As 2019 ended, and John Boyega finished his contract with Disney and the press tour finished, I can imagine him taking a comfy seat in front of his computer, pulling off the kids gloves, and popping his knuckles.
TW for mentions of online harassment, as well as spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker.
To say that the past while has been a showcase of John Boyega having absolutely no more damns to give about the fandom that has hurt and hounded not only him but Jake Lyold, Daisy Ridley, Kelly Marie Tran, and nearly pushed Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best to suicide would be an understatement.
This is someone who has seen, to paraphrase Stitch Media Mix writer Zina, his presence on posters shrunk, Finn’s role in the movies turned to comedy, and been harassed as a block between the OTP romance of Keylo Ren (a mass murdering tyrant and a stand in for toxic masculinity) and Rey, the woman he’s stalked, abused, and negged.
And frankly, good for John.
Before I go any further, I would highly recommend the work of Stitch, who has not only written an extensive, thouroughly researched article about this latest mess the fandom has put out, but has written extensively about fandom racism in general. They’re an awesome person who definitely deserves praise for all the work they’ve put into discussing fandom racism.
Now, racism in fandom is not something new, and I doubt this will be the last we see of it, even if the Reylo shippers bend over backwards to claim that no, really, they’re not racist. I’ve been around long enough to see racism rear its ugly head whenever any person of colour is given the limelight in a popular series, often combining with sexism to make misogynoir attacks on Black women for daring to be loved by a white male lead.
Looking at you, Flash, Doctor Who, NuTrek, and Sleepy Hollow fandoms, to name but a few.
But one of the things I find truly insidious about the attacks on John for daring not to take the crap any longer than he’s had to has to be how it’s in protection of Daisy Ridley.
Anyone with even a passing knowledge of racism knows how the tears of white women have been used to kill black men, and police black people, with the most well known being Emmett Till, and we can see examples of that still with concerns by various white women over black people gathering for BBQs, selling water, and going to Starbucks.
I bring up these examples because I feel as though there’s this pervasive idea that fandoms are somehow separate from the society it exists within, that they’re free of centuries old bigotries and prejudices that continue to this day, and it’s a falsehood that simply needs to die.
Labeling John, however vaguely, as a brute that Daisy was afraid of is a tactic that the KKK famously relied upon, especially in their movie, Birth of a Nation, that was screened at the White House in 1915. It lead to a resurgence of the KKK until the Superman radio drama exposed and mocked their initiation ceremonies, and it’s the kind of thing that, as I said earlier, leads to black men being killed.
It’s an old tactic dressed poorly in new clothing, and it’s still as disgusting as before.
It’s also patently a bold faced lie portrayed as an innocent inquiry, much like what the BBQ Beckys and Permit Pattys of the world have done, disguising their racism with fake concern while never once acknowledging their white privilege.
And this isn’t just a case of fan entitlement either. Reylo Shippers GOT their canon ship in the end of The Rise of Skywalker in a kiss when Ben Solo saves Rey, and dies very shortly thereafter. They GOT their ship, however briefly, while those of us who shipped Finn and Poe, or Finn and Rey, or Finn/Poe/Rey got nothing, and queer fans got a 3 second scene of two female background characters who kissed that’s already been edited out of screenings in Singapore in order to avoid a higher age rating.
To then get angry over some very well founded criticism of a relationship based in abuse and stalking, issues that both Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley have brought up, reeks of fragile whiteness to a degree I’ve not seen since… well, the last time toxic white fangirls were called on their racism over a black woman being loved by a white male lead.
Looking at you, Snowbarry shippers of the Flash fandom.
And before anyone comes in complaining of John Boyega’s crude sex joke of ‘laying some pipe’, remember again that this is someone who’s been subject to 4 years now of harassment and mockery, and by Reylo shippers in particular.
Frankly, I’m amazed the man didn’t start unloading on fans during the series he was supposed to be a lead in, but ended up being sidelined to highlight Keylo Ren’s man pain, and a fandom in general that ripped on George Lucas so much for the prequels he wanted nothing to do with it anymore.
George Lucas wouldn’t even be interviewed for an episode of The Toys That Made Us. That’s how much the fandom has soured the very thing he created.
John Boyega is more than entitled to release some steam and then move onto, hopefully, bigger and better things.