From a certain point of view…

Yesterday’s post struck a nerve, apparently.


Question:
I am curious. How does sidelining characters who are of less importance make something “toxic”? D oesn’t that make it a story?

Response:
First off, I make no such claim. I suggested a subset of the fanbase is toxic.

Second, I’m not sure that question is even relevant, since the implication I made was that the sidelining (of Rose Tico) occurred in response to a toxic fan reaction. Said differently, I was not saying that the act of sidelining a minor character is always a bad thing; I was suggesting the particular case of sidelining the character Rose was done for bad reasons.

Third, However, if you want an answer to the question of “is diminishing the role a minor character for the good of the narrative necessarily a bad thing?” then the answer is “No.”

Of course, this doesn’t apply to Rose.

First off, she’s not a minor character at the start of Episode 9. In Episode 8, she gets more screen time than Poe, Leia, Snoke, or BB8; she figures out how to disable the First Order tracker (though, of course, the plan to disable it falls short); her character shapes Finn’s entire arc; and she states the actual thesis of the last two movies: “That’s how we’re gonna win: not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love.” You may not like her character or the Canto Bight storyline, but to argue Rose is unimportant to Episode 8’s narrative is simply wrong.

Second, minimizing Rose doesn’t help the narrative any; indeed, it only adds extra underdeveloped characters. The characters of Zorii and Jannah are not essential to the plot (they serve only for underdeveloped fanservice ideas) and their contributions to the plot could have been easily filled by Rose, particularly given her character background from Episode 8. If instead Rose really needed to stay with Leia, they could have eliminated Merry the Hobbit and Bear Jamboree Maz and had Rose fill those roles.

Finally, even if Rose was an unimportant character (she’s not) whose absence improved the narrative of the sequel (it didn’t)… Kelly Marie Tran was the first Asian-American actor to play a lead role in a Star Wars film, and for it she was subjected to a coordinated internet harassment campaign by racist assholes calling themselves fans of Star Wars. Her official Wookiepedia entry was changed to call her “Ching Chong Wing Tong,” “stupid, autistic, and retarded,” and “a dumbass bitch” and display Nazi slogans, while her Instagram feed was filled with racist insults, calls for her to commit suicide, and death threats.  In the end, she quit her social media to escape the constant attacks. Minimizing her character in the sequel for whatever reason only serves to embolden racist assholes like that to go after the next Star Wars actor they don’t feel is white right enough for the part.

(I will note that the crew has said the real reason Rose isn’t in the movie more is that it was just too hard to get her to look like she was interacting with Leia. I don’t know if I believe that, but I will point out that blaming its shortcomings on a dead person who can’t defend themself is yet another way this is the Trump Presidency of Star Wars movies.)


Question:
Isn’t enough that I was entertained?  I watched for no political point. I watched for no plug for the alphabet people. I watched it to see what the movie was going to be. I took my son and I’m glad I did. I loved it. It was entertaining from beginning to end. I loved it. The movie was so good. That’s all. It was just a really good movie that made me happy that I spent the $15 to watch. That’s all. What’s wrong with that?

Response:
Nothing. I’m glad you were entertained. Me too. I’ve seen it twice. It’s a perfectly solid Star Wars movie. I think it’s better that any of the Prequel movies, and it’s a good sequel to Episode 7. I just also think that, narratively speaking, it’s a terrible sequel to Episode 8.

However, since you bring it up…

Speaking as the father of two of your so-called “alphabet people,” representation in media does matter. It was disappointing that one of the main characters in the previous movie was minimized in the sequel because (I thought) it was a poor narrative choice. That this main character was also played by an Asian actor – one of very few such actors in the Star Wars saga – was an additional disappointment, because it’s one less hero on screen who looks like them, who represents them, who they can easily see themselves as.

So while I was not expecting Episode 9 to make a plug for the “alphabet people,” I was hoping that it would do a better job of supporting one of its main cast members who had been repeatedly and publicly harassed and threatened by actual fucking Nazis. It is frankly surprising to me that when someone frames this as “stop whining about minorities” instead of “start fighting back against Nazis.” I mean, that’s literally the point of these movies: good guys oppose (space) fascists!!

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