By Kelly Lynn Thomas
Disney’s announcement that The Mandalorian season two would begin airing on October 30 sparked a new round of discussion and speculation about what awaits our heroes. Entertainment Weekly gave us our first sneak peek, hyping up season two even more.
And then Gina Carano sent out some problematic tweets (cw: COVID-19 denial) urging churches and businesses to open up despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She also criticized Black Lives Matter protestors (cw: racism) and liked several transphobic tweets making fun of people who put pronouns in their Twitter bios.
A few days later, she said she’d spoken with Mando co-star Pedro Pascal (cw: transphobia) about why people put pronouns in their Twitter bios, and said she understood and supported trans people, but proceeded to add “boop/bop/beep” after her name, as if they were her pronouns.
Fans are outraged, upset, and genuinely hurt by Carano’s poor attempt at a joke (if that’s indeed what it was).
Before I go any further, I want to take a moment to affirm that COVID-19 is very real and very dangerous. We don’t yet fully understand the long-term effects of this virus, and we’re a far cry from having things under control here in the United States. Carano’s tweets to the opposite are irresponsible and dangerous.
Trans rights are human rights, and Black lives absolutely do matter. While property destruction is unfortunate, property can be replaced. The many lives lost to police brutality cannot be. Black trans women are among those most susceptible to hate crimes and violence.
Carano’s statements have caused real harm to real people, and she owes her fans—especially her Black and trans fans—an apology.
Until and unless she does apologize and make efforts to do better in the future, we’re back to the age-old question of what to do with art we like when we discover the problematic views and actions of its creator.
Should we boycott the second season of The Mandalorian? Should we refuse to buy Cara Dune toys? Should we retire our Cara Dune cosplays? Or is it okay to continue liking and relating to Cara Dune as a character while denouncing Gina Carano’s actions?
Stories are powerful. Some let us escape our problems and worries for a while. Some help us discover who we really are. Some help us engage in the world around us. Some help us realize that as humans, we’re all more alike than we are different. The best ones leave a lasting impact long after we watch the last episode or turn the final page.
The Mandalorian, and Cara Dune’s arc in particular, is one of those stories that reminded me of who I am, and what I stand for. It’s a story that empowers us to do the right thing, even when doing the right thing is hard, or nearly impossible.
Cara Dune’s story and character resonated with me immediately. I’ve never had the poise or grace of Princess Leia, or the unbridled enthusiasm of a young Luke Skywalker. I sometimes struggle to find hope in desperate situations, but I’m never willing to give up the fight, even when all seems lost. I’m stubborn, and sometimes rough around the edges, but still care about my friends and family with ferocity. I’ll follow the rules if they make sense and serve the greater good, but when I feel the rules are detrimental, I will absolutely break them.
It’s always disappointing to discover a favorite actor, author, director, or other creator holds views that directly contradict our own morals and ethics. We can feel betrayed or hoodwinked, like the artist pretended to be someone they weren’t by creating characters we related to. We might no longer be able to watch or read something we previously found much joy or solace in.
We can’t fully separate the artist from the art. Cara Dune is a character that exists apart from Gina Carano, although it was Gina Carano who first brought her to life. The two are inextricably linked now, but that doesn’t mean Cara is Gina, or that Cara holds the same views her actor does.
In fact, I’d argue that Cara Dune would be in the streets protesting police brutality and marching for trans rights if she happened to live on Earth instead of a Galaxy Far, Far Away. (What’s more, she’d march right alongside John Boyega, whose treatment and experience as a Black man in Star Wars provides further evidence that we still have a long way to go.) And that’s part of the reason Carano’s recent statements are so disappointing.
There are so many great Star Wars characters that I love: Hera Syndulla, Leia Organa, Mara Jade from the Legends EU, and so many more. But I see myself reflected most clearly in Cara Dune: my strengths, my flaws, the constant questioning my place in the world, the strength I project to hide my hurts.
I don’t want Gina Carano’s hateful statements to take that away from me, and the many other fans who’ve connected with this character.
I—and all of Project Stardust—vehemently disagree with Gina Carano’s stance on the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and trans rights. We think she’s wrong, and what she’s said is harmful and contrary to Star Wars’s message of hope, peace, and fighting injustice. We don’t believe Cara Dune would agree with her.
But even though Star Wars is fictional, it’s a big part of our lives and has an impact on us in the real world. I want to see more of Cara Dune, but not at the expense of the safety and well-being of the most vulnerable folks in the Star Wars fan community.
If Carano is at least having conversations with her cast mates about these issues, perhaps she will learn, grow, and do better in the future. A big part of Star Wars is personal growth, after all, and if Darth Vader can redeem himself, Gina Carano can, too.
Until she does, though, we each have to decide for ourselves how comfortable we are with Cara Dune, and how much we’re willing to engage with that character in light of her actor’s actions.
For myself, I’m still excited to see what happens next in The Mandalorian, but I’m also going to provide extra support for trans rights and Black Lives Matter. I’ve already donated to The Geeky Waffle Network’s fundraiser for the Transgender Law Center. I also purchased a t-shirt, and look forward to sporting trans rights Baby Yoda for the premier of Mando season two!.