Rian Johnson would like to direct your attention, please, to a paper recently published by researcher Morten Bay, entitled “Weaponizing the Haters: The Last Jedi and the Strategic Politicization of Pop Culture through Social Media Manipulation,” which takes a deep dive into online criticism aimed at the director for his (seemingly) deeply divisive Star Wars movie. While there would appear to be a ton of fan conflict about The Last Jedi, “Weaponizing the Haters” finds that many of those hating on the film in Johnson’s mentions are doing so not out of a genuine dislike for the 2017 franchise installment, but rather to sow political antipathy and chaos online. We know. You’re shocked.
Writes Bay, “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.” As you might not be that surprised to hear by this point: “A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls.” The study concludes, in part, “Overall, 50.9% of those tweeting negatively was likely politically motivated or not even human.” Additionally, out of the tweets analyzed, only 21.9% were negative to begin with.
All of which is not to say there wasn’t authentic loathing for Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, but rather that the negative online attention Johnson himself received was, in no small part, seemingly designed to further certain political ends and encourage “a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society.” As for the rest of us … well, that alien milk scene just wasn’t for everybody. You can read the full paper here.