Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
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Kelly Marie Tran, who debuted as Resistance mechanic Rose Tico in The Last Jedi, bailed on social media last year after online trolls harassed her for months after the movie’s premiere. Now, her co-star John Boyega is apologizing for remarks he made about the incident in a new interview with Variety, though he denies his comments were about her, specifically.

After Variety directly asked about Tran’s situation, Boyega implies that, in order to deal with the “small subset people who are very vocal and very negative,one has to be “mentally strong” and not “weak,” which rubbed many fans the wrong way.

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Here’s his comments in full:

“Being in this position, you just understand the masses, how the masses think, you know. Through social media, we get to engage, we get to have fun. But at the same time, for those who are not mentally strong, you are weak to believe in every single thing that you read. That’s, you know, it is what it is. I don’t know, for me anyway, when I see that [backlash], I’m like, well, that’s actually not true. But no, it is actually not true. So it’s kind of like [shrugs] it is what it is. But to engage, to connect with the fans who otherwise wouldn’t get a day to day experience, especially during things like the press tour, and behind the scenes stuff, is always good.”

In a tweet fired off late last night, Boyega claimed he wasn’t referring to his co-star and was only “speaking from own my perspective throughout this franchise.” He continued, “Sometimes I’ve felt strong and sometimes I’ve felt weak. Badly worded though. I apologize.”

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In a follow-up tweet, he directed fans to a tweet he issued back in June of 2018, when he asserted that harassing the actors will “do nothing.” See that tweet below.

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While Boyega’s apology is sincere, it’s easy to see why some might not believe he wasn’t speaking about Tran, and not just because the interviewer specifically mentioned her. Last year, Tran penned a New York Times essay in which she confessed that the biggest struggle with being bullied “wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them.” Referring to similar bullying she endured as a youth, she continued, “And as much as I hate to admit it, I started blaming myself. I thought, ‘Oh, maybe if I was thinner’ or ‘Maybe if I grow out my hair’ and, worst of all, ‘Maybe if I wasn’t Asian.’” She went on to discuss the concept of being “brainwashed into believing that my existence was limited to the boundaries of another person’s approval.”

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When you consider Boyega’s claim that “you are weak to believe in every single thing that you read” in the context of these words, it can read as even more callous.

The Rise Of The Skywalker PR march has raised eyebrows elsewhere, too. In a few different interviews recently, the core cast of the new trilogy delivered some odd shade in the direction of The Last Jedi that read to some as weirdly calculated in light of the toxic fan blowback to Rian Johnson’s film.

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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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