'You know the difference between not liking a movie and hatefully harassing a woman so bad she has to get off social media. '
Star Wars actress Kelly Marie Tran is a ray of sunshine and she’s always put a massive grin on our face, from the way she adorably cried with joy at the premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi or geeked out on her Instagram about meeting other celebrities (the same way we would TBH). Well, you’re going to find that the latter have all disappeared as the Vietnamese-American actress has left social media after months of racist harassment.
Fandoms are a great and terrible thing, however Kelly found herself facing down the worst parts of the fiercely passionate Star Wars fandom who relentlessly attacked her on Twitter and Instagram. Kelly, who played an idealistic mechanic called Rose Tico in the latest Star Wars film, was the first woman of colour to play a leading role in the franchise.
However after the film was released last December, she was harassed by some fans for her ethnicity and gender. Her character’s entry on Wookieepedia, a leading Star Wars online encyclopedia, was edited by a user and the changes were absolutely disgusting. Her name was changed to ‘Ching Chong Wing Tong’, was referred to as ‘stupid, autistic and retarded’ and the entry was completely changed, which can be seen here.
The user wrote, ‘She better die in the [sic] coma because she is a dumbass bitch.’
The entry was later restored and the comments wiped.
Yesterday, Kelly deleted her Twitter account and wiped all her posts from her Instagram account which is still active. Her Instagram bio currently reads, ‘Afraid, but doing it anyways’.
While Kelly hasn’t actually confirmed if she deleted her accounts because of the abuse, it wouldn’t be the first time the Star Wars cast has faced a similar situation. Back in 2015 when black cast member John Boyega was announced as Finn, racists began circulating the hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII – however they were quickly drowned out by a wave of messages protesting the movement.
Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the series, also shut down her Instagram account after posting a message about gun violence in America with the hashtag #stoptheviolence. Pro-gun fans began slamming her with harassment, leading Ridley to delete her Instagram account. Her Facebook page remains active, though she eventually deleted the cross-posted gun violence message.
Many stars have since come out in defence of Kelly Marie Tran and Star Wars director Rian Johnson, who came out swinging on Twitter. He implied her social media abusers were ‘manbabies’ and also spoke about the fanbase.
He responded to a now deleted tweet, saying, ‘On social media a few unhealthy people can cast a big shadow on the wall, but over the past 4 years I’ve met lots of real fellow SW fans. We like & dislike stuff but we do it with humor, love & respect. We’re the VAST majority, we’re having fun & doing just fine.’
He later responded fiercely to a critic, saying, ‘Done with this disingenuous bullshit. You know the difference between not liking a movie and hatefully harassing a woman so bad she has to get off social media. And you know which of those two we’re talking about here.’
Other celebrities like Josh Gad, director Edgar Wright and Kumail Nanjiani also defended the star.
Another insightful Twitter user also drew comparisons between Kelly Marie Tran’s treatment and that of African-American actress Leslie Jones, who was similarly abused after starring in Ghostbusters.
I’m going to take my news hat off for a second and say that as an Asian-British woman, this story devastates me. Even just doing the research for this made me so angry, disappointed and so sad. Everybody talks about how important representation in Hollywood is and I can’t tell you how exhilarating it was to watch Rose Tico zip across the universe in Star Wars, a franchise that I’ve grown up with.
I was so proud of Kelly, who had struggled for major roles for years in Hollywood, and of Star Wars for its commitment to diversity. After years of looking for women who looked like me onscreen, I felt seen.
However, what this story shows me more than anything that there is always going to be somebody who will see our ethnicity as a problem, rather than a beautiful part of our identity. And all I can really do is take solace in the fact that I know our community will excel in spite of that, because that’s what we’ve had no choice but to – because that’s what we’ve always done.