Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) star Kelly Marie Tran has wiped clean her Instagram account, purportedly in response to people attacking her ethnicity and body-shaming her for playing Rose Tico, the first female lead of colour in the franchise. On June 5, the people behind a Star Wars fan account tweeted that Tran had quit Instagram following months of harassment.
Tran has repeatedly stressed on her struggle to handle media scrutiny through her Instagram posts. One post, among the many saved by fans before the account was deleted, reads, “I avoided public social media for a long time purely because I was afraid. I was terrified of being picked apart, of being scrutinised, of being seen.” She expressed her concerns over her appearance, and went on to add a picture of herself, writing: “I’m an incomplete, imperfect, broken mess and I’m here to say that it’s okay to be imperfect.”
In another Instagram post, Tran wrote a long essay about being new to the social media platform and slowly taking to it after being applauded by fans. She expressed her concerns about not conforming to an ideal body image and added that it was her fans who made it worthwhile for her on social media.
While it remains unconfirmed if Tran’s decision was directly influenced by the toxic fandom that has emerged around the new Star Wars movies being produced since 2015, it does come in the wake of a vitriolic backlash against the cast, crew and studio responsible for these projects.
Before and after its release, Rian Johnson-directed Star Wars: The Last Jedi, has been strongly criticised and derided by people on social media for its inclusion of actors of colour in lead roles. Tran, the newest addition to the Star Wars franchise, was being severely trolled online, primarily on her Instagram account and that of the official Star Wars page, because she is not available on either Facebook or Twitter. The trolls objected to Tran’s looks, her Asian heritage and her performance.
Besides countless trolls on social media, Tran has had to endure harassment from personalities such as Paul Ray Ramsey, a prominent alt-right commentator.
Some people targetted their racism at Tran’s page on Wookieepedia, the online encyclopedia on all things Star Wars, and changed her name to “Ching Chong Wing Tong”, describing her as “stupid, autistic and retarded”. The Wookieepedia staff later removed the changes.
The attack on Tran and her subsequent deletion of her Instagram account is only the latest instance of racism faced by the cast and crew associated with the new Star Wars films. Daisy Ridley deleted her Instagram account in 2016 following backlash about a post she made against gun violence. Johnson had to fight with legions of angry Star Wars: The Last Jedi fans following the fim’s release. John Boyega had to deal with racist Star Wars fans as well, after he was cast as the first black stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).