This may be a case of art imitating life. Whenever there is a Russian character in a film, chances are audiences are going to root against them considering that they almost always play a villain. But in reality, they are in the news for a variety of reasons from political interference to technological hacking.
And now it seems, at least according to a new study, they’ve gone one step further by trolling Star Wars: The Last Jedi. More on the story below.
In an academic paper released by Morten Bay, the backlash towards Rian Johnson‘s Star Wars: The Last Jedi was fueled by Russian trolls, bots, and others unwilling to accept change to the myth of Star Wars.
While critics consider it to be one of the best films in the franchise to date, it had a tepid box office. Not so much that it would put an end to the franchise but one that did not meet certain box office expectations.
That said, the film did bring out toxic fanboys who were outraged by the narrative direction the film took and characters like Rose Tico. It’s still hard to imagine that, especially in this day and age, we have to suffer through the indignities of ignorance, which are amplified by dangerous toxic fanboyism.
But the Russian trolls and bots are something new to consider. At the same time being not an entirely new concept. We’ve seen trolls target Marvel films and create campaigns to outright ruin anything that comes from the MCU because they believe Disney are paying critics to choose Marvel over DC. I’m still waiting for my checks by the way.
As for the paper itself, Bay says in the abstract:
The results of the social media study presented in this paper presents evidence that political influence through manipulation of social media discussions is no longer exclusive to political debate but can now also be found in pop culture. Specifically, this study examines a collection of tweets relating to a much-publicized fan dispute over the Star Wars franchise film Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. 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.
Sounds well thought out.
After the release of The Last Jedi there was a huge increase in attacks toward anyone involved with the film, which amounted to racism, bigotry, sexism, and other forms of hate. Additionally, there are those who believe Johnson’s film negatively changed the mythos of Star Wars. And a lot of this could be traced back to Russians trolls and other political activists.
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. A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls. The paper concludes 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.
It may sound crazy, but Bay backs all of this up with research and other forms of data:
An example of an account that almost sums up these Russian troll characteristics carries an auto-generated handle and has almost exclusively tweeted disparagingly about The Last Jedi, and engaged in “anti-SJW” rhetoric. In the middle of these tweets, the account all of a sudden tweeted in support of Donald Trump during the latter’s visit to the United Kingdom, which was met with large protests in London. Besides not containing any personal information, having no profile picture and other Russian troll characteristics, this account only posted 9 tweets in more than a year from its creation in January 2017 to February 2018, all of them regarding a particular Anime series on YouTube. From April 2018 onwards, during the lead-up to the release of The Last Jedi for the home video market, and in anticipation of Solo: A Star Wars Story opening, the account suddenly comes to life and begins tweeting frequently about The Last Jedi, identity politics and Rian Johnson. After the data was collected, the account has been through a “reset” where many of its public tweets have been deleted, leaving only its replies.
While some of these tweets did have a political slant to them, others had other agendas to fulfill, and took aim at the diversity in The Last Jedi:
Some were less focused on politics of party or specific issues and more on identity politics, posting anti-feminist or anti-homosexuality messages, and tweets of a racist nature were also frequent among the accounts in this category. In one example, a user tweeted to comedic actor Seth Rogen after he reacted negatively to the “˜Remake The Last Jedi’ project: “You know how I know you’re gay? You don’t want to remake last Jedi”. A majority of the accounts in the Political Agenda category tweeted antagonistically about “SJW” – Social Justice Warriors, often referring to an SJW “agenda” not just put in place in the Star Wars universe by Rian Johnson, Lucasfilm by way of CEO Kathleen Kennedy, and Disney, but also in American society by liberals and left-wing activists.
There is a lot to gather from Bay’s paper, and putting it all on this post would take away from his hard work. These are merely excerpts from a splendid piece of work on the toxic fandom that exists today, and if it continues to fester, it will ruin everything that we hold dear. Head to the source link below for the full paper.
[Source: Morten Bay]