In June 2018, Kelly Marie Tran deleted her Twitter account. At the time she was silent, but now Tran has opened up on the reasons she left and the level of harassment she received.
At the heart of Tran’s response is the deeply rooted issue of ethnic marginalisation that has plagued Hollywood for a long time. Representation in Western cinema has become a divisive issue in recent years, with a bitter online feud between those who support representation and those who oppose it.
What has often been overlooked is the personal cost that the war on representation has been having.
“Their words reinforced a narrative I had heard my whole life: that I was ‘other’, that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t good enough, simply because I wasn’t like them. I believed those words, those stories, carefully crafted by a society that was built to uphold the power of one type of person – one sex, one skin tone, one existence.” The full article can be found here.
Hollywood’s course correction can, for some, feel jarring.
The reason for this is that we’ve come to expect a certain narrow focus in the celebrities and characters that create our entertainment. When that focus is challenged – particularly in a franchise that holds a place of love and nostalgia in our hearts – it’s easy to see and understand how people can feel that something they love has been changed.
Sometimes this can mean that characters they once identified with now belong to a minority that they are not a part of. In short, a percentage of fans can feel like something of theirs has been taken away from them.
Yet the reality is that a growing percentage of the world’s population needs role models, heroes and characters to aspire to that they feel represent them. Sixty percent of the world’s population is Asian, and yet twenty films into the MCU and there has yet to be a single leading superhero from an Asian background. The closest we’ve got thus far is the supporting character of Wong from Doctor Strange.
The world has now reached a point where the old non-inclusive Hollywood is starting to become non-profitable. A lot of the money being pumped into Hollywood is coming from investors in countries like China. Films are being structured so that they can tap into markets outside of the West. Economically, Hollywood has to adapt to a changing global demographic.
If Hollywood fails to be inclusive there is a very real danger that foreign markets may lose interest.
When consumers should and shouldn’t be labeled sexist bigots.
As consumers we have every right to chose what films, video games and TV shows we spend our hard earned cash on. We are also free to criticise those products without being labelled a bigot or a sexist. That said, if your criticisms fall into the realm of bigotry or sexism, then the label fits and people are right to call you out on it – especially if you’re referencing gender, race etc in a negative when it’s not relevant.
Whether or not Kelly Marie Tran’s response in the New York Times has any long term impact remains to be seen. We can only hope that her words on her personal experiences change the hearts and minds of the public. Her experience demonstrates the necessity to treat all celebrities with dignity and respect, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion.