Debate has raged for almost ten months now over the contents of Episode 8 of the franchise, which came with a slight shift in tone and some divisive plot twists.
Almost a year after its release, those who disliked the movie have been split into three camps by researcher Morten Bay: those with a political agenda, trolls simply looking to cause trouble, and “real fantagonists” — genuine Star Wars fans simply disappointed by the finished product.
And somewhat surprisingly, what was thought to be a huge divide in the fandom actually isn’t that huge at all: only 21.9% of all tweets analysed were negative.
Of those negative tweets, just over half were “politically motivated or not even human”.
Bay found “evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments”, adding: “A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls.”
As for those unhappy with a perceived political sway in the film, Bay notes that The Last Jedi is ultimately no different in that regard to the previous instalments in the franchise.
“[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 said.
“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.”
Johnson himself has reacted to the study on Twitter.
“A bit of Morten’s research came out awhile ago and made some headlines – here’s his full paper. Looking forward to reading it, but what the top-line describes is consistent with my experience online,” he said.
“And just to be totally clear: this is not about fans liking or not liking the movie – I’ve had tons of great talks with great fans online and off who liked and disliked stuff, that’s what fandom is all about.
“This is specifically about a virulent strain of online harassment.”
Johnson’s work at Star Wars is not done yet – he’s thought to be working on a brand new trilogy for Lucasfilm that will take place separately to the Skywalker saga.
JJ Abrams has picked up the mantle for Episode 9, which is currently in production and will wrap up the sequel trilogy.
Abrams helmed The Last Jedi’s predecessor The Force Awakens back in 2015, to a largely positive reception.
Star Wars 9 is out in late 2019.