‘I Won’t Be Marginalized by Online Harassment’ by Kelly Marie Tran

— Reneé Bibby

It is rare for me to suggest an essay for the Wilds; after all, fiction is my favorite way to navigate cultural criticism, but Kelly Marie Tran’s manifesto deserves a seat at every table.

As a woman who grew up playing with my brother’s Star Wars figurines, heedlessly reassigning genders and rewriting storylines to build a private world of greater representation, I was thrilled that the Star Wars sequel trilogy greatly expanded the narratives of women, and to a very minimal extent, women of color. My life looped back around on itself, and the starry-eyed aspiring Jedi child in me watched every new installment with one long, high-pitched squee of delight.

Expanding the franchise proved socially just, as well as profitable. This should have been the end of the story. But, Kelly Marie Tran, the first woman of color to have a leading role in a Star Wars film, was subjected to tsunami levels of sexist and racists attacks. Watching it happen was like watching the online equivalent of a drive-by. Seeing Tran take a bold step forward only to be met by a fusillade of racism was a clear message to not just her, but those of us like her: you’re not white enough, you’re not pretty enough, you’re not worthy.

Understandably, Tran retreated, stepping away from the limelight back into the shadows. She owes us nothing. She is not obligated to suffer for the sake of our representation. She took the brunt of that blow, and while we caught some shrapnel, she had, as far as I was concerned, done plenty for women, women of color, and Star War fans. That could have been the end to that story.

But it’s wasn’t.

How amazingly wondrous, how stunning and breathtaking and epic to see Kelly Marie Tran rise up into the spotlight again, sword flaming, armored for battle. This essay has passed among my circles like a call to arms. She’s ready to take the world on again, and this mixed-race, Star Wars fan-girl is right behind her. Let’s go!

The New York Times