Star Wars: The Last Jedi has struck many fans with its unexpected subversiveness, from the destruction of Kylo Ren’s mask to the idea that Rey’s parents really were just drunken gamblers, or “no one,” instead of indulging in the theories that she may be a Skywalker or a Kenobi, or even Kylo Ren’s long-lost sister. However, one development that has touched many hearts is the introduction of Star Wars’ first major Asian character.
Asian-American actress Kelly Marie Tran was cast as Rose Tico back in 2015, marking her as the first Asian-American to be cast in the franchise. Despite her casting clearly being a progressive step for Star Wars, the actress has still received backlash over her role. A comment on Tran’s audition tape called her “the most useless character ever,” alongside the infamously intolerable Jar-Jar Binks. But now that we have seen the film, we can contest that Rose Tico is anything but useless. In fact, it is doubtful that the story of The Last Jedi would have run its course the way it did without Rose, as it was she whom stopped Finn from almost deserting the Resistance, she whom provided hope to a group of enslaved children and she whom saved the life of one of the main trio. A truly inspirational woman, if I do say so myself, proving also that women can be more than just love interests – they can fight for what they believe in and be intelligent, as well as being quirky and lovable.
Kelly Marie Tran herself has spoken to Variety about how significant she believes the existence of a character such as Rose Tico is:
“A lot of Star Wars fans who are specifically Asian never had a character they could dress up like, or they would and people would always call them ‘Asian Rey’ or ‘Asian fill-in-the-blank.’ I get very emotional when I see people who are able to identify with this character. That means a lot to me, and I don’t think it will ever get old.”
She has also commented on her own personal experience with growing up being unrepresented in the media, and how thus her inclusion in a major franchise such as Star Wars is important and progressive.
“I remember what it felt like to not see anyone like myself in books or on film or TV. When you’re really young, you tend to fall in love with characters. If you start seeing the same type of character everywhere and realize that they don’t look like you, or they don’t speak like you, you start wanting to change who you are. That’s something that I did when I was a young kid. I’m excited to be a part of this positive change.”
The positive effect of Rose has already become evident, as Asian and female fans of Star Wars become emotional at the growing representation – one of these fans being Tran herself, who became emotional upon seeing a girl dressed up as her character at the premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.