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Entertainment

Would a Jedi Boycott Star Wars?

Star Wars Boycott, Disney Boycott, Solo

The numbers are in and Solo, the newest entry in the Star Wars franchise, is floundering. The opening weekend earnings were a meager $103 million globally, after two weeks it only managed $264 million. I know that seems like a lot of mullah, but it’s a far cry from the approximately $400 million price tag to make and market the film.

These earnings are especially humbling when you consider that the other three Star Wars films Disney has released since it acquired the franchise have had all earned at least double at the same point in their run (The Force Awakens was at 1.86 billion, Rouge One had made 523 million, and The Last Jedi garnered 748 million). Around 70% of the film was reshot when the studio decided to switch directors midway through the production, driving up the cost and make Solo the most expensive Star Wars film to date.

So what happened? I mean Star Wars is the franchise that invented film franchises. Along with Jaws it invented the summer blockbuster. No Star Wars movie should ever be a flop.

Franchise Fatigue

Some people have suggested Star Wars fatigue; Solo is only coming out five months after The Last Jedi. I think this seems unlikely as Marvel Studios puts out three films a year, all of which are financial juggernauts (Their two newest films, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity Wars have both been out for less than five months and are both among the top ten highest grossing films ever).

Memorial Day Release Date / Oversaturated Cinemas

Others have suggested that the Memorial Day weekend has become a treacherous weekend for films since almost every film released during that weekend underperforms. There may be some truth to that, but at the same time, this is Star Wars, people plan their lives around seeing Star Wars movies. That also doesn’t explain the dour turn out internationally as Memorial Day is U.S. holiday.

Some have suggested that movie goers had already had their early summer blockbuster needs met by Disney’s own Avengers Infinity War and Fox’s Deadpool 2, both hotly anticipated, and both fresh in theaters when Solo opened. This definitely had an effect. I can’t comprehend why Disney would engage in friendly fire by releasing two movies from their biggest franchises right next to each other (soon to be followed by more friendly fire from another huge franchise, Pixar’s Incredibles 2).

Why did Disney not keep their regular December release for Star Wars. Statistically summer blockbusters released in December do much better than any other film. Just look at the top three grossing films ever, Avatar, Titanic, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens; all three are summer blockbusters, all three opened in December. This also would have helped fight against that whole Franchise Fatigue argument.

Fan Boycott

I think this argument holds the most weight. The Last Jedi, released last December, was highly divisive. Half the fans (myself included) really enjoyed it. Half the fans absolutely hated it. It’s so divisive that it’s come to the point where I can’t even have a nuanced discussion with my friends about it.

This lead to a lot of fans calling for a boycott of Star Wars. They are upset about a lot of the decisions that Disney/Lucasfilm was making, both storywise and businesswise. I enjoyed Solo, but I agree with most fans that no one wanted the movie made, it was an attempted cash grab on Disney’s part.

There’s a part of me that really appreciates a fan boycott. Let’s show these massive studios that we, the consumers of their products, are not mindless sheep who will blindly consume any product they throw at us. But there’s another part of me that saddened, because while I appreciate the boycott, I can’t help but feel that it’s for the wrong reasons.

A better reason to boycott

You see, as much as I want to see amazing Star Wars movies that blow my mind and fulfill all my wildest dreams, at the end of the day, it’s just a movie. Every Star Wars film, as much as they tap into the cultural zeitgeist and define generations, is just a movie.

Regardless of if the movie is good or bad, it isn’t really going to change anyone’s life. But something that will change people’s lives, on a daily basis, is how the company that makes those movies, Disney, treats their employees.

Something that’s been bothering me for a while now is the reports on how poorly the company treats its employees. A survey of Disneyland employees conducted in February 2018 found that a large majority of Disneyland employees struggle to make ends meet. Here are just a few of their findings:

  • 73% say that they do not earn enough money to cover basic expenses every month such as food, gas, and rent
  • 11% of Disneyland Resort employees report having been homeless – or not having a place of their own to sleep – in the past two years
  • 68% of Disneyland Resort workers are food insecure
  • Among Disneyland Resort employees with children who pay for child care, 80% say they cannot make ends meet at the end of the month, 79% are food insecure, and 25% say that they are unlikely to be able to pay for housing that month.

Not only that, the company is currently engaged in some shady tactics when it comes to negotiating with unions. After Trump’s tax cuts passed in November – effectively granting Disney $1.6 Billion in extra profits last year – the company announced that it would give $1,000 bonuses to 125,000 theme park workers. However, the company is now using those bonuses as a bargaining chip to force 36,000 unionized workers to accept lower wagers in a contract negotiation.

Disney has the resources to pay fair wages

These statistics come in the face of Disney posting record high profits. This is partly to do the tax cuts, as previously mentioned, but is largely a result of the company’s strategy of buying all their top competitors (Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, Fox). The result is greatly expanded merchandising opportunities and ever increasing profits.

The same survey listed above stated these facts about Disney:

  • In the decade from 2007-2016, Disneyland’s attendance grew 21%, ticket prices grew 59%, and revenue grew 98%.
  • It would require only 5.7% of park revenue to raise the wage floor for Disneyland workers to $20.
  • In 2018, Disney CEO Robert Iger’s authorized compensation will equal the total pay of 9,284 Disneyland workers. It will make up 86% of the gap between the current wage and an equitable wage for Disneyland workers
  • If the wage floor for Disneyland workers is raised to $20 an hour, Mr. Iger’s authorized compensation for 2018 will still equal the pay of 5,348 Disneyland workers

Boycotting Disney as a whole

I’ve always had fond memories of Disney growing up. They made fantastic, inspirational movies and going to the parks with friends and family was always a magical experience. I still love most of the movies they make and just want to see more. But in the face of such disparity between sky-high profit and three quarters of employees struggling to make ends meet, I find it difficult to justify giving money to Disney, no matter how much I like the movies they make.

But why boycott Star Wars? If your issue is with the treatment of park employees then you should boycott the parks.

That’s true, but I, along with most people, don’t regularly visit the theme parks. In fact, I haven’t been to one in about a decade. I can’t boycott a service I already don’t consume. But I can boycott the other parts of the company that I do interact with.

I’m a bit of a hypocrite because I definitely paid to see Solo and Avengers: Infinity War, and I probably will pay to see episode nine. But otherwise I haven’t gone to see a Disney Movie since Captain America: Civil War. I don’t buy any merchandise (I do own a Star Wars shirt and socks, but those were gifts). I’ve tried to minimize my contributions to the company, though sometimes I do break down against my better judgement (I mean, it’s Star Wars).

Star Wars is about escapism – Let’s not make it political

One critique I commonly see levied at The Last Jedi is that it was too political. People want to go see Star Wars because for those two hours they can forget about all the atrocities in our world and just watch the good guys take on the Evil Empire (and win!). Political and social issues shouldn’t be in Star Wars cause it ruins the illusion.

But I disagree. Star Wars has always been political, if less overtly. Luke’s insistence that Vader could be redeemed despite the countless evils he wrought on the galaxy taught me that good is always worth fighting for. Han’s transition from lowlife smuggler to galactic hero inspired me. Lessons I learned from these movies are part of the reason I want to stand up for what is right.

So if we’re going to boycott Star Wars, let’s do it for the right reasons. Not do it because they made one movie that half of us disagree with, but because their parent company neglects its employees. Let’s stand beside the little guy against the overwhelming might of the Imperial Mouse Empire. When you get right down to it, it’s what a Jedi would do.

2 comments
  1. Max Matheson

    Well written Trav, those stats are uncomfortable and surprising. Homelessness, food insecurity, and barbed bonuses? C’mon. I don’t attend their theme parks either but have paid for movie tickets and feel in some small part contributory to their unethical behaviors. Will I see Solo? For sure. Will I pay for it? Probably not.

    1. Travis Garner

      Hey Max,

      Thanks for the comment. I agree that the stats are uncomfortable. The thing is, I really, really like so much of Disney’s stuff and always have, but I’m becoming so conflicted whenever it comes to giving them my money nowadays. They’ve become a behemoth in entertainment and with their strategy of buying up all the competition they are just becoming stronger. And stronger companies just have more power to do as they will 🙁

      Glad you liked the article 🙂

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