Star Wars has a fandom problem

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Obi-Wan Kenobi is Jedi, member of an old order of beings known for their stoicism. Suffice it to say that if you upset one of them, you made a serious mistake. But here’s Ewan McGregor, the man in the Kenobi robes, looking straight at the camera – and he doesn’t look happy. A week after Disney+ released the first two episodes Obi-Wan Kenobi, one of his stars, Moses Ingram, began receiving racist messages on social media, and McGregor feels ‘nauseous’.

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“I just want to say as the lead actor of the series, as the executive producer of the series, that we support Moses,” the actor said in the video. published to the official Star Wars Twitter account. “We love Moses and if you are sending her bullying messages I believe you are not a Star Wars fan.

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McGregor is the latest and most famous figure in Ingram’s defense to go public on Instagram about the messages she’s received since her first appearance as Inquisitor Reva Sevander, the antagonist in the Disney+ series. (“In short, there are hundreds of them. Hundreds,” she said after sharing screenshots of offensive private messages.) Not just other people from the Star Wars franchise, including Ahmed BestThe black actor who played the derided character Jar-Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy spoke out, but so did other celebrities, including Star Trek: Strange New WorldAnson Mount, who called Ingram “exceptional talent [who has] has been targeted by racists pretending to be fans because its very existence threatens a distorted dystopian fantasy.”

The day after Ingram spoke of her experience, the Star Wars Twitter account sent a message reading “If anyone intends to make her feel unwanted, we can only say one thing: we resist.” He was followed second message: “There are over 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be racist.”

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it’s nothing new to the Star Wars fandom, a fact that Ingram herself highlighted in interview published yesterday Kenobipremiere. The potential for online abuse by racists was “something that Lucasfilm really envisioned,” the actress said, adding that the studio told her, “This is something that, unfortunately, is likely to happen. But we are here to help you; You can let us know when that happens.”

They had some experience that could be used. In 2018 Star Wars: The Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran deleted her social media after receiving racist and offensive messages; She will be later describe the solution by saying“Basically I thought, ‘Oh, this is bad for my mental health. I’m obviously going to leave it.”

Three years earlier, John Boyega had defended himself against similar attacks, telling the interviewer“I’m in a movie, what are you going to do about it? You either enjoy it or you don’t. I am not saying get used to the future, but to what is already happening. People of color and women are increasingly appearing on screen. Whitening things just doesn’t make sense.”

However, despite the fact that the attacks are all too familiar, the reaction to them has changed somewhat. Lucasfilm’s scathing response to insults against Ingram was absent from both the Tran and Boyega cases. Similarly, although two highly visible Star Wars figures are Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill and The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson – spoke out when Tran left social media, both did so indirectly without explicitly naming the racism she faced. (Hamill tweeted publish “#GetALLifeNerds” and Johnson answered blaming “a few unhealthy people [who] throws a big shadow on the wall”, noting that “BIG majority” was great and I think not racist.)

But there’s also something instructive about Lucasfilm’s more forthright response to the attacks, which perhaps turns a blind eye to the franchise’s shortcomings.

The series is still dominated by whites to this day, and the original trilogy, which is still considered a prime example of what property can be, featured exactly one non-white actor as the on-screen speaker. (The fact that the first film has only one black actor who voices the film’s villain is a whole thing in itself.) made a cosplay movement as faceless soldiers of the fascist regime. The idea that Star Wars is indirectly a haven of diversity and an example of the same is misguided to say the least.

So what can be done? If Disney and Lucasfilm want to rid the Star Wars fandom of its toxic elements, the companies will certainly have to redouble their efforts: denounce intolerance louder and encourage others to do the same, preferably without reference to fictional realities. Paying more attention to screen diversity in increasingly visible and important roles will also be key. They would also do well to remind fans that the Empire/First Order are the bad guys, not desirable figures.

But these are only the first steps. Star Wars has struggled with the shortcomings of its fandom for a long time. The tweets and videos this week are certainly a sign that Lucasfilm is trying to more openly address the racism that its actors face. But some changes will ultimately have to come from the fans themselves. Then maybe Obi-Wan could know peace.

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