Lucasfilm didn’t require a Force vision to foresee that Moses Ingram, the Black co-star of Obi-Wan Kenobi, would become a target of racist Star Wars fans. After all, John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran, both actors of color, experienced relentless online harassment because of their roles in the sequel trilogy. True to form, and just as the company had warned, the trolls arrived following the May 27 premiere of the Disney+ series, armed with racist attacks.
Ingram, who plays Reva Sevander, an Imperial Inquisitor tasked by Darth Vader with hunting down surviving Jedi, shared a selection of the offensive messages she has received in a series of Instagram stories. “There are hundreds of those. Hundreds,” she said in the accompanying video. However, she added, “I also see those of you out there who put on a cape for me. And that really does mean the world to me.”
Ewan McGregor’s Response to Racist Star Wars Fans
You can count among her supporters the titular Obi-Wan Kenobi, Reva’s onscreen adversary. Actor Ewan McGregor stood firmly with Ingram in his own video, insisting, “If you’re sending her bullying messages, you’re not a Star Wars fan, in my mind.”
“It seems that some of the fan base, from this influential fan base, decided to attack Moses Ingram online and send her the most horrendous, racist DMs,” the Obi-Wan Kenobi star said. “And I heard some of them this morning, and it just broke my heart. Moses is a brilliant actor. She’s a brilliant woman, and she’s absolutely amazing in this series. She brings so much to the series, she brings so much to the franchise. And it just sickened me to my stomach to hear that this had been happening. I just want to say, as the leading actor in the series, as the executive producer of the series, that we stand with Moses. We love Moses. […] There’s no room for racism in this world.”
The official Star Wars social media accounts took a similarly strong stance: “There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist. We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”
Moses Ingram: “There’s Nothing Anybody Can Do About This”
The forceful messages from McGregor and Lucasfilm in support of Ingram were welcomed by many fans. They’re direct and unvarnished, addressing the problem in no uncertain terms. But, of course, they shouldn’t be necessary. Moses Ingram shouldn’t find herself the subject of online threats and insults for any reason, let alone simply for being a person of color involved in a Star Wars project.
But, as Ingram acknowledged, there’s an infuriating inevitability to such attacks as elements of fandom grow more toxic.
“There’s nothing anybody can do about this,” she said. “There’s nothing anybody can do to stop this hate. I question what my purpose is even being here in front of you, saying that this is happening. … But I think the thing that bothers me, is this feeling that I’ve had inside of myself — which no one has told me — but this feeling that I’ve just got to shut up and take it. That I’ve just got to grin and bear it. And I’m not built like that.”
Lucasfilm at least braced Ingram for what to expect, a lesson learned from the earlier online mistreatment of Boyega and Tran, and perhaps the company’s own missteps. “It was something that Lucasfilm actually got in front of, and said, ‘This is a thing that, unfortunately, likely will happen. But we are here to help you; you can let us know when it happens,’” Ingram told The Independent ahead of the Obi-Wan Kenobi premiere. “Of course there are always pockets of hate,” she added. “But I have no problem with the block button.”
Racist Star Wars Fans Are Nothing New
Racist Star Wars fans lashed out at actor John Boyega virtually from the moment in 2014 when the teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens dropped, and revealed his character, Finn, to be a renegade stormtrooper. Comments ranged from briefly questioning the footage’s authenticity — how can there be a Black stormtrooper? — to outright racist bile. Things grew worse, and more complicated, from there — and not only for Boyega.
Kelly Marie Tran, the Vietnamese-American actor introduced in The Last Jedi as Resistance mechanic Rose Tico, likewise drew backlash. Online harassment grew so bad that, in June 2018, Tran her Instagram posts. She subsequently abandoned social media entirely.
All of that unfolded against the backdrop of a shifting trilogy storyline. The Force Awakens set up Finn as a central character, and The Last Jedi paired him with Rose for a shared subplot. However, the finale,The Rise of Skywalker, greatly diminished their roles. Finn and Rose were effectively sidelined as the primary focus turned to Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. (Ridley’s character was subjected to sexist criticism by those who viewed her as a Mary Sue.)
“What I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side,” Boyega told British GQ in 2020. “[…] “Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver. You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know f*** all.”
Ahmed Best Was an Early Target of Toxic Star Wars Fans
Star Wars has a long, complicated history with race that dates back to its very origins. Creator George Lucas was heavily influenced by Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, to the point that the signature elements of the Jedi become cultural appropriation. That’s in an original trilogy in which Billy Dee Williams is the only prominent actor of color to appear onscreen.
Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, on which so much of Obi-Wan Kenobi‘s drama hinges, certainly diversified the Jedi Order. But, beginning with 1999’s The Phantom Menace, they also infamously introduced a slew of characters that are frequently interpreted as racist caricatures. Among them were the Neimoidians, who controlled the Trade Federation, and Watto, the junk dealer who owned young Anakin Skywalker and his mother. The most prominent, however, was Jar Jar Biinks, the clumsy Gungan intended as the trilogy’s comic relief, but who became widely reviled by fans.
Portrayed by Ahmed Best, Jar Jar was quickly labeled “an intergalactic Stepin Fetchit,” an unflattering reference to vaudeville comedian and film star, Lincoln Percy. Although it’s legitimate to scrutinize Jar Jar’s characterization, the ridicule heaped upon him, and, by extension, Best, went beyond that. The actor acknowledged in 2018 that the media backlash nearly drove him to take his own life.
Why Ewan McGregor’s Response Is So Important
The Disney era has made meaningful progress toward diversifying Star Wars. More women and people of color appear in key roles, in franchise films and series, than ever before. That, unfortunately, goes a long way toward explaining the push-back from racist Star Wars fans.
Lucasfilm failed Ahmed Best; that much is clear. Sixteen years later, the company was perhaps unprepared for the growing toxicity of the internet, and the harassment encountered by actors like John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran. Sure, the Star Wars Facebook page famously defended Rose Tico, while The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and star Mark Hamill lent their support to Tran. But this time, with Moses Ingram, feels different, even if the racist messages are familiar.
Lucasfilm was proactive, warning the actor of what she would encounter, and, in Ingram’s words, executives put in place “the proper systems in place so I feel safe as we do the work.” The company’s response this time wasn’t a mere Facebook clapback; it was a repudiation of racist trolls. That was followed by Ewan McGregor’s full-throated support for Ingram.
His declaration that, “If you’re sending her bullying messages, you’re not a Star Wars fan, in my mind,” was heartfelt, and powerful. Beloved for his role as Obi-Wan, McGregor is using that status to draw a line in the sand. That’s the kind of gatekeeping most people can get behind.