by Michael B. Hock
At this point in my writing process, I’ve stated this post about four times. Rather than spending a lot of time building up to my point, I think I’m just going to state it right out.
Let’s stop being jerks to actors and actresses who just want to put on a movie or television show.
I’ll back up. At his point, anyone who likes movies, and a few people who claim to like movies, has heard about the bullying of Kelly Marie Tran, the very real actress who played the very not real character of Rose Tico. I point this out because the latter part of these fans felt a need to bully Ms. Tran off social media because they didn’t like the character she was playing in the latest Star Wars movie: The Last Jedi. Some claimed it was because they didn’t like her in this movie because it was such a radical departure from the last movie which they said was too much like another movie. Some are straight up racist. Either way, bullying someone because you don’t like their work is wrong.
Full disclosure: I wasn’t a big fan of Rose Tico. I felt her arc was pretty cool – she was the character who represented the idealistic version of Star Wars fans – but was ultimately betrayed by some poor writing choices (but not acting choices). Mostly, the fact that the movie was about how we had to leave the past behind and move on, all while she was very much driven by the past and representing the past idealism of the plucky band of outsiders and lovable rogue was all it took to save the Resistance. Then, when the movie decided, “naw, we’ll just have Luke Skywalker show up and save the day like you wanted after spending two hours building up to everything will change” (after she was betrayed by the lovable rogue) she was taken out of the action. I felt the character was betrayed by the writing. I point this out to show you that those of you hiding behind “I didn’t like the character!” that the adult thing to do is to not bully her. In fact, that’s the easier choice, because it involves me doing nothing, and moving on with my life. I only went this far in the analysis because I wanted to think about why people might have disliked the movie.
But, you’ll notice, because I’m mostly an adult, I didn’t once say the words “Kelly Marie Tran” in that previous paragraph. You see, Rose Tico and Kelly Marie Tran are two different people. I like Ms. Tran’s acting. I think she did a wonderful job with what she was given. She was hilarious in those College Humor shorts. I hope she does more comedy. I didn’t like aspects of her character, so I understood what I didn’t like, processed it, then I moved on to the next movie. But that’s with a character. Yes, it’s fully possible to not like something, say “meh” then not go after the actresses in the movie itself. You can articulate why you didn’t like it, then move on. No matter how much you previously loved something.
I grew up in the 1980’s. I don’t have time to be mad at everything they’ve “ruined” from my childhood. I’ve seen John McClane have two kids and take on a fighter jet. I’ve seen the Thundercats, He-Man, and Voltron get dark an gritty reboots. Don’t get me started on Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You want rage, I could give you rage on that. I’ve seen stuff I love picked apart, analyzed, destroyed, and never quite put back together. See, the thing is, I realize that nothing can take away those memories. I can hope they’ll add to it, and if they don’t, that doesn’t stop the good times I had playing with the Optimus Prime toy with my dad when I was five. It doesn’t change anything. The new Star Wars doesn’t mean the old ones don’t exist. I can get fiercely protective of them, sure. But that doesn’t mean one single person is responsible for it.
I do realize, too, that there’s a large sexist and racist reason they went after Ms. Tran. Those of you who did that should be extra ashamed of yourself. I mean, you won’t. But honestly… get a life if you’re that hurt about this. I work with kids, and I can tell you for a fact that who is cast in these movies matters. A kid being able to see someone who looks like them on the screen is important, and I hope she was an inspiration to someone.
But in general, it’s getting really hard to call myself a fan of much, and that’s sad. I really like Rick and Morty, but toxic fans make that hard. I enjoy the “let’s all get along” message of Steven Universe, but even a subset of fans of that have bullied people to the point that they’ve left social media, really forgoing that main message, which is love who you are and accept others. I really just want to like stuff without this extra baggage. One of the messages I did like in the new Star Wars movie was the idea that we shouldn’t “destroy what we hate, but save what we love.” If you don’t like something, why dedicate the time and energy to destroy it? Why not pick something new? We currently live in an era where you can watch anything, any time. You can read books not available to anyone for decades. You can connect with people across the world. Why dedicate your life to something you hate? Why dedicate your life to destroying others. (News flash, Star Wars peeps… that’s the dark side. The point of the first few movies is that it was bad.)
I’ve been thinking a lot about Mr. Rogers in all of this to be honest with you. Did you know that he actually didn’t like television? That’s one of the facts that I found most fascinating about him. And you see, rather than join a group to rally against it… and the man was charismatic and intelligent, had he dedicated his life to this there’s a more than good chance that we would have returned to radio… he made his own show. He took this medium, and created something to show the world what he loved. Why can’t more of us do that? If there’s something we don’t like, why can’t we create something we love out of that? That’s why we should create: To bring something new into the world. That’s harder, but so much more satisfying, than tearing everything else down.
Mostly, though, you don’t have to be a jerk. If you don’t like something, don’t be cruel. I’m going to end this with one of my favorite quotes from another science fiction show that’s dealing with trolls of its own right now.
“Hate is always foolish, and love is always wise. Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind.” –the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi)