The image of a black character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been shrunk on a poster promoting the movie in China. Though many Internet users have criticized the poster, analysts say they believe the change has nothing to do with racism.
The image of John Boyega, a 23-year-old British actor, was in a central position in the English-language poster, but it has been moved downward and shrunk to a much smaller size in the Chinese version.
Images of other characters, such as Mexican-Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o's CGI alien and Oscar Isaac's fighter pilot, were also totally removed from the Chinese poster. The minimization of the black character's prominence in the poster has drawn widespread criticism for what many on social media have called "racism."
"Since the poster is merely a promotion method and an individual case, it would be unfair to criticize Chinese audiences for discriminating against the black actor," Chen Qiuping, head of the scriptwriter branch of the Beijing Film Association, told the Global Times Monday.
Neither the film's producer Lucasfilm nor its distributor Disney could be reached by the Global Times for comment as of press time.
Some foreign fans took to Twitter to share their concerns, with one calling the poster "profoundly wrong."
Others held the opposite opinion. As one Twitter user said, "It's simply not the same picture, and there's no political or commercial reason for it at all."
"As a multi-ethnic country, there is no discrimination against black people in China. On the contrary, Chinese people and Africans have maintained a friendly relationship," Steven Dong, professor at the Communication University of China's Academy of Media and Public Affairs, told the Global Times on Monday.
The Force Awakens, the seventh installment in the Star Wars film franchise, will be released in Chinese theaters on January 9, 2016, while the movie is set for worldwide release on December 17.