UnWhiteWashTBB

Nessa

The Star Wars fandom is crash-landing into the next installment of Star Wars animation: The Bad Batch. Unsurprisingly, there has been a great deal of excitement surrounding the upcoming fulfillment of the gap between The Clone Wars and the events of Rebels, Rogue One, and the Original Trilogy. 

Fans of the animated series (and fans of the clones) are thrilled to see more of the aftermath of Order 66, both from a clone perspective and from outside of a clone perspective. I’m among those fans, so I’ve often found myself scrolling through tweets and tags on social media, soaking up whatever information and news I can find on the rapidly approaching series. It was during one of these casual explorations that I came across a hashtag that gave me pause:

#UnWhiteWashTBB

Whitewashing refers to the action of overwriting the presence, culture, artistry, stories, and other features of non-white individuals, fictional or otherwise. This includes casting white individuals in non-white roles in media, using whie actors to voice people of color, or using art to make people of color appear whiter than they are. Generally, it refers to the erasure of people of color to make them fit a white standard. 

In this context, whitewashing refers to problematic issues in the appearance and presence of the Bad Batch clones in comparison to other clones in Star Wars, including portraying them as distinctly whiter than other clones and emphasizing that they perform better than the average clone.

As a white person, I am well aware of my own blind spots when it comes to diversity and inclusion. My skin color gives me privilege, and I will always have room to grow—which is why I chased the thread to learn more about what this hashtag was about. 

As I learned, the effort continued to gain momentum. I found the hashtag popping up among the artists I follow on Instagram (even in the more isolated community of pin collecting/making) and the discussion surrounding the whitewashing of the Bad Batch (and clones in general) continued to grow. 

I followed the trail to Tumblr and found that the tumblr blog clonehub functioned as the primary source for this push to correct representation in The Bad Batch. The first informative post I discovered was as follows:[1]

Notably, clonehub points out some of the particularly problematic features of the Bad Batch clones, which I briefly indicated above. They point out that the Bad Batch is “a group of genetically altered men who all have a series of ‘desirable mutations’ that sets them apart from other clones” and that their mutations include lighter skin and altered physical features that make them appear more like white men. Clone troopers are based off of Temuera Morrison, a Māori man, but clonehub notes that the clones are portrayed with increasing whiteness, which is noticeable even with Boba in the episode “Deception” of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.[2] Clonehub is an astounding resource regarding the whitewashing of the Bad Batch, as well as clones in general, and I highly recommend reviewing their blog for more education and information. 

Personally, the information offered here was a revelation to me. I hadn’t considered these issues myself. I hadn’t seen the red flag over the links between the behavior of each Bad Batch member and the darkness of their skin. I had been unaware of the deeper ramifications of these alterations to the Bad Batch clones on the whole and what it insinuated when these Bad Batchers were compared to “regs.” 

I’d been aware that the design of the average clone also faces significant scrutiny, but I learned even more about the pervasiveness of these issues as I explored the resources provided by clonehub. Notably, clonehub has established a carrd to share the essential details of the movement to unwhitewash the Bad Batch and explain the concerns of fans. The carrd from clonehub states:

“Unwhitewashing the Bad Batch had been a concept for a while—right when the story reels for The Bad Batch were released and everyone saw how whitewashed they were. Lots of fanart depicts them with proper dark skin and dark brown/black hair.”

Accordingly, there has been a great deal of fan effort to correct the designs of the Bad Batch to more accurately reflect expected appearances. For example, the tumblr user nibeul (they/them) has produced a series of designs to more accurately represent the Bad Batch as men of color, including adding more dynamic features to their personalities and introducing potential negatives to their advancements. Nibuel has taken up a broad artistic effort to reclaim the Bad Batch from the missteps made in their design, including this particular example:

“(shares n stuff are VERY appreciated!!!) The Bad Batch but Nibs is in Control This is my formal “f off” to Disney and those models because what the rutting hell are they doing?? I don’t even know where to start but it’s bad and I’ve decided I’m not gonna deal with that. @quillandink_ig have spent a bit brainstorming and I’m currently trying to get drafts together, but in the meantime, here are my redesigns for Crosshair and Tech (I’ll do the others later since I didn’t want to stay up all night finishing these). Tech gets to swear on a regular basis to make up for how much this fandom infantilizes him, if y’all have infantilization tendencies, leave them at the door, thank you.”

Nibeul has also redesigned other members of the Bad Batch and the new character Omega on their Instagram profile, detailing their process behind redesigning the Bad Batch both in terms of appearance and personality. Other artists have also pursued taking the design of clones to greater levels of accuracy in terms of making them look like Temuera Morrison and look their age, such as jaymesdraws (Jaymes, he/him) on Instagram. Jaymes has edited a series of screenshots to adjust the appearance of several clones, making them look more true to their age and more true to a Māori appearance, including the following edit of Hunter

It’s undeniably enlightening to see the ways in which different artists approach and correct the disparities between how the clones are designed in canon and how they would be more accurately representative of the individual they are genetically cloned from. 

Seeing these stark differences and the startling contrast between the clones and what would be considered a more accurate representation of them as men of color can be quite shocking, particularly when privilege blinds us to the issue. Having explored this hashtag and the movement surrounding it, it’s no longer surprising to me that there is pushback against the designs of the Bad Batch themselves, which deliberately seem to deviate even further from looking like Jango Fett and, by extension, looking like Temuera Morrison. 

But it isn’t just their appearance that is questionable—clonehub points out that even the voice actor for the clone troopers contributes to their whitewashing. On the carrd built by clonehub, they point out the issues of the clones being portrayed by Dee Bradley Baker and, notably, the accent he uses to portray the clones, explaining that“Māori fans have expressed dismay and disgust at what is essentially someone mocking how they speak…” and comparing the use of this accent to a poor attempt at an African American Vernacular English accent.[5] By having a white man portray these men of color, the clones essentially become caricatures of the Māori man they were based on. 

By taking these characters of color and essentially overwriting their distinctive features or sieving them through a white lens, Star Wars: The Clone Wars loses crucial diversity and representation. Clones are undeniably men of color. Whitewashing their appearance and their portrayal ultimately undermines what the clones stand for both in the Galaxy and in the real world as a piece of media.

More pointedly, in taking these overtly whitewashed clones and positioning them as somehow better than “regular” clones, the message becomes all the more damaging: being better goes hand-in-hand with whiteness. 

The effort to un-whitewash the Bad Batch continues to gain traction, and discussions regarding the problems and the solutions for correcting the whitewashing of clones in Star Wars media hold strong. 

Creative fans have taken up the effort of fixing and filling in the gaps where canon material has failed, and I have seen the inclusion of people of color in Star Wars expand beyond the clones, with artists and other creators addressing other appropriations in Star Wars media. The fandom, as ever, makes an effort to hold creators accountable and correct missteps and mistakes (though we hold out hope for a day where those corrections won’t be necessary). 

Clonehub remains an excellent resource for insight, discourse, and education on the effort and on clones in general. The movement to un-whitewash the Bad Batch has also become linked with a give-back effort for the Ngāti Kahukuraawhitia, a Māori people, in New Zealand. Ancestral land has come up for sale and the Ngāti Kahukuraawhitia has been collecting donations to help them buy back this land. 

The GiveALittle site can be found here, should you wish to contribute or donate. 

I wish to extend my gratitude to clonehub for initiating this effort and organizing information and insight in a way for others to educate themselves (including myself) on this issue for a better understanding. I also wish to give my gratitude to the artists I spoke to and the artists I have seen contributing their skills, their time, and their creativity toward providing new designs for clones and the Bad Batch in a way that shows both their differences and their shared culture and identity. 


[1] clonehub. Tumblr, “#UnwhitewashTBB: I’m making a post here because there is a small amount of traction…” April 1, 2021 (9:30 PM). https://clonehub.tumblr.com/post/647314285431832576/unwhitewashtbb

[2] Star Wars: The Clone Wars, 4.07, “Deception,” directed by Kyle Dunlevy, aired January 20, 2012, on Cartoon Network.

[3] nibs (@nibeul). 2021. “(shares n stuff are VERY appreciated!!!) The Bad Batch but Nibs is in Control…” Instagram photo, April 2, 2021. https://www.instagram.com/p/CNK5PXGsRPr/.

[4] jaymes (@jaymesdraws). 2021. “Well, people didn’t seem too happy about the last edit that I did!…” Instagram photo, April 6, 2021. https://www.instagram.com/p/CNUBb-PFxZg/.
Another version referenced in an earlier version of this article: thatfunkyopossum. Tumblr, “I have attempted to edit hunter…” April 3, 2021, 10:43 PM. https://thatfunkyopossum.tumblr.com/post/647500119357423617/i-have-attempted-to-edit-hunter-i-forgot-to-save.

[5]  clonehub. Unwhitewash The Bad Batch. https://unwhitewashthebadbatch.carrd.co/#abttbb.

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