Like most of you, I was first introduced to Rose Tico at a panel at Celebration 2017. Though details were sparse, we were treated to a special glimpse at this important new entry into the franchise. And it was important. For too long women of colour have been absent from Star Wars, or hidden under prosthetic or the CG mask of motion capture. It felt like a watershed moment.
What we did learn of Rose immediately piqued my interest, especially the little touches like how she ties her hair up with a length of wire. It spoke volumes for her character. An everyday engineer trying to find her place in the galaxy was just what we needed after decades of prophesised fathers and sons and the plight of the Jedi. Here was a nobody just trying to do the right thing. Like you. Like me.
More than that, though, was Kelly Marie Tran, the actor who portrayed her. She had such infectious enthusiasm for Rose, for the saga and for us all. She was a beacon of bright light, already an inspiration, and a welcome part of the saga.
As I’ve already expressed on Twitter, the very first piece of merchandise I bought on Force Friday II was a Rose figure. So yeah, I was a fan from the get-go. But it was the release of The Last Jedi that unleashed the everyday heroism of Rose Tico onto audiences at large. Here she was, one of the background characters we’d long seen populate the rebellion and, now, the Resistance, up front and centre.
Despite losing her sister, Rose puts her duty first and foremost. Even in her grief and pain, she still stops deserters from fleeing. That being, of course, how she met Finn. Here’s where Rose really shines, when upon realising who she’s talking to, she fangirls out. I don’t mean that derogatory. I am Rose in that moment, tripping over my words and coming across obsessive and, frankly, a little creepy. I’ve met enough of my own heroes to know I’m exactly the same. But, remarkably, Rose doesn’t hesitate to stun Finn when she recognises he’s trying to run away. That takes such courage and strength of character.
While I could waffle on about Rose at length, I’ll skip ahead to the climax of the movie, where Finn is ready to give his life to take out the First Order’s siege cannon. But she puts herself in the firing line to save him. When Finn asks why, Rose replies, “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.” Perhaps the most important line of the movie, it’s also the very essence of Star Wars. This central moral has been a guiding light for our heroes for forty years. After all, Anakin lost everything by giving into his hate. Only by accepting love did he save his son and redeem his soul.
Rose Tico is an everyday hero, a capable engineer and, for all intents and purposes, us the fans on screen. I can’t wait to see more of her, be that in books, comics or Episode IX.