Monday, September 10, 2018

Kelly Marie Discusses Her New York Times Op-Ed About Leaving Social Media

By: Dominic Jones

Star Wars: The Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran made an appearance at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where she spoke about her decision to leave social media earlier this year and her subsequent op-ed in the New York Times.  Tran, whose currently promoting the upcoming series Sorry For Your Loss, was asked by The Hollywood Reporter about her piece and if she would ever want to go back.  You can see her answer below,

In her op-ed, Tran explained she decided to leave social media, writing, "It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them."  She would later add, "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. And that feeling, I realize now, was, and is, shame, a shame for the things that made me different, a shame for the culture from which I came from. And to me, the most disappointing thing was that I felt it at all."

The op-ed was, Tran explained, a chance for her to reclaim the narrative.  She told The Hollywood Reporter in the above clip, "I felt like I wanted to write something honest, that truly came from me."

She also stated that she does see how social media can be force for good, although she is unsure if she will ever return, saying,

"I don't know if I'll ever go back. (...) There are really good things that come out of having a community. Hopefully, what we are doing here, in terms of this project, will be illuminated by that. You can have these great discussions on a platform about something that maybe we can't really talk about."

Tran also added that she hopes Sorry For Your Loss, which will debut on Facebook Watch will spur positive conversation on that platform.  The series is about how people deal with grief in different ways, as it follows Leigh (Elizabeth Olson) in the months following her husband's unexpected death.  It also tackles issues surrounding addiction, as Tran's character, Jules, is a recovering addict.

I was lucky enough to attend the premiere of the first four episodes of Sorry For Your Loss at TIFF on Saturday, which was followed by a Q&A with members of the cast and crew of the series, including Tran, Olson, and Mamoudou Athie (who plays Leigh's husband, Matt, in flashbacks).  Tran was delightful, as expected, during the Q&A and had some funny moments when she compared working on a drama like Sorry For Loss to a sci-fi epic like The Last Jedi.  You can see some pics from the event below,
Tran was fantastic in those first four episodes, delivering a layered performance.  Her character, Jules, starts off seeming like she will serve as a foil for her sister Leigh (Olson), however over the course of the episodes she grows into a supportive figure in her sibling's life, while also facing stigmas surrounding recovering addicts.  The episodes are sad, as expected, but they don't overwhelm you, as the moments of sadness are often followed by moments of humor.  There's a real heart to the series, and I look forward to watching the remaining six episodes when they are released.

Tran's decision to leave social media, after months of harassment from people who decided their dislike of a film and a character justified their actions, should act as moment of reckoning for Star Wars fans (and has in many corners).  It begs the question of all us: do we want to have a community that exists solely to tear down the things we hate?  Or one that is supportive of and enthusiastic about the things we love? (Didn't someone say something like that in a Star Wars movie once?)  Personally, I want the latter.  

Obviously, this doesn't mean people have to like The Last Jedi or any other Star Wars film, and there have been plenty of people who have expressed their displeasure with the film in mature and constructive ways.  Unfortunately, this displeasure with the film has been co-opted by people with more sinister motives, those who are unhappy that people of colour and women are being given the spotlight in Hollywood, which has traditionally catered to straight, white men.  It's up to all of us who wish to see change to speak up in the face of those who seek to minimize or excise the voices of women and minorities.  Something that Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia, Jyn Erso, and countless other Star Wars heroes would do.

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