There’s Still Racism In a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Obi-Wan Kenobi has gotten pretty good reviews so far, but racist messages fans sent to Moses Ingram, who plays one of the bad guys in the Disney+ show, have reignited conversations about bigotry within the Star Wars universe.
On her Instagram account today, Ingram shared several racist messages she received on social media calling her a “diversity hire,” and threatening her. She explained that she had received “hundreds” of racist messages since Obi-Wan Kenobi began airing on May 27.
“I think the thing that bothers me is this feeling that I’ve had inside of myself, which no one has told me, but that I’ve just got to shut up and take it. I’ve just got to grin and bear it. I’m not built like that, so I really just wanted to come on, I think, and say, ‘Thank you’ to the people who show up for me in the comments and the places I’m not gonna put myself,” Ingram wrote.
In Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ingram plays Reva Sevander, a powerful member of the Inquisitors, a shadowy organization that hunts Jedis. Ingram earned an Emmy nomination for her role in The Queen’s Gambit, and also played an important supporting part in Joel Coen’s acclaimed The Tragedy of Macbeth.
Last week, Ingram spoke about how she wanted to play a character who could be an inspiration for young people of color: “It’s important that when we turn on the TV, we see the world that we live in reflected back to us in what we’re seeing,” she said. “Representation is so important, and I feel so blessed that I get to be the vehicle that this character comes forth through.”
Shortly after Ingram shared the hateful messages she had been receiving, the official Star Wars Twitter account issued a pair of statements. “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”
There is a real history of Star Wars fans harassing actors who are women and/or people of color. In a September 2020 GQ UK cover story, John Boyega, who played stormtrooper-turned-Resistance-leader Finn in the 2010s trilogy, was critical of how his character was emphasized in marketing while his role became increasingly diminished. (The Chinese poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens infamously shrunk Boyega’s character considerably, from being the third most visible figure to being smaller than the droid BB-8.)
“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” he says. “You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know fuck all,” Boyega said. “So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience.”
Tran, who also broke boundaries as an Asian-American woman in the franchise, saw the screen time of her character Rose Tico plummet to barely over a minute in The Rise of Skywalker. Like Ingram, Tran was harassed by some fans of the franchise and subject to racist and sexist comments. She wrote a powerful op-ed for The New York Times about how this experience reinforced negative stereotypes and misconceptions she had been dealing with her entire life. She told The Hollywood Reporter that the experience caused her to take some time away from the entertainment industry and explained that working with a therapist helped her shift her thoughts on these sorts of issues.
“If someone doesn’t understand me or my experience, it shouldn’t be my place to have to internalize their misogyny or racism or all of the above,” she said. “Maybe they just don’t have the imagination to understand that there are different types of people living in the world.”
Earlier this month, Ingram said that Lucasfilm had warned her that she could receive the sort of harassment experienced by Boyega and Tran, but she emphasized how important it was to bring more racial diversity to Star Wars.
“To me, it’s long overdue. If you’ve got talking droids and aliens, but no people of color, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s 2022, you know,” she said.