I can’t remember in my lifetime where a collective media has absolutely refused to accept the fact that fans didn’t like a movie. By now you know the story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released almost a year ago. Critics loved the film, fans hated the film. The movie currently sits on Rotten Tomatoes with a certified fresh 91% rating amongst critics but only a 45% rating with audiences. Members of the film and television media have danced circles around why there is such a gap between what they believe and how fans took the film. But now they have a new excuse for why there is a negative cloud around the film….the Russians!
This is not a joke, this is a real story. The Hollywood Reporter is claiming that based on the finds of an academic paper, the negative buzz behind The Last Jedi was created and pushed by Russian trolls on the internet. In a study by The paper, titled Weaponizing The Haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation, the paper claims the online response to 2017’s The Last Jedi was persuaded by the Russian Federation.
The results of the study show 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. The paper concludes 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.
The paper analyzes in depth the negative online reaction, which is split into three different camps: Those with a political agenda, trolls, and what Bay calls “real fantagonists,” which he defines as genuine Star Wars fans disappointed in the movie. His findings are fascinating; “Overall, 50.9% of those tweeting negatively about the movie was likely politically motivated or not even human,” he writes, noting that only 21.9% of tweets analyzed about the movie had been negative in the first place.
“A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls,” he writes of the negative tweets.
The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson endorsed the study on Twitter stating that the findings are consistent to the ‘online harassment’ he received following the movie’s release. Last week, Disney announced that Kathleen Kennedy would remain the head of Lucasfilm and Star Wars until 2021 despite the online backlash to The Last Jedi and the box office failure of Solo: A Star Wars story. So if you are unhappy with the Disney direction of Star Wars, or if you work directly for Vladimir Putin, you get to enjoy this ride for three more years.