I’m a Star Wars fan, as any geek worth his salt should be. When I come across a good Star Wars entry, be it on the big screen or the little one, I give it the praise it rightly deserves. When it’s bad, you can damn well bet I’ll be there to enthusiastically tell you why.
This goes especially goes for the latest Star Wars entry, “The Last Jedi,” which is so horrendous that I had to write about it twice.
According to a study, however, my dissatisfaction for the movie wasn’t honestly come by and was instead the work of Russian operatives. Yes, you read that right. A new study is blaming the Russians on the hate a Star Wars movie generated comrade.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the claim comes from a paper by Morten Bay titled “Weaponizing The Haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation,” wherein it claims that most of the negativity came from those who are politically motivated or were Russian antagonists or bots:
Bay suggests that reputation may not be earned, and instead “finds evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments,” as he writes in the paper’s abstract. He 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.”
The paper analyzes in depth the negative online reaction, which is split into three different camps: those with a political agenda, trolls and what Bay calls “real fantagonists,” which he defines as genuine Star Wars fans disappointed in the movie. His findings are fascinating; “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,” Bay 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,” Bay 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.”
First off, I want to address Bay’s idea that people from the right are lashing out from a political standpoint against the movie, and confirm that this is 100 percent true. A lot of the backlash is coming from a political perspective, but that’s just because the movie adopted a political perspective as Bay even admits himself in his own research:
It should not have been a surprise, then, that a new trilogy in the Star Wars franchise would express equally left-leaning sentiments. Although they may still have a long way to go (Brown, 2018), the Star Wars films, books, video games and tv shows produced after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2014 have made an effort to address identity politics by introducing strong, female protagonists and a better overall representation of gender, race/ethnicity and sexuality. This was the case in the first entry in the new trilogy, The Force Awakens, but even more so in The Last Jedi (Watercutter, 2017), which took a no-holds-barred approach to address issues of gender discrimination, class warfare, the destructive character of masculine aggression and war profiteering, while still working within the left-of-center frame constructed by George Lucas in 1977. Criticism of American engagements in the Middle East had already been present in the anthology film Rogue One from 2016 (Doescher, 2016), so clearly Star Wars was continuing to convey left-of-center values in the new Disney era. In other words, in the more than 40 years it has existed, politics and left-leaning political commentary has always been woven into Star Wars’ fabric.
Tl;Dr: Bay claims that Star Wars has always been left-leaning, and we’re now only seeing this because Trump is president, and this is why we hate the movie.
No, it’s not. We hate the movie because it’s filled with bad writing that attempts to consistently shoehorn in “strong female protagonists” in order to push a political message.
As I wrote in my takedown of The Last Jedi about one of the “strong women” they attempted to inject successfully:
Meanwhile, some of the Last Jedi’s women felt forced and unnecessary, Admiral Holdo being chief among them. Holdo, complete with trendy purple hair, takes over for Leia after she’s hospitalized. Why did she take over instead of fan favorite “IT’S A TRAP!” Admiral Ackbar? Because Ackbar was lazily killed off so that Holdo could be injected into the plot.
Holdo then proceeds to make moves that make no sense, like hiding her battle plans from her crew in order to make it seem like she’s some tactical wizard no one can comprehend, and what’s more, smarter and wiser than her mutinous number one (male) pilot who believes her unfit for the position. Only at the very end, when Leia reveals Holdo’s true intentions, is everyone suddenly made aware of Holdo’s master plan.
As I wrote in my second article attacking TLJ, I highlighted how Rian Johnson openly admitted he was trying to destroy Star Wars as we knew it and that even Mark Hammil himself (Luke Skywalker) hated what Johnson was doing to the series, which is all happening in the name of being “woke.”
As I’ve said ad nauseam, people don’t like politics in their escapism. Everything that embraces the social justice narrative begins to fail, be it sports, television, shopping, or award shows. Star Wars is no different. It embraced social justice and began to see the hatred for it. People don’t want to be preached to while they’re watching an epic story about a space war with wizards.
The fans got political only because Star Wars creators got political. J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, and Executive Producer Kathleen Kennedy didn’t set out to make a superb story, they set out to make a point and reinforce an agenda. If you attempt to push politics in people’s faces, you should not be surprised when politics gets pushed back in yours.
Blaming bad reviews for your film on international intrigue just makes you look bad.
Make good movies, not bad propaganda. Do this, and you won’t have half of your Star Wars fans up in arms.