I woke up today to the news that Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, has deleted all of her Instagram posts, most likely due to cyber bullying due to her being 1) a woman, 2) an Asian, and 3) an Asian woman who had the audacity to star in a Star Wars film.
Since Tran removed her posts, we have no idea exactly what kind of abuse she received or if it was one particular insult that led her to this decision, but the Internet did save some of the vitriol aimed at her and her character:
That was the Wookiepedia page for the Rose Tico character. Or, at least it was after a cunning cyber bully got done with it. Charming, isn’t it? That is the kind of angry edit that only a self-important, self-entitled toxic fan could write.
And how does this type of toxic fan react to Tran removing her Instagram?:
— S🆙RÉME LE🅰️DER JERRŸ (@smemeishfish) June 5, 2018
It’s working. It’s working. Let’s all celebrate because the racist and sexist bullying is working.
It makes me be ashamed to be a Star Wars fan.
Complaining about the Star Wars franchise has been a tradition amongst fans for decades. Get a group of hardcore fans of the franchise together, you’ll likely to hear complaints about, but not limited to: Ewoks, the inexplicable popularity of and untimely death of Boba Fett, the Special Editions, Greedo Shooting First, Han stepping on Jabba’s tail, the Ghost of Hayden Christensen, the prequels, Jar-Jar Binks, Boss Nass, the untimely death of Darth Maul, midichlorians, Jake Lloyd’s acting, Haden Christensen’s acting, and “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!”
Star Wars fans take a special kind of ownership over the franchise. You’d be hard pressed to enter the home of a fan and not only see multiple copies of each film on their shelves and copious amounts of ephemera around the house, ranging from T-shirts to table wear. Dialogue from the films enter their personal lexicons. They march down the aisle to the sounds of The Imperial March. They name their children Luke and Leia. And they feel a sense of ownership over the films that have been a part of their lives since they were kids.
Having that kind of attachment to a set of films is not bad in and of itself, as long as you don’t seriously believe that Disney owes you anything for buying everything that has the words “Star” and “Wars” on them. And being critical of the franchise is fine, as long as it comes from a place of logic and intelligent criticism. But those places do not exist any longer, at least not in a magnitude that it once did. We now live in a world where whoever shouts the loudest, wins. A place where bullies rule the day. Where calling a whole nationality racists and murderers is okay and forcing yourself on a woman is supposed to make people like you more. And that is not a shot at Trump. The problem began before he took power and isn’t reserved to just Alt-Right Trolls.
In 2015, Fox News correspondent Katherine Timpf received death threats after she Tweeted that she “wasn’t familiar with Star Wars because I’ve been too busy liking cool things and being attractive.” When she complained about it on Fox New show Red Eye, calling those Star Wars fans “crazy,” rape and mutilation were added to the threats against her.
But the misogyny and racism really picked up steam with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Kathleen Kennedy was painted by right-wing fans as a “Social Justice Warrior” trying to promote a “feminist agenda” by having Rey, a “Mary Sue,” a female protagonist that can do no wrong, as the star of the new trilogy and casting people of color such as John Boyega and Oscar Isaac as an attempt to cram cultural diversity down fans’ throats. The “feminist agenda” criticism gained more steam when the next film released, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, also featured a female protagonist.
But things exploded with the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Now in their minds, the “feminist agenda” kept them from getting the Luke Skywalker they have been waiting 35 years for. Because Luke’s story didn’t play out the way they wanted, these unctuous few went into attack mode. Multiple petitions were started to get Kennedy fired. Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson was called a “cunt” and told to kill herself because she wrote a piece complementing the gender politics of the film. Death threats were sent director Rian Johnson‘s way. And. of course, months of harassment aimed Kelly Marie Tran culminating in her deleting all entries on her Instagram account.
To any rational person, to anyone with half a soul, this type of behavior is disgusting. But to this group of He-Man Woman Haters, the ends justify the means. To them, they are in the right, and the sexism and racism, the threats and insults, are what they need to spew in order to get what they want. And, as we see above, they believe their plan is working.
But is it? Is it really? What did the months of harassment of Tran gain except for forcing a 29-year-old actress to give up a means to communicate with her fans? Do they think Disney is going to fire Kennedy because Tran had enough bullying? Do they believe Tran will step down from the role and it not be recast with another Asian actress? They set up these false accomplishments to delude themselves that their repugnant behavior is actually having an effect on the Star Wars franchise.
They claim their rigging of The Last Jedi‘s audience score caused it to make less money than The Force Awakens, when really it probably was that the latter drew more people in due to the curiosity factor of seeing the original actors back in the franchise again, whereas the follow up didn’t. They claim that Solo: A Star Wars Story‘s troubles at the box office were due to their calls for a boycott when it was more likely due to the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the production scaring viewers away. Because when it comes down to it, these guys aren’t that powerful. If they were, they wouldn’t have to rely on threats of violence to make themselves seem powerful.
One likes to think that the people who harass and threaten violence are a small yet vocal minority drawing attention to itself. As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But we must remember that the squeaky wheel isn’t a good wheel, it’s a broken one. It is a broken wheel that should be removed so the vehicle it is attached to can work better. If you see this subsection of the fandom spreading their venom and negativity, counter act their harassment with positivity. If they are slinging rape and death threats on social media, report them to the moderators of the platform they are on. Let them know that such behavior is not acceptable and that their threats will not work. Because Star Wars is not theirs exclusively to ruin. It belongs to all of us.