Representation and Rose Tico

Representation matters.

I know. It’s something you’ve heard a lot and it’s something you’ve heard me say more than a few times about Star Wars. Yes, the franchise has been getting better about featuring more diversity over the years from the films to the comics to the books and more but it’s hardly reached parity. That’s why I’ve been lowkey losing my mind over Rose Tico since they first announced Kelly Marie Tran would be prominently featured in The Last Jedi. (And by losing my mind, I mean excitedly hugging my friend Lin in a freezing gas station parking lot because we were finally going to see ourselves in Star Wars on the big screen.)

That excitement only steadily grew as the months passed and Kelly Marie Tran herself certainly had plenty to do with that. Her own enthusiasm for the character was practically tangible in every interview she did about The Last Jedi and she definitely seemed to grasp what a big deal she was in terms of Asian representation. Her red carpet appearance for the premiere was the first time I’ve genuinely and unironically wanted to tell someone, “Sweetie, you’re doing amazing!”

Despite all of this, I didn’t expect to cry multiple times when I saw Rose Tico on screen in The Last Jedi.

The first time, I thought that perhaps I was just still riding the emotions from a previous scene or that maybe it was sympathy tears. After all, Rose is quietly crying the first time we see her and I’m really not the sort to cry that easily in films. But then it happened again. And again. After the third time, it finally hit me that I was tearing up because this was the first time I’d truly felt myself represented within a Star Wars film. My tears weren’t because of sadness; they were tears of happiness and pride. This was the sort of character I’d not only been waiting for but wish I could have seen in Star Wars as a child. Forget Leia and Padmé: I would have begged my mom to let me be Rose for Halloween.

By the end, my tears for Rose were a mixture of both happiness from representation and genuine emotional attachment to the character. The further the film progressed, the more I fell in love with Rose for who she was as a person. She’s just another rank-and-file member of the Resistance who finds herself pulled into a desperate mission to try and save everyone. Whether it succeeds or not is beside the point: she stepped up when she had to and kept fighting every second along the way, just like a hero does. Rose Tico is what Star Wars (the new trilogy in particular) is really about: an ordinary person who steps up to do the right thing not because she has to but because she can and she wants to.

Rose Tico? You’re doing amazing, sweetie, and I can’t wait for this next generation of young Asian girls to grow up with you as their hero and role model.

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