In an unfortunately predictable move for the Star Wars franchise, actress Moses Ingram is facing racial backlash against her role in the Disney+ show Obi Wan Kenobi. Her experiences mirror the toxic reaction to John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran on social media — although this time Disney was better prepared, calling out racist fans and pre-emptively warning Ingram what to expect when she took on the role (a sad charge against the Star Wars fandom).
Ingram plays Reva Sevander/Third Sister, one of the main villains of the series. She is an Imperial Inquisitor, a Jedi hunter working for Darth Vader. The first two episodes introduce her as an ambitious character with something to prove, rebelling against her snobbish boss in a dynamic that subtextually reflects the real-life discrimination of a black woman trying to succeed in a conservative workplace.
After the show premiered, Ingram took to Instagram Stories to speak about receiving racist hate mail. she posted screenshots of comments, including threats and racial slurs, accusing her of being a “diversity employment”.
“No one can do anything about that,” she said, after explaining that she’d received “hundreds” of similar messages. “What bothers me is this feeling like I should shut up and take it … And I’m not built that way.”
Ingram mentioned in interviews that Lucasfilm warned her about the likelihood of harassment and said she was told, “This is one thing that’s unfortunately likely to happen. But we are here to help you; You can notify us when it happens.” Learning from the hateful backlash against John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran, the Star Wars franchise has already expressed public support for Ingram. But as her Instagram post suggests, there’s still a sense of helplessness in the face of the onslaught of toxic behavior online.
In a follow-up tweet, the official Star Wars account added, “There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist.”
Ingram also receives a lot of supportive comments, but there’s a noticeable negative trend in online discussions about her character. These comments usually criticize Ingram’s acting skills or describe Reva as uniquely unlikable or poorly written. (Ingram, by the way, is an award-winning Yale acting graduate who recently received an Emmy nomination for Netflix Queen’s Gambit. Her breakthrough in cinema was the role of Joel Coen The Tragedy of Macbeth in 2021. So those “bad actor” comments don’t hold much water.)
As is often the case in such situations, many of these negative comments attempt to make a case for this Race has nothing to do with it with the backlash, and they hate Reva for completely non-political reasons. But when you compare the reaction to Reva to the reaction to her boss, the Grand Inquisitor (played by a white guy), the subtext is obvious.
Both characters follow familiar frameworks for Star Wars villains, with powers, motifs, and dialogue reflecting common themes between Sith and Imperial characters. But while Reva has drawn a barrage of intense criticism, fan reactions to the Grand Inquisitor have ranged from neutral to positive. While the Grand Inquisitor gets a similar amount of screen time, it also seems to generate less discussion in general. Less than a week after the show premiered, this is already showing this type of racial backlash unfolding: direct, explicit harassment directed at the actor in question, coupled with a disproportionate wave of negativity disguised as “valid criticism” questioning details, which would easily be missed in a white sign.
*Initial publication: May 31, 2022 7:11 am CDT
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in science fiction films and superheroes, she also appears as a film and television critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she is the co-host of the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor
https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/moses-ingram-star-wars-kenobi-racist-harassment/ Obi-Wan Kenobi actress Moses Ingram faces racial harassment