Filmmakers steal ideas all the time. Even if not on purpose. Every storyteller does. George Lucas wanted to make a Flash Gordon film before he couldn't get the rights and went ahead with his own story--Star Wars. It shouldn't be much of a surprise that his story, a space fantasy designed like an old serial would bear some resemblance to Flash Gordon (even if this film ended up taking long to get made, remember, characters in Flash Gordon. Which is another reason I'm still sad that Prince Thun was just a black guy with a big hat instead of a furry lion man. I mean, if Lucas could have Chewbacca, Hodges should have been able to have a more visually interesting Prince Thun. And, a Prince Thun with a bigger part of the story. And maybe he could be applauded at the end of the story, and Chewbacca could get a medal along with Luke and Han (or maybe every pilot who survived that assault on the Death Star should have gotten an award, not just the MVP(s)). We've got moons here and planets over in that Star Wars galaxy that have nice neat descriptions. The Forest Moon of Endor, Arborea; Hoth, Friggia; Sky City, Cloud City. And characters with such straightforward roles. The hero, the princess, the rogue, the evil wizard.
We could've used Prince Thun the black man with the big hat (if we couldn't have the lion) as an important role. I mean, sure he rebels in his final moments, but he is defeated easily, killed with his own weapon. Growing up at the time this movie came out--so many movies could've use more racial diversity, more woman with more power. Leia has become a symbol of feminism but she doesn't really do that much more than Dale Arden here, and would anyone call this version of Dale a symbol of feminism? I don't think so. In the 70s, there were blaxploitation films and plenty of cop films that managed to have lead characters who weren't white, but there was a time in the 80s when every action film had a white guy as the lead, because of course. And, when there was a black guy near center stage, he was paired up with a white guy (or two)--Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop, Running Scared...
Meanwhile, I'm being raised in a church that threatens interracial couples with being disfellowshiped. Being told that the world is coming to an end and we're all going to go spend time with white guy Jesus and his white guy father. And, buff (and not so buff) white dudes are beating the bad guys on the big screen and I am loving it. It's such easy fantasy--that a lone good guy (or a small band of them) could beat the worst of bad guys, no matter what. It might take a few films, but it would always work out. And, it was (I assume) never deliberate that the hero was always the white guy; that was just Hollywood writers writing what they knew, Hollywood directors directing what they knew. Systemic racial bias built on the backs of a (supposed) white majority that was (and still is) used to being in charge. I mean, you call someone white supremacist today and, on the one hand, it's assumed that you mean they are actively seeking to put down all other races, that they are deliberate and conniving. But, it's simpler than that, too much simpler actually; white people, white Americans, white American males--we got to be in charge for so long (or we think it's so long because our country is the upstart adolescent who thinks it knows everything) that when anyone was allowed to have some rights or some power, we felt threatened. And, far too many of us seem to think that feeling threatened means that we are threatened. Far too many of us want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, you know, like it used to be in the 1950s, when white folks were in charge, women knew their place in the home, and black folks knew their place in the poor neighborhoods or outside of the city, or working for us so we could pretend we still had slaves. It's such a damaged, psychically and psychologically fucked up place, this country of ours. Stolen from natives, built with slaves, and now everybody wants a piece of the pie, and so many uneducated assholes cannot imagine that the pie might actually have gotten big enough for everybody.
So, they elect Ming the Merciless, basically. He demands tribute from the various tribes. He believes in nepotism, except when it suits him not to. He destroys the lives of other people for fun. And, he keeps a harem of drugged women and thinks that it's love when he touches them without permission because what the fuck does he know about genuine connections with other people, really? I mean, you can destroy Sky City and expect no uprising from the Hawkmen, you can throw paper towels at Puerto Ricans whose island has been devastated by a hurricane and proclaim yourself a hero. You can openly comment about your daughter in a sexual manner. You can kill those who are insubordinate, and demand that everything be rewritten to your specifications (which are too damn simple to be exacting). You can demand the audience at your wedding be merry and threaten them with death. You can claim your inaugural crowd set records. You can call nazis good people. You can demand that football players stand or execute them for making a scene at your tribute party. And, you still get to be in charge.
You still get to be in charge because half the white men think you're wonderful and half are too scared to storm your palace, even when you destroy (or allow to be destroyed) their homes.