Kelly Marie Tran Becomes Latest ‘Star Wars’ Actor to Be Harassed by ‘Fans’

'The Last Jedi' star abandons social media as trolling by online haters spirals out of control.

June 5, 2018 3:37 pm
Actor Kelly Marie Tran poses on the red carpet for the European Premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the Royal Albert Hall in London on December 12, 2017. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Actor Kelly Marie Tran poses on the red carpet for the European Premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the Royal Albert Hall in London on December 12, 2017. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran recently abandoned her Instagram page under a deluge of online trolling that ran the gamut from rude to racist and misogynist. For many Asian movie-goers, Tran’s Rose represented a major milestone of inclusion.

To some white fanboys, however, she represented an unwelcome part of Lucasfilm’s attempts to diversify the saga. That alone would be a disgusting statement of the current state of toxic Internet culture—only the 29-year-old actress is just the latest franchise castmember to suffer the imperial judgments of self-entitled, disgruntled segments of the fan base.

Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the newest Star Wars trilogy, discovered that the hard way two years ago, when she abandoned social media after being trolled for her posts on gun control in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

“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,” The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson tweeted Tuesday. “We like & dislike stuff but we do it with humor, love & respect. We’re the VAST majority, we’re having fun & doing just fine.”

The most extreme trolls have even taken a victory lap over the box office disappointment behind Solo: A Star Wars Story, begging the question, what kind of supporters don’t actually support the object of their affection?

Director George Lucas and young film star, Jake Lloyd , arrive for the 1999 Royal Film Performance of “Star Wars : Episode 1 The Phantom Menace.” (Photo by John Stillwell/PA Images via Getty Images)
PA Images via Getty Images

But the shadow of the ugly side of Star Wars fandom predates the spread of social media. When the Prequel Trilogy failed to meet many fans’ expectations, some fans fired their vitriol at actors like Jake Lloyd—who was just eight years old when he was cast to play Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace.

“My entire school life was really a living hell,” Lloyd,  told the Daily Mail in 2012. 

His successor, Hayden Christensen, was more than ten years older when he was cast as the future Darth Vader in the last two prequel movies. But he struggled under the weight of the criticism for his performance and left acting for five years.

While many Star Wars fans, this writer included, had an allergic reaction to the bumbling alien Jar Jar Binks, the scale of the backlash definitely wasn’t funny to comedian Ahmed Best, the actor who played the character.

“It’s really difficult to articulate the feeling,” Best told Wired in 2015. “You feel like a success and a failure at the exact same time. I was staring at the end of my career before it started.”

That sheer intensity of fan criticism, which burgeoned as Internet access spread, is said to have helped drive creator George Lucas to sell his creation to Disney. (Although the $4 billion price-tag may also have had something to do with it, too.)

Few pop culture phenomena have resonated as a touchstone across generations the way the Star Wars movies have.  Years after the fur flew over the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, fans are now debating just as passionately about whether or not the ending of The Last Jedi was a disservice to the legend of Luke Skywalker.

Certainly in my own life, I can draw a through-line between sitting in a darkened theater at the age of four listening to John Williams’s score for the first time and a life path that took me into movie journalism and comic book writing. When I interviewed George Lucas, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher  over the years, I secretly had tucked away an original Hammerhead action figure in my jacket pocket for good luck.

The oddity of it all is that there is one common bond between the alt-right racist Sith-stirrers who rail against the concept of John Boyega’s black Stormtrooper and those who prefer to live by the Jedi code of inclusion. Everyone who ever loved a Star Wars film wants the saga to hew closest to their vision of what it should be.

But at the end of the day, they are just movies. And they belong to everyone.

If only those fans so quick to embrace the dark side of social media to bully and harangue the actors behind those movies would remember Yoda’s wise words: “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.”

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