There’s no denying the divisive reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi seen in the Star Wars fan community since the film’s release but a new study by researcher Morten Bay reveals many of the accounts targeting the film’s director Rian Johnson as well as the cast are in fact bots.
The Last Jedi has become widely known and infamous in the Star Wars franchise for its depiction of Luke Skywalker and the choices made regarding Rey’s lineage but Bay’s paper, Weaponizing the haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation, could reveal that the hate directed towards the film could be significantly blown out of proportion as it suggests “that while it is only a minority of Twitter accounts that tweet negatively about The Last Jedi, organized attempts at politicizing the pop culture discourse on social media for strategic purposes are significant enough that users should be made aware of these measures, so they can act accordingly.”
Bay also suggests political motivation behind the bots as he likens the targeted harassment and hate towards the film to the 2016 presidential election. In his research, he advocates that the film’s reputation online does not accurately represent the true response to the film as he “finds evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments. The likely objective of these measures is increasing media coverage of the fandom conflict, thereby adding to and further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society. Persuading voters of this narrative remains a strategic goal for the U.S. alt-right movement, as well as the Russian Federation.”
The academic divides the negative response to the film into three different categories which he labels as those with a political agenda, trolls, and “real fantagonists,” which are what he sees as true Star Wars fans that were genuinely disappointed with the creative choices made in the film. Bay finds that “overall, 50.9% of those tweeting negatively [about the movie] was likely politically motivated or not even human,” he adds that only 21.9% of tweets regarding the film were negative to begin with.
Overall, Bay notes that the study’s results reveal that “among those who address The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson directly on Twitter to express their dissatisfaction, more than half are bots, trolls/sock puppets or political activists using the debate to propagate political messages supporting extreme right-wing causes and the discrimination of gender, race or sexuality. A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls.”
Since the film’s release last December, Star Wars: The Last Jedi managed a $1.3 billion worldwide box office take, becoming the second highest-grossing film in the franchise, and the eighth highest-grossing film of all time at the domestic box office. It has also become the top-selling Blu-ray of 2018, besting both Marvel’s Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran and Andy Serkis.
In Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Skywalker saga continues as the heroes of The Force Awakens join the galactic legends in an epic adventure that unlocks age-old mysteries of the Force and shocking revelations of the past.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Digital HD, Blu-ray, and DVD.