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What Kelly Marie Tran’s exit from Instagram means for ‘Star Wars’ and its fans

@hamillhimself/Instagram

She reportedly removed the photos after months of harassment.

Mark Hamill is the latest to come to Star Wars: The Last Jedi costar Kelly Marie Tran’s defense after she deleted all of her posts on Instagram, reportedly after months of racist and sexist harassment from fans.

Taking to Instagram, Hamill posted a photo of himself and Tran that asked what wasn’t there to love about Tran before telling detractors to get a life.

What's not to love? #GetALifeNerds

A post shared by Mark Hamill (@hamillhimself) on

Hamill’s support follows supportive message from Joonas Suotamo (who now plays Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies) and director Rian Johnson, who said that the majority of Star Wars fans he’s interacted with have been respectful even when they disagree. (Hamill also echoed Johnson’s comment.)

Fans first noticed the deletion of Tran’s posts on Instagram—Tran’s lone public social media profile—earlier in the week.

A now-viral tweet from the fan account Star Wars Facts reports that Tran deleted the posts after months of harassment from Star Wars fans, a statement which many (including several news sites) have taken as fact. While Tran has been the subject of racist and sexist harassment from some Star Wars fans who didn’t like The Last Jedi or Rose Tico (the character she portrayed in the film), Tran has not explicitly stated that the harassment is the reason behind the deleted posts. (The Daily Dot has contacted Tran’s reps for comment and we will update if we hear back.)

It’s been nearly six months since The Last Jedi’s theatrical release, although sometimes it feels like two years with everything that followed. Between the backlash to Rian Johnson’s film, anger over Solo’s disappointing box office run, and Tran’s exit from social media, Star Wars fans are being constantly forced to face the toxicity that exists within the fan base.

That toxicity (much of which tends to come from white male fans) has been an underlying narrative since the new Star Wars trilogy launched, seemingly every time the story (or the people who appeared in it) offered something new. People attacked John Boyega after the first Force Awakens trailer dropped because he was a Black man cast as a stormtrooper; Boyega later called those racist fans “victims of a disease in their mind.”

Some, including screenwriter Max Landis, dubbed Rey—the main hero of the sequel trilogy—a Mary Sue after watching The Force Awakens, deeming her to be too perfect; Daisy Ridley later pushed back on the label, calling it sexist. Ridley, who had her own beloved Instagram account, deactivated her account in 2016 after making a post about gun control. Fans have called for Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy to be fired for Star Wars’ controversies and perceived failures even as men in similar positions of powers at other studios haven’t received the same level of scrutiny for their own in-house mishaps.

And while some of the criticism surrounding The Last Jedi focused on Luke’s characterization and how the film handled Snoke, lots of the fan vitriol focused on new female characters like Rose Tico and Amilyn Holdo and the validity of their plots. The attacks on Rose Tico went even further as some fans vandalized Rose’s Wookieepedia page (an extensive Star Wars encyclopedia) with racist edits in the days following The Jast Jedi’s release.

The response to Tran’s exit on social media has been overwhelmingly one of support from friends, colleagues, fellow actors, and fans. But criticism of The Last Jedi still persisted to the point where Johnson—who had been dealing with months of harassment from fans over their perception that he “ruined” Star Wars—finally snapped.

Another thread that’s emerged in the wake of Tran’s social media exit is one that’s a bit murkier. They’re the crowd who may not have liked Rose Tico in The Last Jedi (even if they liked Tran as an actress) but don’t believe she should’ve been harassed for doing her job.

Right now? It really doesn’t matter how you felt about Rose Tico because it’s irrelevant the situation at hand. Actors shouldn’t be harassed for playing a role by fans, and qualifying a statement of support—no matter how well-intentioned—with your opinion of the role or the movie beforehand can give off the appearance of “Well, I’m not one of those Star Wars fans.” There is a time for more nuanced criticism, but this really isn’t it.

Tran’s enthusiasm during the Last Jedi press tour and the months that followed were infectious. The Last Jedi was Tran’s first major film role, and she used her Instagram account to share what that was like with the world. Some cynics might pin part of that on Tran’s job to promote the movie she appears in, but even after The Last Jedi premiered she expressed adoration for her costars and surprised fans she overheard talking about Rose in a pub. In other posts, she would lift the curtain on an actor’s life and ask her followers to participate in conversations in her comments. And even outside of Instagram, her sentiment over the fandom was evident.

For some fans, that means showing Tran how much Star Wars fans support her with their own hashtag. #FanartForRose is a collection of Rose Tico fanart from talented artists, and the love many of them feel for Rose is fully on display.

One of Rose’s last lines in The Last Jedi—after she saves Finn from a suicidal attack against the First Order—shined a light on the Resistance’s road to victory. “This is how we win,” Rose told him. “Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.” And that’s what fans are doing now.

Michelle Jaworski

Michelle Jaworski

Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and the resident Game of Thrones expert at the Daily Dot. She covers entertainment, geek culture, and pop culture and has brought her knowledge to conventions like Con of Thrones. She is based in New Jersey.