Kelly Marie Tran deleted her Instagram account in the face of a despicable backlash. She must have known how passionate Star Wars fans could be when she signed on the biggest movie franchise of them all. A loyal army of critics bombard social media with what they love - and what they hate - about everything Star Wars. What Tran probably didn't expect was the racist abuse she would suffer at some of the worst trolls on social media.
Tran is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees that fled their home after the war and settled in San Diego. Her huge break in acting came in 2015 when she was cast in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the second installment of the third trilogy. Tran is the first Asian-American to be cast in the franchise in a main role, playing Rose Tico. What should have been a triumphant moment for any actor, much less a woman of color, became a nightmare thanks to racist idiots on social media that lit their virtual torches and grabbed their virtual pitchforks and attacked the character, the actress and the role.
Across various platforms from Twitter to Instagram to the Star Wars "Wookieepedia," so-called "fans" of the franchise lash out. Some comments were so vile, Gossip Cop won't print them, though a few can be found on Huffpost. Tran was attacked for her race, her gender, and one alt-right troll even body-shamed her in a comparison with Battlestar Galactica star and fellow Asian actor Grace Park. It was truly disgusting all around.
In a now-deleted comment on Instagram, Tran wrote, "It makes me happy to know that we made something that's starting a dialogue. My heart is so full, and my goals are so clear. Let's tell more stories. Let's have more conversations. Let's get to know lives and worlds different from our own. And most of all — let's open our hearts and accept our differences." Eventually, she realized that social media was only re-enforcing deep-rooted issues she felt. It was something she believed all people of color - especially women - felt. So she disengaged from social media, she thought it was only making things worse.
In a poignant essay in the New York Times, Tran expressed the disheartening reactions and why she felt her only option was to disengage. The piece begins, "It wasn't their words, it's that I started to believe them." She explains that as the child of immigrants and a person of color, society always made her believe she belonged "in the margins" and "valid only as a minor character" in her career. It was something she had felt her whole life, feelings she thought she had put away for good, only to have them resurface publicly and viciously.
"I want to live in a world where children of color don't spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white. I want to live in a world where women are not subjected to scrutiny for their appearance, or their actions, or their general existence," she wrote. And she's emphasized that she would keep fighting for such a world. In her words, she's "just getting started."