I’m not Resistance. I’m not a hero. I’m a Stormtrooper. Like all of them, I was taken
from my family I’ll never know. And raised to do one thing. In my first battle, I made a choice. I wasn’t going to kill for them. So I ran, right into you. You looked at me like no one ever had. I was ashamed of what I was. But, I’m done with the First Order. I’m never going back.
— Finn to Rey in Maz’s cantina in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I know that the Star Wars fandom – both the dudebro hubs and the supposedly feminist and progressive parts on Tumblr and Twitter – is racist as shit, but I still can’t believe the audacity of people calling Finn a coward and demanding he be killed off as like… a form of progressive protest on his or Rey’s behalf.
In her article “Star Wars: The Last Jedi Could Have Been Better If This Character Had Died” author Alessia Santoro goes above and beyond in order to “prove” that The Last Jedi would have been a better movie if only for one death – that of John Boyega’s Finn. She does so, of course, by completely crapping all over his character, problematizing his behavior and, wishing for his death because that’s the only possible way for him to matter to her.
Despite the fact that she – and many other members of the Star Wars fandom – claim that they really do like the character, there’s no bigger sign of disliking a character than by wanting them dead.
It doesn’t matter how you attempt to cover your steps or how vehemently you claim that they’re your favorite character: if you want them dead, your claims of love are definitely suspect.
As it stands, wanting the only Black character in this current Star Wars trilogy to die for any reason is definitely a sign that you don’t give a damn about him. And by you, I mean the members of fandom that make posts like Santoro’s (only not on pretty well-read websites) practically demanding that Finn die because “it would just make more sense” for Finn to die and get redeemed.
What exactly does Finn need redemption or a redemption arc for in the first place?
Many people who seem to think Finn needs redemption all his own don’t seem to know anything about Finn himself. They seem to think that him just being a part of the First Order at the start of the film is grounds for a redemption arc that eventually ends in his death.
Within the first few minutes of the film, Finn shows himself to be different from the other Stormtroopers. He immediately appears to begin trying to find a way to stop being a Stormtrooper and he never kills for the First Order.
Unlike Kylo Ren (who has embraced the First Order’s ideals and gladly kills for them and for the heck of it), Finn is a young man who was kidnapped, forced, and brainwashed into being a soldier for the First Order from a VERY young age. He’s a person who, when faced with the violence that the First Order wants to enact in the name of grasping at power, rejects it.
Finn literally never does anything wrong (unless you’re one of those weirdos that thinks that he robbed the First Order of a valuable resource – himself –by defecting or that he’s the worst character in the film because he doesn’t tell a bunch of strangers that he’s a former First Order soldier) and yet, folks are out here demanding death by redemption arc?
Save that shit for Kylo Ren, please.
In the beginning of The Force Awakens, Finn is already questioning the rules of the First Order. He’s already feeling as though the organization that raised and trained him is more interested in power than in peace and he doesn’t like it. The senseless death of his squadmate (not his friend) in the start of the film literally serves as an awakening that jolts him free of the brainwshing.
Furthermore, in Greg Rucka’s Before The Awakening, we see the period of time right before The Force Awakens, and in one scene when Finn and his team are sent on their first mission, this happens:
“Have you considered our requests? The human asked.
“I have given your request the thought it deserves.” Phasma looked at FN-2187 and the rest of the fire-team. “Kill them.”
Nothing happened for a moment, no movement, not a word, as if everyone – the negotiators and cadets alike – was unsure of what he’d heard.
Then Slip opened fire.
Then Zeroes, then Nines. FN-2187 raised his rifle to his shoulder, his finger on the trigger, and saw the Abdenedo in his sights. He saw his wide eyes and all his fear, and in that instant he saw a life full of suffering that was about to end, and he told himself that perhaps what he was about to do was a mercy. Still he couldn’t pull the trigger.
In the end he didn’t need to.
Slip did it for him.
Across the junior novelizations and the regular ones for The Force Awakens, Finn is seen as a character who does the right thing because that’s just who he is. He refuses to kill innocent beings who’ve done nothing wrong except get in the way of the First Order’s goals.
And yet, from our PopSugar author to an EW article claiming that “Finn is redeemed by Rose” to the folks across the internet who claim to love Finn in their posts, fandom just seems to think that if Finn died, only then would he finally be doing something to make up for his very existence.
However, that’s not something anyone is asking of Kylo Ren.
If Kylo Ren gets a redemption arc, fandom demands that he not only live to the end, but that he get a happy ending. Additionally, huge portions of his fandom are actively hostile to the idea of Kylo Ren not getting a redemption arc and ignore the fact that he doesn’t deserve – or want — one.
Now, in her article, Alessia Santoro makes it clear that she doesn’t actually care about Finn (the same way that much of fandom doesn’t care about him), writing that
“Let me first mention that, in general, I wasn’t the world’s biggest Finn fan after seeing both The Force Awakens and the first three quarters of The Last Jedi. I’m not not a fan, but for me, there are other characters who satisfy my hero itch (and my eye-candy itch — hello, buff Kylo Ren).”
Santoro goes on to call him “low-key obsessed with Rey” and essentially write off the character because of it. (Meanwhile… Kylo Ren exists and he has yet to have an interaction with Rey that wasn’t creepy or boundary-pushing. The fact that Santoro actually makes this about how much hotter and heroic she finds the TRILOGY VILLAIN is a major red flag about her priorities – almost as much as her writing a whole ass essay about how much she wishes Finn had died a noble death for some fucking redemption arc she thinks he needs.)
Now, I know plenty of fans that aren’t too fond of the fact that much of Finn’s character development revolves around Rey and their relationship. The difference between them and Santoro, is that they’re tired of seeing a Black character with a promising character potentially be reduced to a white lady’s puppy (kind of like how Eka Darville’s Malcolm follows Jessica Jones around on her show).
Many of these Star Wars fans are Finn fans and they’re Black on top of that. They’re dissatisfied with Finn’s story and want him to do other things – like start a Stormtrooper uprising or train with Luke to become a Jedi in his own right.
But again, that’s not what this is.
Santoro’s response to a dissatisfying storyline for Finn – her desire for him to die and redeem himself for god only knows what reason – isn’t limited to her alone. Across the internet, Star Wars fans who should have “I’m not racist” tattooed to their foreheads have been rushing to write screeds about how Finn just needs to die because he’s not doing anything, because they think he’s useless, and the like.
Wanting Finn to die because he focuses too much on a white woman (that Santoro and others probably ship with Kylo) is new-ish, but no less racist. With vivid language, Santoro describes how she didn’t care about Finn until the moment he could die, writing that:
Finn was about to, for the first time, do something for the Rebel cause that made me truly respect him and his character — something that yes, would ultimately help Rey, but this time, the Resistance as a whole was put first, not just Rey’s life. It’s not like I wanted Finn dead, but if he had to die, this was certainly the most noble way to go (and not to mention would be an instance of one of our beloved heroes actually dying in the middle of a huge fight, instead of always narrowly and conveniently dodging death). His bold act would have completely redeemed him from what, in my mind, was a period of selfish actions and decisions solely in favor of Rey’s survival.
I’ve said it before, but fandom doesn’t give Finn the same empathy that they do Rey and Kylo. It never has and it never will. They actively wish for his death, practically falling over themselves to make his death out to be something just and good that should have happened. They erase his heroic nature, his strong will, and how much he cares about his friends in order to paint him with nasty phrases that don’t reflect him at all.
In fact, folks in fandom literally give Kylo the empathy and understanding that they should be giving Finn – often while turning Finn’s goodness and his devotion to Rey into a bad thing (because she’s such a boss that he’s a secret misogynist or because it’s somehow creepy of him to care about the person who’s basically his best and first friend).
In her article, Santoro literally does the fandom thing. Especially at the end where she paints him as a selfish character who only cares about Rey’s survival. (Like that’s a bad thing or something that renders him unsympathetic when you have Kylo “Attempted and Successful Parent Killer” Ren running around the same film and repeatedly trying to kill, brainwash, or otherwise harm Rey.)
Where’s the empathy?
Where’s the critical thinking?
At the start of The Last Jedi, when Finn is “running away” and winds up being stunned by Rose Tico, he’s actually trying to save his best friend. He’s trying to make sure that Rey won’t return to a trap, a floating war-zone where the Resistance – something that he never actually claimed to be a part of – is losing. Because that’s what best friends do.
And somehow, his intent doesn’t matter.
But, why am I surprised?
A whole bunch of non-black people in the Star Wars fandom have made it perfectly clear that their claims to love (or at least, not loathe) Finn are just lip service. They’ve made it perfectly clear that they see him as an inconsequential minor character whose character arc doesn’t matter because it’s either too much about Rey or not enough about Rey.
People like Santoro made it clear that they’re not going to give a shit about his actual characterization, not when they can make shit up and make Finn out to be a useless character in the process.
Finn doesn’t need redeeming or a redemption arc, but he does need a better (and less racist) fandom that doesn’t hide its racism behind crap like this.