‘The Last Jedi’: Some People Hated Rose Tico — But Kelly Marie Tran Still Deserved Better
The Star Wars sequel trilogy is divisive amongst the die-hards and the casual fans alike. While some appreciated the fresh look of the galaxy far away, others wanted more. However, while some criticism was ripe for debate and discourse, others quickly entered the realm of the problematic. Kelly Marie Tran broke out as Rose Tico, the first Vietnamese-American actress in a prominent Star Wars role.
While a small section of fans made it a racial attack on her, other fans are now standing up.
In defense of Kelly Marie Tran
Tran acted in several short films and television shows as she tried to make her name. While she showed off her chops in all of this work, her series mostly slid into the background. The Last Jedi was her big-time Hollywood breakout role. On top of this, it was a win for Asian Americans who are desperate for some representation.
All of that changed when the movie came out. Written as a potential love interest for a similarly-targeted Finn, played by John Boyega, Rose helped the former stormtrooper come to grips with individuality. However, for some who hated the movie, they attacked not only the character and the writing but the actress herself. Trans was subject to harassment both online and off it.
In a troubling online trend, attacks on Tran became racist. Some viewed her and Finn as forced diversity catering to a politically correct culture that they did not like. It got so bad that Tran deleted all her social media and wrote about the whole ordeal for the New York Times.
Fans on Reddit recently spoke about the atrocious behavior leveed not only at her but at Jake Lloyd, John Boyega, Ahmed Best, and other actors whose Star Wars journey was derailed by fan-driven bullying. U/disfavoredflavored broke it down on Reddit.
“How Kelly Marie Tran has been treated. I wasn’t crazy about her character but the amount of hate that poor woman received for being in Star Wars… Then, there was Jake Lloyd, blamed for ruining the phantom menace when he was like 8. The way fans treat the actors in general can be awfully toxic,” the user wrote.
Tran speaks out
Tran has spoken out several times about the bullying that targeted her and Boyega. While she acknowledges that she tried to avoid letting it get to her, she found it hard to do. After all, it wasn’t just about her. It was about a Hollywood landscape that enables such behavior. To this day, Asian American actors and actresses are painted as a chronic ‘other’ who is equally the butt of jokes and cultural appropriation.
“Their words reinforced a narrative I had heard my whole life: that I was “other,” that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t good enough, simply because I wasn’t like them. And that feeling, I realize now, was, and is, shame, a shame for the things that made me different, a shame for the culture from which I came from. And to me, the most disappointing thing was that I felt it at all,” the actress wrote in The New York Times.
Abrams and company greatly diminished Tico’s role in the ninth movie. It was a move that fans and detractors of the film decried. After all, after everything Tran went through, it could be viewed as a case of JJ Abrams and company catering to the people who bullied her. Thankfully, Tran now has an opportunity to put this chapter behind her with another major movie in theaters and online.
Will Rose be back? What’s next for Kelly Marie Tran
Tran didn’t let the online harassment bully her offline. Now, she’s shining on different stages, too. Her latest role, according to IMDb, is a voice-acting performance in the latest Disney animated movie, Raya and the Last Dragon. Tran not only gets to showcase her talent behind a microphone but the culture as a whole. The film focuses on a fictional land based on Eastern folklore. It’s a step in the right direction. Still, Tran’s treatment with Star Wars remains a hot-button issue. It doesn’t mean she’s done, however.
Despite everything she experienced, however, Tran doesn’t view her Star Wars experience as a negative. While the trolling and the online harassment were more than most could handle, she still got to be a significant player in a Star Wars franchise that’s dominated pop culture for her entire life. She spoke about this with The New York Times. “I think I would’ve done it anyway. Doing that first movie was so fun — it was like being admitted to Hogwarts.”
The continued story of Rose, Finn, Rey, and the rest of the characters from the recent trilogy is up in the air. However, if Rose comes back, Disney and the makers of the saga have a chance to correct the perception that Rose was little more than window dressing. She was a living, breathing person who belonged there just like everybody else.