Examining the differences between theatrical posters promoting the same movie in different countries can be illuminating. For instance, a glance at any poster from Poland teaches us that Poland is a horrifying dreamscape peopled by hideous mutants screaming in agony. The Japanese Age of Ultron poster would have audiences believe that the superhero tentpole is secretly a heartfelt family drama about a confused-looking Jeremy Renner who spends two hours ensconced within a warming group hug. But with the recent discovery of some rather pointed alterations made to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster’s Chinese version, these international differences have gone from eliciting amused “hmmm”s to cries of outrage.
There are a few differences between the two posters; Kylo Ren has turned to face the viewer, BB-8 has moved to the fore, and both Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron and Chewbacca have vanished entirely. But one edit in particular seems to have been made with an unsavory intention. As the main character of the film, John Boyega originally enjoyed a prominent placement on the domestic-release poster. In China, however, he’s been made tiny and hidden in the central splash of characters, with some ascribing the graphic redesign to Chinese audiences’ resistance to an actor of color in the lead. Take a look at both posters below in a side-by-side comparison first posted by British Star Wars fan, Guy Lambert:
Lucasfilm has yet to make a statement of any substance on behalf of their Asian distributors, though John Hsu of the Walt Disney Company China has offered, “We are thrilled to bring Star Wars: The Force Awakens to China on January 9. We’re excited to be rolling out our marketing campaign and to connect with new fans in China through Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It can sometimes feel like insidious racism is a distinctly American thing, but xenophobia is still rampant in Europe (as we’ve seen, tragically, in recent weeks), Asia, and the rest of the globe. Even if he lands a starring role in the biggest movie of the millennium, a black man still can’t catch a break in this business.