When The Force Awakens premiered in 2015, it collected $494 million at the box office on its opening weekend. Seven years later, that still ranks among the top four opening weekends of all time. Safe to say, Star Wars fans really, really love Star Wars. But what also became very clear, very quickly is that a vocal segment of that fanbase is also super, super racist, heaping online abuse and harassment at stars John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran throughout the run of the newest trilogy in those subsequent years.
Now, with the new Disney+ show Obi-Wan Kenobi, which launched on the streaming service May 27, the company has its newest bonafide Star Wars hit. And once again, it’s also dealing with racist online abuse of a Star Wars actor. This week, Moses Ingram, who plays a main character called Reva, posted an Instagram story highlighting some of the abusive comments she has received, including messages calling her casting a “diversity hire,” calling her the N-word, and that her “days are numbered.”
Moses Ingram posted an instagram story about the racist comments she’s been receiving from Star Wars fans pic.twitter.com/NUe7aB0UQo
— sleemo (@sleemo) May 31, 2022
Learning from past mistakes, when the company remained largely silent on how its stars were being treated online, Disney-owned Lucasfilm is now actively stepping in to defend and stand by Ingram. On Tuesday, the Star Wars Twitter account posted a note of support and called out racist fans, tweeting, “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 are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist.”
The company also posted a video message from fellow Obi-Wan star Ewan McGregor, who said the racist, abusive messages he’s seen directed at Ingram “broke my heart. Moses is a brilliant actor, she’s a brilliant woman, and she’s absolutely amazing in this series . . . We love Moses, and if you’re sending her bullying messages, you’re no Star Wars fan in my mind.”
A personal message from Ewan McGregor. pic.twitter.com/rJSDmj663K
— Star Wars (@starwars) June 1, 2022
Lucasfilm’s record when it comes to navigating race in recent years has been up and down. Tran was forced to abandon Instagram due to the torrent of troll abuse, and the structural company support just wasn’t there. Boyega spoke to GQ in 2020 about the balance between the marketing of the films and their reality. “What I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are, and then have them pushed to the side,” said Boyega. “Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver. 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.”
Now, industry sources say that moving forward, we can expect Lucasfilm to be more vocal in supporting its talent and filmmakers in the face of any kind of bigotry or abuse. Moses told The Independent last month that the company had warned her about the impending challenges of racist and abusive fans. “It was something that Lucasfilm actually got in front of, and said, ‘This is a thing that, unfortunately, likely will happen. But we are here to help you; you can let us know when it happens,'” said Ingram, who also credited the company and director Deborah Chow for “putting the proper systems in place so I feel safe as we do the work.”
It’s a promising measure of progress for Lucasfilm on an unfortunate but persistent issue that has plagued each new release. Now, as the company is aiming the full force of its social and star power at it, it must make sure that’s not a one-time swing, but a constant and consistent campaign against the dark side of its fanbase.