Letters I Haven't Written Yet

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Like so many people out there, I love Star Wars. I remember watching the movies as a kid with my dad, dreaming of going out on space adventures, kicking ass with Princess Leia and often wondering why Luke was such a whiny brat ( love you Mark Hamill!).

Most of the new Star Wars movies have been big events for me, and especially this last trilogy. I enjoyed both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. There were new characters and interesting plot twists – good fun, exactly what a Star Wars movie should be. I loved all of the new characters, and in The Last Jedi, I liked the Rose Tico character, but when the movie was over, I didn’t think that much about her, until I read about all the online hate the actress got that played her, to the point that she had to get off social media. Major harassment for a character who was one of many, and was actually pretty cool.

Fast forward to the latest instalment of the Star Wars Franchise. Saw it last night, and thought it was good fun. Parts of it made me sad: the nostalgia was great, with lots of interesting flashbacks. Were they necessary? No. Did they help move the story forward? No. But it hit our hearts, so why not. What I missed in the movie was that Rose Tico was almost completely removed. In TLJ, she was a focused badass, strong, honest and afraid, yet courageous, and in this movie (minor spoiler alert) when asked by Finn to join the others, she says “nah, I have to fix something, I’ll stay here.” ORLY? We all know Rose Tico would have fixed whatever she had to fix in 3 seconds, gone with them and saved the galaxy. And probably adopted a puppy on the way. It’s who she is.

I made the mistake of saying this on a friend’s social media posting. He was writing about his thoughts on the new movie compared to TLJ, and I found I agreed with most of them. I wrote a simple comment #JusticeForRose, because, hey, I missed Rose. Didn’t expect much of it. What I forgot was that social media is a cesspool of negativity and hate, especially when someone who is not part of the establishment speaks their mind. And so, what I got in response (not from my friend, but from another commenter), was how the Rose Tico character was the worst, how TLJ was pulled out of theatres in Asia because she was “too ugly” and how she single-handedly destroyed the Star Wars franchise in China FOREVER. I’m not even exaggerating. In TLJ, the Rose Tico character has 11 minutes of screen time. 11 minutes. She is not central, not the focus. But she had an interesting and important story line, and she’s a badass. Keeping perspective though, it was 11 minutes in movie that was over 2 hours long. Yet, somehow, her mere existence in those 11 minutes was enough to totally destroy the Star Wars Franchise in Asia. Yes, the movie did fail in China (like all of the other Star Wars movies), yes it was pulled after 2 weeks. It was a question of culture, competition and lack of nostalgia as there just weren’t the same cultural references. Some interesting articles on the reasons why can be found here, here and here.

But this dude, like SO MANY other fanboys out there, put the blame solely on a woman of colour who was not even in ¼ of the film. The weight of an entire franchise, an institution, placed on the shoulders of a WOC who wasn’t a central character. How does that even make any sense? Did I mention that she was only in the movie for 11 minutes?

These comments about Rose Tico and the impact of her character, are an eerily accurate reflection of the unfair burden carried by so many women, and particularly WOC, whatever their profession or industry. A short list of requirements: we have to be beautiful, but only by European standards. We have to be strong, but not so strong that it undermines the men around us. Usually in our case, strong basically means that we keep quiet and can take a lot of shit. Not unemotional though. We have to have emotion because we would be evil if we didn’t, but not too much, because we would be hysterical. We have to be amazing at what we do, but even when better than everyone else, we have to pretend that the mediocre men around us are better. When we are the best, it’s due to political correctness. When we can’t find a seat at the table, it’s because we haven’t earned our place, we aren’t good enough yet. When things go wrong and we are at the table, it is entirely our fault, but when things go right, well, of course we can’t take the credit. It would make us too pushy. But if a dude does it, he’s confident. When we decide to build our own damn table, we’re stubborn, difficult to manage, unlikeable. Basically, we can never win WTF.

The thing about art, be it books, movies, TV, paintings … whatever … is that we can all have opinions on it. Not all of us have to like it, and the world won’t end. It’s ok. I’m not a huge fan of Picasso, might make me a bit uncultured, but it doesn’t make me a terrible person. When it comes to the Star Wars movies, I liked the Rose Tico character. A lot. This doesn’t mean you have to. But not liking the character is very different from stating that someone destroyed a franchise because she didn’t fit your standards. Women like Rose Tico don’t match a certain demographic’s nice little standards of subservient female, and it drives them nuts. Much like in the rest of the world. My wish for the future is that the world finally stops listening, and realises that there are more of us than there are of them. In the end, we are all Rose Tico.

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