In the wake of Kelly Marie Tran deleting her Instagram posts, it is time to call out and force out toxic fandom
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Earlier this week Kelly Marie Tran, who played the wonderful Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi deleted all of the photos in her Instagram profile seemingly in response to continued intense harassment from a tiny subset of people claiming to be Star Wars fans.
The actress, whose character was one of the films highlights, had been attacked in many ways - from people ripping into her because of her character to racist statement son her appearance. For the most part she has born the brunt of the backlash against the film because she's a non-white woman. It's telling that this level of hate and harassment hasn't been targeted at any of the franchise' male stars - Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver - they've received none of the hate and vitriol that has been aimed at people such as Daisy Ridley (who also deleted her social media presence in response to harassment last year) and Kelly Marie Tran.
It's easy to say we should ignore these trolls - but this is a narrative of hate that has been affecting fandom across media for a number of years. It was clear in the rise of 'Gamergate' and the alt-right; or the 'incel' community, that ignoring toxicity only lets it grow. There is clear evidence that certain groups are harnessing a rise in male anger and hate and using it to drive far right idealism and with it an obvious rise in racist attacks.
None of these people - those that are harassing actresses because they didn't like the film they were in, or those that are sending death threats to directors because they don't like what has been done with a character - are true fans of anything that they claim to be. In the realm of Star Wars, these people have not only driven child actors into mental health issues, they've forced others to retire from the profession entirely and yet they continue to throw hate and abuse around with no comeback.
What is happening in these pockets of toxicity is a form of radicalisation that is only going to get worse unless its tackled properly - from studios such as Disney and Lucasfilm making it clear that these people aren't welcome as fans; ensuring that they don't respond to abusers by fulfilling their demands, but also social media networks need to take a stand and stop these people from infesting their sites. Permanent bans at the very least, but they should be working with law enforcement where appropriate to tackle those who use racist language or continual harassment against anyone. The cloak of anonymity only stretches so far and where people are found to be using the privilege of this cloak to attack and spread hate they should be stopped and where possibly prosecuted.
We have a responsibility too - where we see this harassment happening, report it to the networks; and don't let those networks fob you off with automated responses. Keep doing it and make it impossible for them to ignore what is happening on their watch. We can also show support to those who are receiving abuse and harassment and amplify the voice of positivity to drown out those that are spreading hate. While hashtags such as #ForceOutHate might seem to be pointless, they are a clear signal that there are many, many more people out there who want to see the end to hate in fandom than there are spreading that hate.