In 2017, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" introduced the character Rose Tico, played by Kelly Marie Tran. Tran's character was the first woman of color in a leading role in the Star Wars franchise and was especially celebrated among many fans in the Asian American community. However, after images of new merchandise were released, fans immediately noticed Rose's absence, with many using the hashtag #wheresrose on social media.
Following the release of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," Tran was a victim of widespread cyberbullying, mostly involving racist and sexist comments or comments about her appearance, that eventually caused her to delete all of her posts on Instagram. A couple months later, she responded with a New York Times article on her experience with racism. The removal of Rose from the new merchandise, even after this incident, seems especially distasteful. Fans have accused the franchise of catering to the same people who cyberbullied Tran, attributing Rose's absence to racism and sexism.
While some have argued that the lack of Rose merchandise could just be a result of the character's merchandise not selling well in the past, this argument doesn't explain why Rose was purposefully removed from some of the artwork. Fans shared multiple pictures of the original artwork used for merchandise that still included Rose, showing that Rose was actually removed from the artwork when the merchandise was produced. Much of this merchandise also features artwork of multiple leading characters and are not solely Rose merchandise, which raises the question of why it was necessary to put in the extra effort to remove Rose but keep the other characters. Even if Rose merchandise isn't selling well, why would Star Wars need to remove Rose from artwork of multiple characters, when she isn't the main focus of most of the images anyway? Would having an Asian woman on the corner of a tote bag or a t-shirt really hurt sales that much?
Considering how influential the Star Wars franchise is, the inclusion of an Asian female character was something to be celebrated and regarded as a huge step in the representation of people of color. This only makes removal of Rose from new merchandise particularly disappointing and upsetting. Any fans who were finally able to see themselves in Rose don't have many options in looking for her merchandise. Having a woman of color in a leading role in Star Wars should have opened doors for more women of color, but unfortunately, the treatment of both Rose and Kelly Marie Tran seem to suggest otherwise.