Disgruntled fans have made no secret of their distaste for The Last Jedi, the latest installment in the Star Wars universe. Indeed, it’s one of the few blockbusters to invert the audience-critic gap (meaning critics liked the movie more than audiences did), and some fans have even gone so far as to create a petition asking Disney to strike The Last Jedi from the official Star Wars canon. But one brave soul took it a step farther, uploading a self-described “chauvinist cut” to Swedish torrent website Pirate Bay on Sunday. In a perversely impressive feat, the “de-feminized fan-edit” cut the 152-minute film to a mere 46 minutes by deleting, in the words of the creator, “most shots showing female fighters/pilots and female officers commanding people around/having ideas.”
What exactly does that mean for a movie that features more top-line women than any other installment in the Star Wars franchise? Well, for one, Laura Dern’s character Vice Admiral Holdo is entirely cut from the film. Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) loses any semblance of character development, which is fitting considering that she’s only referred to as “Asian chick” in the description of changes that accompany the edit. Additional “improvements” range from petty gestures (changing “General Leia’s resistance fighters” to “resistance fighters” in the opening credits) to sweeping cuts that fix supposed character flaws (making Rey “more graceful” and Kylo Ren “more badass and much less conflicted and volatile”).
Effectively what we’re left with is a hollowed-out shell of a movie that even the anti-woman creator knows is barely coherent. In fact, they tell their viewers, “You will probably enjoy it most when you view it less as a blockbuster movie and more as some kind of episode from some non-existent mediocre Star Wars series.” High praise!
Of course, fan edits of movies aren’t anything new. One of the more famous examples turned a struggling filmmaker into a cult hero when he put together an unauthorized edit of The Phantom Menace using a rented VHS copy of the movie. Another condensed the entire Peter Jackson Hobbit trilogy into one movie. And one, for unknown reasons, combines American Psycho, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Machinist into one long movie called Bateman Begins. Generally, these remakes are the product of simmering resentment against a director’s vision or sheer boredom. Sometimes, as in the case of the “Chauvinist Cut,” they’re political statements from the editor channeled through the original material.
But it’s worth remembering that politics cuts both ways and that these remakes aren’t all created to assuage the wounded egos of men’s rights types. One series of politically motivated fan edits, created by actor and writer Dylan Marron, clips together the scenes from popular movies where nonwhite actors speak. More often than not, videos in the “Every Single Word” series last less than a minute of the movie’s run time—and smashing all the one-sided rejoinders revolving around the main white cast together generates an incoherence all the more jarring.
The longest is a little more than six minutes and it encompasses all seven movies in the Harry Potter franchise. Classics like E.T. and Titanic clock in at nine and 55 seconds respectively. Her lasts for 45 seconds. The longest video for a single movie is Juno, clocking in at just less than a minute and a half, and features two of Juno and Bleeker’s classmates and two unnamed characters, one an ultrasound technician and the other a nurse. In the 12 hours and 45 minutes that encapsulate Nancy Meyers’ prolific career, people of color speak for a total of 5 minutes and 23 seconds. Ten of the 30 characters of color in her films are named. Nineteen work in the service industry.
Marron’s series participates in a debate that dominated headlines around the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, but it extends beyond a baseline critique of representation. It takes direct aim at not only the dearth of roles available to actors of color but also the quality. As Manohla Dargis wrote of the series in the New York Times, “What Every Single Word underscores is that the roles often available to nonwhite performers—think of the ubiquitous black friend, the Latina waitress and the Asian storekeeper—are often little more than casting tokenism.”
These bit parts speak less to the ability of people of color and more to the fundamental absence of empathy that lies at the heart of these movies. What Marron shows is that the worldview from which these movies operate is itself incomplete. The fact that Nancy Meyers and Steven Spielberg and James Cameron are able to so cleanly excise people of color from theoretically universal narratives is its own form of incoherence. To reduce the lives of people of color down to less than minute is a fan edit of reality, one that cuts down the rich tapestry of our experience into three-second lines and sassy smiles. And to see that happen over and over again creates a dissonance between the lives we see ourselves lead and those that are portrayed on screen.
In a way, “Every Single Word” and the “Chauvinist Cut” are in conversation with each other. The Last Jedi and the impossible task that sad, anonymous editor took on demonstrates how essential diversity is in film—without the women, and without the characters of color, without Finn and Poe and Rose, the narrative is largely lost. And this extends outside the theater: cutting people of color from history, from pop culture, from our societal narrative, leaves it incomplete and lackluster, a pale imitation of the world, rather than the rich blockbuster of reality.