On Nov. 11, Rogue One writer Chris Weitz launched a barrage of anti-Donald Trump tweets that mirrored what many in Hollywood had posted on social media in the wake of the presidential election.
But several messages took the crusade further, injecting the new Star Wars film into a divisive political debate: “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization,” wrote Weitz. Added fellow Rogue One scribe Gary Whitta, “Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.” Both men changed their avatars to a Rebel insignia with a safety pin, a reference to the symbol of solidarity with persecuted groups that has spread following the election.
Responses offered a predictable split between cheers for the activism and jeers toward Hollywood liberals. What Disney and Lucasfilm might not be thrilled about is that a Trump “Empire” versus Hillary Clinton “Resistance” narrative might alienate the 61 million-plus voters who backed the real estate mogul — a group too large to ignore when a company is in the tentpole business. By wading into polarizing waters, might the Rogue One writers hurt its box office? That’s a question being asked all over Hollywood.
“When you’re trying to get a big movie out, you want to be as agnostic as possible. You want to be able to appeal to everyone irrespective of their political beliefs,” says comScore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “If it’s a Michael Moore movie, go for it. Or Dinesh D’Souza. Then your currency is controversy. But if you’re producing something for the masses, your currency is not controversy. It’s get the movie out to the broadest possible audience.”