When Star Wars fans turned into bullies

Donald Glover at a screening of Solo: A Star Wars story.
Donald Glover at a screening of Solo: A Star Wars story.

In yet another instance, a woman – a talented actress at that – is bullied to the point of deleting her social media presence.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi's Kelly Marie Tran has recently deleted all of her Instagram posts.

Nicole Pomarico from Bustle.com reports that when The Last Jedi first hit, many folk were feeling rather divided up the character she portrayed, which would have been fine had their critique been limited to how they felt it impacted on the story line.

When people think that because they support the franchise by investing their money, it automatically gives them jurisdiction rights over it, then it’s easy to see how quickly a source that brings joy to many can become toxic and unsafe.

READ MORE: I’m woke and Friends is still one of my fave TV series

I mean, imagine being so unhappy with a character portrayal, that you take your criticism and allow it to devolve into a campaign of harassment, racism and every other –ism that’s meant to demean someone.

And worse still, imagine being this kind of person over a character that is purely fictional. 

Listen, as a bibliophile, I can honestly say that I’ve seen some of my favourite books adapted to film end up being a complete mess. But I’d like to think that I have a modicum of common sense in that I recognise that how a character is being portrayed won’t always reflect how you think it should be.

And even if I am disappointed by portrayal, story changes and casting choice – I am going to offer my opinion based on elements relating to the story, and not resort to harassing the directors, producers or any of the actors involved in the film.

While Tran hasn’t released any statements yet, Bustle.com revealed that she has previously opened up about how difficult it has been to see so much hatred and racist bile directed towards her.  

The problem with this fandom (and many others like it) is that it also shows that people who think they own the fandom are clearly incapable of separating real life from fantasy. The person playing the character is NOT the character.  

What’s worse is that this kind of toxicity isn’t limited to Star Wars. We’ve seen it in gaming (still are – in fact, this on its own is another level of toxic entirely) and even on our own shores.

READ MORE: Audiences will still watch problematic men in movies - study finds

I remember specifically back a few years ago when Enhle Mbali who played the role of Nandi in 7de Laan, complained that she had to deal with her fair share of racial slurs and discrimination. 

According to a report on Channel24, the role she played as being the love interest as part of an interracial storyline (remember Bernard? The two of them were paired up in the show) caused some drama on set as well as on social media, although SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said they were unaware of any racially charged incidents on the actual set.

Enhle even posted about it on Instagram, stating that while both she and the production team expected it, she didn't expect it from people she thought were more open-minded.

It’s clear that while people have in some cases become more accepting of interracial relationships and marriage – there’s still heaps more who find the very idea abhorrent.

To get back to my point about fantasy vs reality, Kelly Marie Tran being forced off the internet shows that the toxic part of the franchise fandom consider something that is fictional of more worth than the humanity of the actress doing her job.

I should also add that this was the same community that caused Daisy Ridley, who stars as Rey, to leave social media. Not only does the vile group within the community seem to hate women of colour, but given some of their actions, they seem to just hate women as a whole.

I mean, remember when a select group decided to edit out all the women’s scenes in The Last Jedi? Sigh.

No, you don’t have to like Kelly Marie’s character or even her acting, but you don’t get to target and harass someone, just because they have seemingly ruined your beloved, fictional world.

That aside, as a rule, I do certainly believe that most fandoms and communities are filled with love and support (I mean the amount of support Kelly has been receiving so far is absolutely wonderful), but some days it feels so much like the vitriol is much louder.

The trick is to make sure we find ways to keep drowning out the hate with more love and to call out the BS when we see it.

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Do you think it's important to get married in this day and age?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
23% - 952 votes
Not at all. Being single is far more liberating
9% - 383 votes
There is no general answer to this, it's each to their own
49% - 2082 votes
Yes, society still frowns on unmarried people, especially women
1% - 58 votes
It depends on whether you are able to find a compatible partner
18% - 740 votes