‘Star Wars’ fans’ hate toward diverse characters driven by racist, sexist attitudes, new study says

‘Star Wars’ fans’ hate toward diverse characters driven by racist, sexist attitudes, new study says

Actor Kelly Marie Tran scrubbed her social media and underwent therapy after facing heavy vitriol from toxic fans online

March 17, 2023
Some “Star Wars” fans’ animosity toward recently introduced characters in the franchise may be driven by racist and sexist attitudes, a recent study suggests. 
The study, “Sexism and Racism Negatively Predict Preference for Diverse Characters in Star Wars Fans,“ published in Psychology of Popular Media looked into the role of prejudice in the backlash against characters like Finn, played by John Boyega, and Rose Tico, played by Kelly Marie Tran, who are Black and Vietnamese, respectively. 
Tran scrubbed her social media and underwent therapy after facing heavy vitriol from toxic fans online. 
The researchers found that hostile sexism and symbolic racism were associated with a greater dislike of these newer characters. They also found a negative association with the character Leia Organa, played by the late Carrie Fisher.
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The study polled 1,925 “Star Wars” fans, composed of mostly men around 24 years old, asking them to rate six characters from the franchise.
Participants rated three characters from the first six films — Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Leia Organa and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) — and three from the more recent films — Finn, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Rose Tico. 
The researchers found that fans’ degrees of racism and sexism were positively associated with a greater dislike of newer characters but not older characters. 
For example, fans who said they didn’t like Finn, Rey or Rose Tico agreed with statements such as “Women exaggerate problems at work” and “Most women interpret innocent remarks as sexist.” They also agreed with statements such as “Racial minorities are getting too demanding in their push for equal rights” and “If racial minorities would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.”
Interestingly, the findings also suggested that the Star Wars fandom, in general, is largely opposed to sexism, racism or bullying.
The authors highlighted the influence of representation in media on audiences, particularly in reducing prejudice. 
However, when studios include greater diversity in their reboots and continuations of older series, the backlash may come from fans driven by racist and sexist beliefs. 
The researchers stated that the results do not suggest that there is a large portion of the “Star Wars” fandom endorsing these beliefs, rather, there is simply an association. Since the research is correlational, they are not making causal claims.
      Ryan General

      Ryan General is a Senior Reporter for NextShark




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