one point had Lupita Nyong’o in talks with director J.J. Abrams, as she and Carrie Fisher are the only actresses announced for the movie. More recently, British newcomer Maisie Richardson-Sellers was also reportedly tied to the part, which was described as a “young black or mixed-race woman who may be a descendent of Jedi Knight Ben Kenobi.”
What if HuffPo has it wrong? What if the role Ridley secured was different than the one Nyong’o and Richardson-Sellers were considered for? With “Star Wars Day” approaching on May 4th, are we about to see confirmation of a young black woman in the next Star Wars?
If so, this could be one of the most brilliant viral marketing moves seen in a while. It would have been preconceived to exploit the knee-jerk reactions of progressive culture warriors. Intentionally release news of a male dominant cast. Get the headlines from the announcement. Foster buzz from social backlash. Then announce a black female cast member days later, on a Sunday no less, and dominate Monday with a fresh set of headlines. If someone’s doing this on purpose, they’re a Jedi master of earned media.
Director J.J. Abrams is well known for playing elaborate tricks on fans as part of his marketing of projects. Could he be the force binding this scheme together?