Star Wars: The Last Jedi wasn’t the most universally acclaimed move when it debuted in December 2017. This divisiveness may not have been entirely made by humans. Some of this polarization may have been due to Russian Bots, according to a recent research paper.
Media and technology scholar Morten Bay made this discovery in his paper titled titled “Weaponizing the Haters: The Last Jedi and the Strategic Politicization of Pop Culture Through Social Media Manipulation.” It was published this week and identified that automated bot accounts were primarily focused on tweeting negative reception upon the film.
Bay used Twitter’s search feature mixed with a data mining software to sift through director Rian Johnson’s account This let him see just how many accounts were made up of bots and trolls.
He had found that out of 967 tweets directed at him that only discussed an opinion of the film, 206 were negative, and half of those were found to be automated bot accounts that were mostly politically motivated. It also found that the majority of these were from male accounts with a very small amount being female.
Johnson hasn’t been a stranger to talking about the backlash he has faced over his film. He recently tweeted about the paper, agreeing with the Abstract introduction about his experiences online.
And just to be totally clear: this is not about fans liking or not liking the movie – I've had tons of great talks with great fans online and off who liked and disliked stuff, that's what fandom is all about. This is specifically about a virulent strain of online harassment.
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) October 2, 2018
Troll accounts are nothing new in 2018 of social media and the divisiveness of The Last Jedi, as this paper shows, made it a lightning for more online trolling. There are real fans out there who legitimately didn’t enjoy it. But there was a subsection of vile fans who went beyond trolling and began bullying some of the cast online. Someone even cutting together a “male edit” of the film that sliced out the female characters.
Like the loot box controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II, The Last Jedi’s controversy will likely stick with its respective series for a bit. However, bullying cast members and directors because of harmless film and being skeptical of a publisher because of possibly predatory business practices are two different things.