The Acolyte: Review bombing hasn't stopped the show becoming a Star Wars success story

Whether for racist, sexist, or just plain hateful reasons, online trolls have been particularly harsh on The Acolyte. But that hasn’t prevented the series from becoming a Star Wars success story.
Mae Aniseya (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Mae Aniseya (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, season one, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

The Acolyte boasts a widely diverse cast, which could be why some on the internet felt the need to bomb the show with negative reviews just as it began streaming on Disney+. The two leads are Amandla Stenberg, a young African American actress, and Lee Jung-jae, a South Korean actor. With Stenberg primarily standing in the forefront, people claiming to have watched the show took the opportunity to spread vitriol ideas, with a common argument sounding like "this is not what Star Wars is supposed to look like".

Stenberg has been disrespected for being both African American and a woman. And this is not the first time she has been the victim of hate for a role she brought into the spotlight. Over ten years ago, racists who had read the Hunger Games novels fumed over the fact that she was cast as Rue in the movie. Aside from the fact that these are fictional characters in imagined worlds where skin color should never be a part of discussions about faithful adaptation, clearly these people were not paying attention since Rue was described as dark-skinned in the text.

These are probably the same people who come out of the woodwork any chance they can to voice their ideologies. Sure, a small percentage could actually be Hunger Games fans or have watched the original Star Wars trilogies many times, but real enthusiasts for the material care about compelling stories and character development.

And most importantly, Amandla Stenberg is absolutely spectacular in The Acolyte. Her dual role on opposite sides of the force is played with thoughtful measure that add to the complexity of her two characters, while also examining the foundation of the Jedi Order. It is her best performance since The Hate U Give.

Andor didn’t receive this much hatred for featuring Diego Luna, who hails from Mexico, while Ahsoka starred the mixed-race Rosario Dawson. And the biggest Star Wars show of all, The Mandalorian was led by Pedro Pascal, who is also Latino, although his face was hidden for almost the entire series. All of these shows were not review bombed like The Acolyte, so this specific outbreak of negativity aimed toward The Acolyte for starring an African American woman is pointedly racist toward her exact ethnicity.

Fortunately, the hateful rhetoric is drowned out by The Acolyte proving to be a hit show. Although viewership numbers are subordinate to the actual quality of the show, it is still an essential part of industry criterion and is especially an effective counterattack against review bombers.

Variety reports that The Acolyte reached 4.8 million views on its first day on the Disney+ platform and the show was watched 11.1 million times within five days of its release. Even though that may fall short of Ahsoka, another female-led Star Wars series, these figures prove that The Acolyte is easily Disney+'s most popular show of the year.

And in recent weeks, the show has continued to perform well. Luminate still has The Acolyte in the top 10 most streamed series for late June, behind shows like Bridgerton and The Boys. This is further evidence that angry discourse about The Acolyte is not commonly recognized by a majority of people who like and watch Star Wars. Real fans have learned to ignore online chatter and just enjoy the high-quality entertainment.

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