Welcome back to Digital Debate Wednesdays! Every Wednesday, the staff of The Ace of Geeks will get our keyboards ready for a good, old fashioned nerd argument, and you get to hang out with us! Feel free to email us any ideas you might have for future debates. Until then, here’s this weeks topic:

The Saturn Awards announced their 2016 nominations last week, and it caused a bit of an uproar. While Daisy Ridley was nominated for Leading Actress for The Force Awakens, John Boyega was nominated in the Supporting Actor category. After listening to the fans complaints, the Saturn Awards changed the nomination and moved Boyega to the Lead Actor category. So your question is a two part one: a) Is the part of Finn a lead character? b) Did the Saturn awards do the right thing?

Ellie Collins: I think they did the right thing, Finn is a leading character absolutely. Though hey probably felt that since Rey had heavier focus that she was lead and he was supporting. It’s not that often when you see two lead actors that they both be nominated. And the people doing the nominations seem like they might not be the biggest geeks if they think this, which if you go off trailers and advertising, I can see how he could be perceived that way.

Either way, they did the right thing in changing it.

Nick Bailey Jr. : I think Finn and Rey were the leads. We were discovering and following their stories, as they intertwined with the rest of the relatively large cast. So, yeah, they made the right move.

Joe Hadsall: Wait, Luke Skywalker wasn’t a lead? Nyuk nyuk nyOW OW OW OW STOP HITTING ME OW OW NOT THE HAIR OW

  • Mike Fatum: *thinks about it. Continues hitting.*

Teresa Loesch: Here’s the thing: I would have said he was a leading role before this whole fight. Finn’s character changes as much as Rey’s.

I don’t know about changing the nominations, though. Obviously they put thought into launching it as they did, and it doesn’t seem as much that they were persuaded by clever arguments as they were buried under angry responses. Don’t show weakness, or the fandom screamers will descend like a plague of locusts on your fields.

Mike Fatum: I think Finn is definitely, 100% one of the leads in the film.

I can also see why you would think he wasn’t. While I don’t subscribe to the theory AT ALL that Rey is any sort of “Mary Sue,” the film’s focus is definitely more about her journey than it is about Finn’s, to the point where Finn’s major heroic moment is going to rescue Rey.

Katrina Smith: I think Finn is definitely, 100% one of the leads in the film.

I can also see why you would think he wasn’t. While I don’t subscribe to the theory AT ALL that Rey is any sort of “Mary Sue,” the film’s focus is definitely more about her journey than it is about Finn’s, to the point where Finn’s major heroic moment is going to rescue Rey.

Luke Farr: I’d be interested to see a breakdown, but by estimation I’m pretty certain Finn easily had as much screen time as Rey. Personally, I’d consider him a second lead.

Joe Hadsall: Sounds like the Saturn Awards had to deal LESS with whether Finn was a lead and MORE with defining what a lead actually is. Finn was definitely not a McGuffin; he earned his spot in all the posters and commercials. Why Boyega was a supporting character at first, I don’t know.

Here’s a question: How did the Saturn Awards handle nominating lead actors when “Return of the King” was up?

  • Mike Fatum: Looks like Viggo Mortensen and Elijah Wood were nominated for Best Actor, while Ian Mackellan, Andy Serkis and Sean Astin were nominated in supporting.
  • Joe Hadsall: Then I would argue that Saturn Awards corrected a mistake in this year’s awards properly.

Raven Knighte: I saw the cast as more of an ensemble. There is more than one story there, and they all combine into the main storyline. At least, that’s how I saw it. Having said that, if it had to be changed then it should have been changed because it was a wrong thing – not simply because people complained. There should be an actual, definitive and justifiable reason for a change. If they made the change because they agreed that it was wrong, fine. But if it was a simple PR thing, well… nut up.

Ben Worley: I’ve heard some people say that this starts a whole different conversation on why a film can’t just have a single female lead, especially in a huge franchise like Star Wars. I get what you’re going for here, but that argument can also be said of a Black man. I mean, #OscarsSoWhite JUST happened.

So as much need as there would be for a lone female lead, there absolutely is one for a Person of Color as well. One of the reasons it’s important to me that they’re both seen as leads.

Malkontent Blizzard: My opinion is that if he qualified as a lead from the beginning then its bad optics, potentially insulting to Boyega, and a possible reason for an audit. If he didn’t then bending the rules is also bad optics and I personally would feel like a pity case if it happened to me.

Ellie Collins: Been thinking more and I think I can see from the story aspect that Finn isn’t a lead… Yet. Bear in mine at this point, we’ve only seen 1/3 of the story. This section of the story very much focused on Rey and told her story. We know a LOT about her in this one film, and still know next to nothing about Finn. He did some great things, but the story very much focused on Rey. So I say, in film terms, Finn is a Principle, but he’s not a Lead.

Ben Worley: He has almost exactly as much screen time as Rey, so… whatever they chose for Rey.

Now, Poe. THERE’S a supporting lead bordering on Extra.

  • Ellie Collins: Truth, I love Poe but he was BARELY there. And unfortunately screen time =\= lead. It’s often based on story focus.
  • Ben Worley: *googles googles*

    Huh. Ellie is right. All right, then I guess it’s more ambiguous than I thought. But I still think Finn’s a lead.

  • Ellie Collins: Such is the case with Frodo and Aragorn being called leads but Samwise wasn’t despite sharing almost exactly the same amount of screen time as Frodo, and more than Aragorn. But LotR focused on the stories of Frodo and Aragorn.
  • Ben Worley: While what I’m about to say couldn’t possible be more of a tangent, I want to point out something:

    Samwise Gamgee is the most noble and beautiful soul in fiction and an absolute role model to everyone. Gah, such a freaking great character.

    Mmm… so tangent-y.

  • Ellie Collins: I agree, he’s still not a lead despite having a ton of screen time.

Joe Hadsall: As this is evolving, I’ll clarify my positions:
~ Finn is definitely a lead character. I think Saturn goofed initially by nominating him under Supporting Actor.
~ As for the shift, my opinion is fluid based on how Saturn made its nominations. If Saturn recognized that Boyega should NOT have been nommed for Supporting (Mortensen and Wood got actor for “Return of the King”), then the shift is a good correction and I applaud Saturn for having the courage to fix it. Grammys have to live forever with giving its first hard rock Grammy to Jethro Tull over Metallica. But if Saturn cow-towed to political pressure or fear, then that’s disappointing, and sets a disturbing trend for the future of the awards.

Mike Fatum: Ok, so I have a hypothetical side question here. I’ve done some research, and as usual for the internet, a lot of the fans pushing for Boyega went straight for death threats against the organizers of the Saturn Awards. If (and this is not confirmed at all) the nomination was changed due to these death threats, how does that change your answers?

Justin Rhodes: Jesus, people. Death threats? Get a hobby.

Ellie Collins: That would change my opinion in two ways. One hand, I respect the decision and respect Saturn for doing what they think would help keep their employees safe.

On the other hand, I disagree with letting that dictate the show because it creates a wiiiiiide gateway for others to dominate them and control their show.

Malkontent Blizzard: The death threats made it a no win. And in a no win I respect them leaning towards safety.

Teresa Loesch: Whether Finn is a Lead or Supporting character is in no way worth dying for. In no way.

Even in some noble world where this was about principles, etc., asking any event organizer to bet their life on their awards show categories is cruel and terrible. The morally right course of action is to capitulate and not risk yourself over fictional characters’ placements in a movie.

Joe Hadsall: If the threats are real, then security needs to be involved, not nomination changing.

Teresa Loesch: You can die on whatever hill you want, man, but obviously they felt differently. This is the Internet. Is the convention going to pay for security on the organizer’s houses 24/7? On their families? Etc etc.

Every threat is a credible threat when you have no reason not to believe that angry nerds will doxx you and people you love.

…I just found out the awards actually take place on a hill. Thank you, Life, for lending impact to my dramatic euphemisms.

Joe Hadsall: I get what you’re saying, Teresa. But there’s been some good points being made about the drawbacks of cow-towing to terrorist-like demands. I note that Charlize Theron is up for Best Actor instead of Tom Hardy, and that point might bother Gamergaters — and inspire them next year.

Again, I think Boyega played a lead, and the Saturns goofed there. But if the only reason Boyega was shifted was because of threats, then the award doesn’t mean as much. The Saturns should have lived with that goof and left it alone.

Melissa Devlin: I’ve read this whole thread while trying to understand the impact as I hadn’t heard of the Saturn Awards before. I imagine this is bringing them a lot of attention, good and bad. So now people will know who they are. Yay?

I don’t think this will make them a laughing stock. The Oscars are more of a joke at this point. But we’re missing a point. Whether or not Boyega is supporting or lead in the minds of fans doesn’t matter as much as the furor rose to death threat level. Seriously? Death threats over a nomination? Not even an actual win, but a nomination? That is ridiculous. Did Saturn do the right thing by giving in? It depends how seriously they took those threats.

When gamergate was huge, Felicia Day hesitantly weighed in, stating her fear that as a woman commenting on gamergate she would be targeted. She was doxxed within hours. It’s easy to say don’t let the mob win, when the mob isn’t targeting you.

Personally I don’t think Boyega was lead, screen time doesn’t make you lead. Story focus makes you lead. And that film had only one lead. I hear from a reputable source, even people involved in making the film back Rey as the only lead. But in a literary world Boyega would still be considered a main character. And I think that’s where the frustration and confusion lies. People understand the concept of main characters when it comes to books. But films are different and use different tools to weave a tale. I think this is the result of a mob response to a basic lack of understanding of film lingo.

Katrina Smith: The death threat information makes me more inclined to say no, they shouldn’t have changed it, but I’m also not dealing with a death threat personally, so.

Mike Fatum: That might be the most prescient point. We’re not the ones being threatened, so what the heck right do we have to say anything?


Mike Fatum
Referred to as a God Among Men, the Greatest Man that Ever Lived, and That Dude Over There…No, The Dude with the Long Hair and the Goatee…Yes, That Guy, Mike has grown up being known and loved around his apartment. In addition to being a successful film director and editor, he loves video games, movies, comic books, board games, and his wife and cat. He’s been friends with Jarys for over a decade now, and they started hosting a radio show together on college that became the genesis for the Ace of Geeks Podcast. When he realized he had so many talented friends who could write, the Podcast became an entertainment website, and here we are.

One thought on “DIGITAL DEBATE WEDNESDAYS: Is Finn a Lead Character?

  1. Bit disappointed with the coverage on this. No mention of the fact that Harrison Ford as Han Solo was given the lead actor nom over John Boyega initially (and still has that nom now), nor about how Disney themselves consider Boyega the lead actor on their awards consideration page or how the Saturn awards have actually spoken with the organisers of the protest to explain their decisions.

    I was disappointed in another way to hear about death threats, for obvious reasons, so I googled different queries and looked through the twitter and facebook feeds to see if I could find any examples, and I couldn’t find anything. So without knowing if this was an actual thing that happened, it feels like something that just derails the conversation for the last half of it.

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