'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Was Targeted by Russian Trolls, Study Says

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When all else fails just blame the Russians.

An 'academic paper' is claiming that half of the criticism on social media that was aimed at director Rian Johnson and "The Last Jedi" was due to 'Russian trolls.'

That's exactly what a new academic paper by researcher Morten Bay has claimed to have found. 

The paper, titled "Weaponizing The Haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation," says it has found "evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments.” 

Bay continues, “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.” 

Bay's findings stated that “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. 

“[S]ince the political and ethical positions presented in the new films are consistent with older films, it is more likely that the polarization of the Trump era has politicized the fans,” he argues. “The divisive political discourse of the study period and the months leading up to it, has likely primed these fans with a particular type of political messaging that is in direct conflict with the values presented in The Last Jedi.” 

Of course, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson pounced on the opportunity to share the tweet, adding, “Looking forward to reading it, but what the top-line describes is consistent with my experience online.

Yes, Rian Johnson's "The Last Jedi" riled up many long-time "Star Wars" fans and quickly became the most divisive movie in the franchise's history. There's no arguing that. You may say the film was "bold" but there's no discounting the fact that those that were part of the backlash were REAL, longtime fans that, in essence, were purists when it came to the franchise and were allergic to any kind of change emerging within the character traits and storylines. 

The main complaint was, of course, the way Johnson treated Luke Skywalker and how his all-encompassing statement that the "Jedi was dead" could not have been uttered by the same guy who told Yoda in 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back" "I won't fail you, I'm not afraid." Alas, this deviation from the original spirit of the character rubbed many people the wrong way. Others were also complaining about the new characters whom, coincidence or not, were mostly female characters, (Laura Dern's Admiral Holdo and Kelly Marie Tran's Rose Tico,) which even led to a fan deciding to edit his own 46 minute version of the "The Last Jedi" without any women in it. That was going a little too far.

Oh and how about Marie Tran's Rose Tico, a character that felt like a non-starter, underdeveloped and thinly written.  Of course, we want strong female characters to be included in these big-budget tentpole blockbusters and "Star Wars" has, quite frankly, done it quite well with this new trilogy, especially when it comes to Daisey Ridley's Rey who is, no doubt, turning into one of the great sci-fi heroines of our time. 

For many, the joys of Star Wars comes from the comfort of familiarity, the mythology Lucas created. "The Last Jedi" erased all that. I knew "The Last Jedi" would likely rub fans the wrong way within the first few minutes. The primary intent of the film was to reinvent the franchise. Of course, these fans wanted things to stay the same, but watching "The Last Jedi" you can sense director Rian Jonson trying to, as Kylo Ren says to, "let the past die." It's a theme that resonates throughout the film.  The little moments that make up this backlash are not "little" to fans of Lucas' original films. For example, Rey handing off Anakin's blue lightsaber to Luke, who then goes on to toss it over his shoulder and brush off Rey? That's a nono for them. Luke doesn't even believe in himself anymore.  The mythology, his legend, was, in fact, a sham according to this new movie.  I, of course, enjoyed the film, but I do understand some fans' frustrations.

With all that said, whoever reads Bay's study and thinks "Oh, It was the Russians all along!" are completely oblivious to reality. The backlash very much existed. I've spoken to many of these angry fans IN PERSON. This was not a Russian trolling campaign. Some of the most hardcore Star Wars fans I know have shunned and disassociated themselves with the Disney Star Wars brand. That's just the way it is. Fans have jumped off the bandwagon. If Disney refuses to accept this reality then they are in for a harsh wake-up call when Episode IX is released next year.