A new study reveals that a significant part of online trolls directed towards the cast and crew of Star Wars: The Last Jedi may be because of internet bots who manage to create a rather polarised rift amongst the community in ways similar to how technology affected the 2016 presidential election.
This abstract was shared by Morten Bay, a PhD candidate at UCLA. The study claims that “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’s essay, The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation, is yet to be published so it’s still unclear how exactly did he obtain his date to come to state his points.
Since the film’s release, the one concrete fact that has emerged is that The Last Jedi is an extremely divisive film in The franchise and given, that it’s a piece of art, it’s rather difficult to apply stats that define the reaction to the film, especially with each side contextualising date to prove their points.
For example, the movie made $1.3 billion worldwide, which proves its success, while many detractors argue how this total is smaller than Star Wars: The Force Awakens, confirming that The Last Jedi was a failure. Yet again, while fans will argue that the film won 91 per cent positive reviews from critics, those disappointed note that 45 per cent of the website users didn’t like the film that much.
The abstract states, “The study 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.”
Bay also reveals that his study concentrated more on Twitter users, who engage with director Rian Johnson and might not include stats from all social media platforms.
“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,” the piece describes. “A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls.”
For all we know, some fans like the film while others don’t, and the past few months have seen both the sides arguing with one another over this.