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Why Kelly Marie Tran Was Harassed By Star Wars Fans on Instagram
Star Wars, a forward-thinking franchise that’s iconic for its diverse, colorful vision of the galaxy, has always been orbited by an Asteroid Field of obsessive fans with strong opinions. But with the reboot of the franchise has come a new, more dangerous type of Star Wars fan.
Kelly Marie Tran, who portrayed the scrappy Resistance hero Rose Tico in The Last Jedi, silently left Instagram this week, following a shameful harassment campaign mounted against her by whiny neckbeards from the very vocal minority of Star Wars fans who do not agree with the progressive ideals set forth in the refreshingly inclusive, emotionally-nuanced film.
Since the earliest promos for The Force Awakens, members of this testosterone-fueled community have flooded the internet with their regressive criticisms that Star Wars seems to no longer be a white male-led franchise. In spite of virtually every movie in the new Disney iteration of the series being headlined by white actors, with white men dotting out almost every frame of the films, many fans feel that there is a “social justice warrior” or “liberal” conspiracy within the new Star Wars films—and it’s no surprise that this level of unrest has come about only when Kathleen Kennedy, a woman, has stepped in to be the new president of Lucasfilm. These fans were especially, as they would say, triggered by Tran’s character in The Last Jedi, namely because she is a) an Asian-American of Vietnamese descent, b) a woman, and c) not the Hollywood female body type.
A barrage of extremely sexist, racist, and downright disgusting discourse unleashed across social media is a lightsaber-bright indicator that many Star Wars fans simply no longer understand Star Wars.
Following a barrage of extremely sexist, racist, and downright disgusting discourse unleashed across all major social media platforms, the trash compactor of bullshit that’s swallowed up Kelly Marie Tran is yet another example of the rising current of hatred and discrimination in our culture—and a lightsaber-bright indicator that many Star Wars fans simply no longer understand Star Wars.
Perhaps inspired by the internet-born movements like the Alt-Right, the “manbabies,” as Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has called them, have gathered on sub-reddits and social media forums on every dark corner of the web to organize and let their “silenced” voice scream across the internet like a raging Tie-Fighter on the brink of destruction.
The abuse ranges from tiresome petitions on Change.org to blatant discrimination, such as on the Star Wars Wikipedia (Wookieepedia) entry page for Tran’s character, which Huffington Post reported had been revised in December of 2017 to read, “Ching Chong Wing Tong is a dumbass fucking character Disney made and is a stupid, retarded, and autistic love interest for Finn. She better die in the coma because she is a dumbass bitch”
When Kathleen Kennedy took over Star Wars back in 2012, she successfully revitalized an irrelevant franchise, breathing new life into a series that had been long deemed obsolete after the problematic failures of the early 2000s prequel trilogy. Her new vision for the franchise, which by no means is revolutionary, at least brought the blockbuster films into the modern age, pulling the reins away from tired, masculinity-obsessed, circuses of violence like Transformers or Clash of the Titans, and ushering in a refreshing sense of uplifting, inclusive values to the big screen.
But despite The Force Awakens’s unprecedented success at the box office, a positively stunning film hailed by audiences and critics alike, the manbabies felt forgotten. Longtime Star Wars fans who may have seen themselves in the negative, anarchic recklessness of Luke Skywalker—or the smug, dickhead antics of Han Solo—felt the new franchise alienated white men from their new mission statement. And thus, they sounded off, on every outlet available, saying the new films have a “racial agenda,” unleashing laughable Twitter campaigns such as #BoycottStarWarsVII, with now-suspended accounts like “@DarklyEnlighten” tweeting hateful messages such as “The new Star Wars movie…barely has any whites in it. It’s all muds.”
It may seem surprising that a cartoonish space franchise like Star Wars could get so absorbed into the tractor beam of our ever-agitated socio-political divide, but in a time when the term “social justice warrior” is considered an insulting thing to call a progressive-minded person, it’s only natural that a series founded on the principle of forward-minded thinking could fall victim to regressive neckbeards.
When George Lucas released A New Hope in 1977, his shaggy, death-to-fascism blockbuster blew a Death Star-sized hole in a deeply divided culture that was still grappling with aftershock of Richard Nixon, the Civil Rights movement, women’s liberation, and Vietnam. Similar to the then-unresolved existential slog of the Vietnam War, Lucas’s original vision for the series depicted a world that had been at war for what felt like forever. The corrupt establishment ruled the galaxy with a metallic first, and it was up to a group of young, desperately hopeful rebels to overcome the Empire and smash the establishment to space-dust.
Part of why Star Wars is so prescient again today is that most of these 1970s-era issues have resurfaced at the top of our nation’s political Sarlacc Pit.
Part of why Star Wars is so prescient again today is that most of these 1970s-era issues have resurfaced at the top of our nation’s political Sarlacc Pit. Today’s political climate is just as agitated, with the Trump administration ushering in an era of new Nixonism riddled with masculine-oriented, fascist notions that are deeply troubling for those of us who care about basic human values.
When Princess Leia kicked ass and stunned Stormtroopers in A New Hope, she swung the movement of second-wave feminism along with her. Luke Skywalker was a Hippie, an alternative type of sensitive male hero that boldly deflected the stubborn shortcomings of traditional macho heroes. Even Ewoks, for all their toy-obsessed frivolity, represented a minority rebellion that was downright furious to be heard.
Star Wars has always, always, been deeply political.
The Last Jedi, especially, saw a return to form for the franchise, because, like A New Hope, the film itself reconsidered what it means to be a blockbuster epic. The values of the nearly half a century-old series desperately needed a re-assessment; what may have been progressive in the 1970s is certainly not revolutionary today. And thus, by expounding on the grey zones of the Empire and the Rebellion, and exploring the failures of the aging war hero Luke Skywalker, director Rian Johnson upended many of the boring traditions that the franchise had been recycling for decades.
While many of the internet crybabies have decreed The Last Jedi a horrendous desecration at the altar of cinema, the numbers do not lie. The film was a major success, garnering over a billion dollars in box office profit, earning positive reviews from nearly every major publication. The Last Jedi worked because it believed in the good of its audiences, it treated us like intelligent viewers, and didn’t cater to the whims of an ever-flailing group of men hysterically clinging on to their crumbling masculinity.
The entire phenomenon is reminiscent of the ending scene from the mediocre Revenge of the Sith, when Obi-Wan is forced to come face to face with his former ally, the now-fascist-leaning, emotionally stilted Anakin Skywalker. The wise old master meets Anakin on the lava planet Mustafar, begging him not to align himself with the new authoritarian government, who has corrupted the republic into thinking the Jedi—a colorful, diverse group of monk-like protectors of peace—are now the galaxy’s greatest threat.
Obi-Wan says, “Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil!” To which Anakin responds, “From my point of view, the Jedi are evil!” Drifting across the river of lava as if swirling into the depths of hell, Obi-Wan responds, “Well then you are LOST!”
George Lucas never had too much tact for dialogue, but in the case of Star Wars fans who are desperate on reducing the values of the franchise back to the Stone Age, his words sure feel relevant today.