Life lessons from The Empire Strikes Back [part 8]: Lando Calrissian

2010/07/28

As the final act of this seminal movie began, it had one more surprise in store: Lando Calrissian, the First Black Man in Space Opera, played by Billy Dee Williams.
Wouldn’t you know, though: the first black man we see in Star Wars is, initially, an ANGRY black man. How stereotypical is THAT?
LANDO (to Han Solo): “Why, you slimy, no-good, double-crossing swindler. You’ve got a lot of guts coming here…after what you pulled.”
Of course, Lando’s anger turns out to simply be ruse to play a joke on his old friend (and, as it happens, only the first ruse of many).

That cape's so stylish yet manly.

At nine-years-old, I remember having tremendously conflicted feelings about the first Star Wars character that looked like me. On the upside:
  • He was successful. No angry thug here; Lando was witty, smart and sophisticated. The wonderful thing about the casting of Williams for this part was that nothing about Lando says he needed to be black.
  • He wore a cape and wore it well. I hated when he lost the cape later.
  • He used to own the Millenium Falcon, the coolest spaceship in the galaxy, before he lost it “fair and square” to a white man. (Is there a subtext here?)
  • He was slick and resourceful. He came through in the clutch when it counted.
The downsides, though?
  • He was a womanizer. He was constantly trying to steal Han’s girl!

(So what if I wanted to do the same thing?) 😀

  • He was a betrayer. This, of course, was the big thing. He sold out his old friend to Darth Vader to save his own skin!

Hey. That's not Sidney Poitier!

After the powerful lessons in loyalty that Han Solo demonstrated earlier in the film (discussed in part 3), this event really earned Lando my hatred.
.
It was quite uncomfortable hating the first Star Wars character who actually looked like me. But this and subsequent scenes began to reveal a powerful life lesson embodied in the character of Lando Calrissian: People, things and circumstances are rarely what they seem on the surface. Look deeper.
Next: What I REALLY learned from watching the First Black Man in Space Opera. Hope you’ll join me for another trip down memory lane.
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One Response to “Life lessons from The Empire Strikes Back [part 8]: Lando Calrissian”

  1. L R S Says:

    Hey Khari,
    After reading the installments of your series, I see a (what’s the word?) fantastic story-writer, orator, weaver, literary illustrator, specialist of writing and thought-smith that keeps the reader on the edge of the seat and looking toward the next installment. I want to encourage you to continue to develop it in different settings from current events to historical events to future-casting to letters-to-the-editor to columns you call your own.

    Your writing is a talent you have been blessed with and you have done a good job of developing it. I never knew your 9-year-old views of Star Wars movies and others. Quite a revelation.
    Pops


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