The Acolyte’s Amandla Stenberg claps back at Star Wars trolls

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+.
Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. Credit: Christian Black/Christian Black / Lucasfilm Ltd.

Star Wars’ Amandla Stenberg is absolutely not having it.

The actor is the lead of the new Star Wars series The Acolyte which has come under sustained attack by online trolls. And she has hit back in song.

The series has a staggering 14 per cent audience mark on Rotten Tomatoes, a stark contrast to the series’ 85 per cent critics score. On IMDb, it has a score of 3.4 out of 10, where 57 per cent of its ratings have been one-star.

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The review bombers have even accidentally targeted the wrong title, a 2008 movie called Acolytes which received a flurry of one-star audience reviews this month before they were removed. Its audience score dropped from 42 per cent to 33 per cent.

While some of the criticism have been good faith arguments against The Acolyte’s pacing, plotting or lore, many have taken issue with what the perceive as the filmmakers’ agenda to inject diversity and inclusion into its narrative universe.

The Acolyte (2024) - Star Wars series that takes viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic era.
PICTURED: Amandla Stenberg in The Acolyte (2024)
Amandla Stenberg plays dual roles in The Acolyte. Credit: Lucasfilm/Lucasfilm

Star Wars fans are particularly vociferous and has shown a tendency to gatekeep what they argue is the “soul” of the franchise. The Acolyte has the most diverse cast of leads for a Star Wars project to date.

The series was created by a woman, Leslye Headland, Stenberg is African-American and the other leads of the series include actors of Asian backgrounds, the Korean star of Squid Game, Lee Jung-jae, and Canadian-Filipino actor Manny Jacinto.

The Acolyte is set 100 years before the Skywalker stories and is about twin sisters who both have the Force.

Stenberg wrote and performed a song that directly addresses the trolls, posting it to Instagram with the caption, “Happy Juneteenth and to those who are flooding me with intolerable racism – since it took me 72 hours on my laptop to make this song and video, u got 72 hours to respond. And I expect choreo!!”.

Juneteenth is a holiday in the US celebrating the end of slavery in 1865.

Among the lyrics to Stenberg’s song were, “My sis said don’t let it get down my spirit, but I’m sick and f**kin tired of suppressing my rage, 400 years of taking their bulls**t, to compartmentalise like my ancestors had to encage, if you don’t confront the pain that you live with, it’ll manifest as addiction disease and hate, I’ve seen the infection repressing can give you, I’m not going to be the next one sent to an early grave”.

Stenberg also referenced a clip of an appearance she made on The Trevor Noah Show in 2018 that has been taken out of context and misrepresented as something she said about The Acolyte.

THUG-012 - Amandla Stenberg stars in Twentieth Century Fox's THE HATE U GIVE. Photo Credit: Erika Doss.
Amandla Stenberg in The Hate U Give. Erika Doss. Credit: Photo Credit: ERIKA DOSS/20th Century Fox

The video shows her saying to Noah, “White people crying actually was the goal”. She gave the line as part of the promotional tour for her film The Hate U Give, a teen drama about racial injustice in which she played a high schooler who witnesses the death of a friend at the hands of a police officer.

When she said “white people crying actually was the goal”, the context was about audience reaction to the film which aimed to humanise the black community to white viewers.

“I’m going viral on Twiter again, open up the news to find some interesting things, 20 million views, interview from 2018, with Trevor the king when I was a teen, I was running from city to city to speak on a story, you know the one, police murdering a black boy.

“My people cried in theatres, white people cried they could see us as human beings, Trevor asked what I want the people to know, I say white people crying was the goal.”

Review bombers and trolls frequently target genre shows and movies which feature leads or stories from marginalised communities. The latest Doctor Who series which stars Ncuti Gatwa, a black LGBTQI actor, has an audience score of 32 per cent versus the critics score of 97 per cent.

Other titles that have been review bombed include Marvel projects Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel, She-Hulk and the current season of The Boys.

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