A recent academic study has controversially stated that Russian bots might have been responsible for the online backlash in response to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
In December 2017, the sci-fi film won critical acclaim, yet remained to be one of the most divisive movies in the beloved series.
Not only was there lots of online criticism in response to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but star Kelly Marie Tran faced so much harassment that she quit social media. Mark Hamill, A.K.A. Luke Skywalker, took to Twitter to back his costar.
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) June 6, 2018
Allegedly, that overwhelming response might have been part of an effort by Russian bots to divide America through pop culture.
In his recent study Weaponizing The Haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation, researcher Morten Bay claimed that 50.9 per cent of negative responses on Twitter were from non-automated accounts whereas only 21.9 per cent were from verified human accounts.
Here's my paper (final draft) on politicization of #StarWars fandom & #TheLastJedi, accepted for pub. in First Monday. It shows ~50% of criticism directed @rianjohnson was political trolling, some of it likely from Russia. Also shows haters=small minority. https://t.co/fFGSxJToi5 pic.twitter.com/BUCJLpl0FI
— Morten Bay, PhD (@mortenbay) October 1, 2018
“A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls,” writes Bay.
Although Bay’s theory is yet to be proven, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson already backs it.
In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the final episode of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, set to hit theatres in December 2019.