Rose Tico, a rebel alliance mechanic from Star Wars: The Last Jedi, has sparked a light on the Star Wars fan community as soon as she stepped onto the screen. In the film, Rose and Finn try to find the master code-breaker in the luxurious city of Canto Bright on planet Cantonica.
Rose Tico became the first Asian main character in the Star Wars Universe. The Star Wars Facebook page Loan Trần’s audition video, the actress who plays Rose. This video made many fans enraged. Fans called her casting a “forced diversity stunt” for LucasFilms, since there’s never been an Asian-American main character in the universe, and expressed anger at her joining the multi-billion dollar franchise. People also said Star Wars is getting too politically correct after the casting announcement as well.
There was even a petition for it to have the whole movie be off-canon. Fortunately, the petition got deleted. Because of the backlash, similar to Daisy Ridley when she got the part in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Trần deleted her Instagram. Ironically, Trần has always been a big fan of Star Wars. She said in a MovieWeb interview: “I saw C-3PO and started to cry. When I was a kid, my dad told me about these two characters they were making for this next movie. So it just feels like it’s come full circle, to be in the company of these characters that I heard about and then grew to love. I felt like I was actually waking up in my childhood fantasy.”
On October 4, 2019, also known as Force Friday, the premiere merchandise event for Star Wars released their items for Mandalorian and Rise of Skywalker. Fans were ecstatic that Rose would have her own Funko Pop figure released. Fans, particularly fans of colour, were outraged at the fact that Rose was missing in the merchandise. Rose was the only character missing in an entire box set of action figures. She wasn’t sold as any other merchandise after that. Droids and Stormtroopers had more exposure than her. To raise awareness, Star Wars fans started the hashtag #WheresRose. The social media movement on Twitter blew up with fan art of Rose within her greatest moments on-screen and her appearances in the comics.
In the past, the Star Wars franchise has committed erasure of characters that are women as well as characters of colour. In 2014, a response to John Boyega’s casting in The Force Awakens started a social media movement known as #boycottstarwarsvii, which protested Boyega’s character Finn pushed to the back of merchandise even though he is the confirmed co-lead of the trilogy. In 2017, Finn in the Last Jedi Trailer, was barely shown in the teaser. Another social media campaign went on for #WheresFinn after TLJ promotions had just started because Finn wasn’t included in the merchandise as much as the other characters.
In Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, we only see mechanic-turned-commander Rose for a split second. Hopefully, we will see her more on the big screen starting December 20th. Especially with the fact that LucasFilm’s senior vice president of development is a woman of colour, Star Wars should be doing the best they can for their diverse fanbase. Rose has been a favourite of many Asian-American fans because she isn’t written as the stereotypical submissive Asian woman. Tico has saved Finn from kamikazeing into an AT-AT in the Battle of Crait. The adventure they shared gave her more purpose after her sister’s death at the beginning of the movie, which is inspiring because of how impactful a loss can be. JJ Abrams says he was thankful for Rian Johnson to have cast Loan Trần as the character.
Star Wars has always had a history of political moves in media. Princess Leia was a breakout character back in the late-70s in the original trilogy. Finn and Rey being the co-leads of the sequel trilogy, was a true breakout moment for Lucasfilms.
Star Wars fans need to know the Skywalkers are not the only important characters in the Universe. The company is rapidly casting more people of colour in their recent works like Disney+’s anticipated Star Wars show, Mandalorian starring Ming-Na Wen, Taika Waititi and Pedro Pascal. You can catch more Rose Tico in the comic book miniseries called Star Wars: Allegiance, which the story is set before The Rise of Skywalker.
Edited: Lauren Hailey