May 8, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

May the 4th Be With You: Kelly Marie Tran reacts to fan poem

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Kelly Marie Tran made history as the first Asian American to play a major character in a “Star Wars” film.

Four years later, the “Last Jedi” actor received a touching tribute from a young poet and fan inspired by Tran’s trailblazing work onscreen. Right before May 4, the unofficial “Star Wars” holiday, MJ Park read her poem aloud Monday and brought Tran to tears during a virtual event for Entertainment Weekly. Hosted by director Carlos López Estrada, the video conference featured Park and other poets who worked on his upcoming film, “Summertime.”

Park wrote her poem, “When Rose Saved Finn’s Life During the Last Battle of ‘The Last Jedi,’” in 2017 after seeing the second installment in the “Star Wars” trilogy starring Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and John Boyega. The title refers to a climactic scene toward the end of the movie in which (spoiler alert!) Tran’s character, Resistance mechanic Rose Tico, heroically stops fellow Resistance fighter Finn (Boyega) from sacrificing himself for the cause.

“My whole heart stops to the crash of two Starfighter jets, the Asian glow of my own heart radiating a warmth that transcends itself from my chest to the screen out in front of me. This seven-episode intergalactic space war has been saved by just a single frame,” Park began her reading.

“Unbeknownst to the universe, we are all but left to watch a small Asian girl tear apart the First Order with nothing but a heart made of scrap metal and a passion for rebellion. The Resistance does not hold its name for nothing.

“Maybe [directors] J.J. Abrams or Rian Johnson or some other white guy had it in for them when Kelly Marie Tran showed up and did not take no for an answer,” Park went on. “Maybe we see ourselves in Rose. Maybe we see that maybe there is something in us that believes in a fate that travels beyond the cosmos, that maybe there is something within us that is screaming to become our own hero. Maybe Rose is our hope in the galaxy that seems so far, far away.”

As Park recited her work, Tran was overcome with emotion. Though her groundbreaking “Star Wars” hero boasts many loyal supporters worldwide, Rose has also gained several haters who infamously bullied Tran off social media after “The Last Jedi” premiered. Tran, who also recently voiced the first Southeast Asian Disney princess as the star of “Raya and the Last Dragon,” has been vocal about the bullying and racism she has faced during her career.

“I’m fully crying right now,” Tran said. “Thank you so much for sharing that. That was really beautiful. There is a power, as you know, that comes with poetry and words and when we use words to find ways to heal ourselves. And hearing your words was very healing.”

The moving exchange came, appropriately, a day before May 4, long celebrated by “Star Wars” enthusiasts and anyone else who revels in its punny tagline, “May the 4th Be With You.” According to USA Today, the clever catchphrase — based on the iconic “Star Wars” refrain, “May the force be with you” — dates back to a 1979 ad in a British newspaper that coined it to herald the election of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Since then, “May the 4th Be With You” has become a rallying cry among “Star Wars” fans and even Disney, which began recognizing the unofficial holiday via special events and campaigns after acquiring Lucasfilm nearly 10 years ago. This year, the studio giant recruited various artists to submit illustrations honoring each film and series in the “Star Wars” canon.

See how other “Star Wars” fans are observing May 4 below.