SPOILERS for pretty much ALL of Star Wars, including and especially Obi-Wan Kenobi through the fifth episode.
NOTE: Bullying Moses Ingram and any other Star Wars actor (or anyone else at all) is wrong. I do not condone that kind of behavior, especially since I’m a survivor of years of bullying and verbal abuse from my peers growing up. However, the responses from Lucasfilm and Ewan McGregor and other actors out there seem to treat this as a problem and an experience unique to Moses. It’s not. That’s why I’m writing this post.
The Star Wars fandom has a problem. Or at least, a certain segment of it does. Whenever a piece of Star Wars content drops and that segment of the fandom doesn’t like it, they flip out and attack anyone they can. They often attack the actors who play the characters they don’t like. The latest actor to deal with this behavior is Moses Ingram, who plays Reva/Third Sister on Obi-Wan Kenobi. She recently posted to her Instagram story about how racist Star Wars fans/trolls have been sending her direct messages (DMs) full of racist slurs and hurtful comments.
However, she’s not the first Star Wars actor to endure such horribly charged ire. Both Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega faced racist attacks when they appeared in the Sequel Trilogy. But this type of actor bullying goes further back than the sequel trilogy. Ahmed Best (the Black man who played Jar-Jar Binks), Jake Lloyd (the white kid who played nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker), and Hayden Christensen (the white man who played Anakin as a young man and now plays Darth Vader in Obi-Wan Kenobi).
While race and gender do play a role in why these fans attack the actors, their larger goal is to make current Star Wars work as much like the Original Trilogy as possible. That means they want to remove actors of color from Star Wars by bullying them. They’ll also do it to white, male actors whose performances they find annoying, such as Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen. Eric Deggans’ article about the online attacks on Moses Ingram states that this hatred stems from the non-inclusive nature of the Original Trilogy. And he’s right.
You see, George Lucas thought he could appropriate bits of real-life cultures that belong to BIPOC people and put them on white actors in the first two Star Wars trilogies. He did this when he took samurai tropes and applied them to the Jedi. He also did this when he made the Naboo mostly white, but pasted Indian-inspired fashion onto them and gave Padme a Hindu funeral. And one of his greatest sins against minorities is the way he threw horribly racist and ethnic stereotypes onto alien characters in the Prequel Trilogy. (Jar-Jar Binks is an updated version of an intentionally racist cartoon character called Little Black Sambo; Watto is every “greedy Jewish merchant” stereotype ever; and the Trade Federation bigwigs from The Phantom Menace are racist stereotypes of Japanese businessmen).
However, race isn’t the only space where George Lucas made the first two Star Wars films exclusive. He also did that with gender as well. Have you ever noticed how few women show up in the Original Trilogy? There’s Princess Leia, of course, but I don’t know that she ever speaks to another woman directly. Aunt Beru has limited screentime in the OG Star Wars before she and Uncle Owen get killed off. Mon Mothma is supposed to be a major leader in the Rebel Alliance, but she only appears briefly in Return of the Jedi, and I don’t think her name is mentioned onscreen. I remember seeing her onscreen in the theater and thinking, “Wait, there’s another woman in Star Wars? Everyone got quiet when she showed up. Is she a big deal?”
Oh, and there is that dancing Twi’lek girl from Return of the Jedi. She falls through the floor after dancing for a few minutes because Jabba the Hutt is awful.
And there’s one more woman in the Original Trilogy. She’s a woman wearing a headset in The Empire Strikes Back. I remember her because I randomly noticed her when I was rewatching ESB on VHS in my family’s basement. When I saw that woman, I was stunned and looked for her again during later rewatches. Why? Because all the other random background characters were men. The idea that one of them was allowed to be a woman was shocking and oddly inspiring but also saddening to seven-year-old me.
A few more women appear in the Prequel Trilogy, but outside of Padme and Anakin’s mother, Shmi, they’re usually background characters. Glad to see that George Lucas upgraded us from barely existing in the Original Trilogy to being general background characters in the Prequels!
George Lucas’s cultural appropriation and his exclusion of people of color and women (white, Black, and Brown) created a fandom environment where white male supremacy could survive and thrive in some parts of it. That’s why those fans decided to attack Moses Ingram as well as Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega before her: they want to keep actors of color, and particularly women of color in what the racist fans see as “their place.” That place is either in the background or not in the story at all.
I think Reva’s actions in the story itself are what pushed those racist fans over the edge. She’s a Black woman who is working to overthrow the current power structures of the group that she’s in. You see, she apparently wants to capture Obi-Wan to impress Darth Vader and become Grand Inquisitor. And she has to deal with the other Inquisitors putting her down. The Grand Inquisitor tells her, “You are the least of us…you came from the gutter.” He also says, “I’ll bring Kenobi in myself!” And Reva responds, “You want to take all the credit?”
The part about Reva’s male (and very pale-skinned) boss taking credit for her efforts to capture Obi-Wan struck a chord with me. That’s a real-life power dynamic that women of color and white women all have to deal with in their professional lives. They introduce ideas and work hard on projects, and then bosses (who may be men or women, most often) take all the credit for their work.
Also, Reva gets so much stuff done while dealing with alarming amounts of mansplaining. We first see her on Tatooine, standing behind the Grand Inquisitor while he monologues about how “Jedi hunt themselves.” Then she interrupts his monologue by drawing out the Jedi in question, Nari. Where the Grand Inquisitor tried to bore everyone to death with his speech, Reva actually did something. And then the Grand Inquisitor and Fifth Brother spend most of their screen time mansplaining how she can’t hunt Obi-Wan Kenobi while she’s hunting Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Then, in the fifth episode, after Darth Vader stabs her, he and the Grand Inquisitor stand over her and mansplain her own rage to her. They tell her how it was “useful, but now it is tiresome.” No white man in the history of Star Wars or the real world has ever had to listen to two dudes explain their own emotions to them after being stabbed.
Reva puts up with a lot to achieve her goals, but that racist, sexist, and overall very exclusive part of the fandom thinks she’s a bad character. Which is why we have to have memes like this:
These fans are going to criticize Reva for anything she does because in their minds, she doesn’t belong in Star Wars in the first place. And they will do anything to keep the people they don’t want in Star Wars out of it. That’s the thing that Lucasfilm’s and Ewan McGregor’s and other actors’ reactions don’t take into account: they call the people bullying Moses Ingram “trolls posing as Star Wars fans,” but the thing is that those people still see themselves as Star Wars fans, even if members of the franchise disown them.
I don’t really know how to stop these trolls’ behavior. They will keep coming for anyone they see as contributing to diversity in Star Wars. I guess the only thing we can do is talk about why this behavior is wrong and talk about how it affects people. We really have to call it out when we see it, which people are doing, thankfully.
But it’s important to know that the bullying Moses Ingram has faced from portions of the Star Wars fandom is part of an ugly history of racism and sexism that we fans have to acknowledge. These situations are not unique. They keep happening again and again, and we have to stop them every time, just like the characters of Star Wars have to keep stopping galactical fascism again and again.