Star Wars

STUDY: Nearly Half Of Online Hate For ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Was Political Trolling


The debate surrounding Star Wars: The Last Jedi is nothing new, so we’re not going to waste time regurgitating it here. Some people love it, others hate it and it’s okay to have whatever opinion you want on it because at the end of the day, it’s just a movie.

Still, the wider discussion that has taken place since the film’s release last December has had a profound effect not just on Star Wars fandom, but the idea of pop culture ownership and whether or not creators have an obligation to the people who engage with their work. No one knows about the polarizing effects of The Last Jedi better than the film’s writer/director Rian Johnson, who has had all sorts of hate (and love!) directed at him through social media over the past nine months or so. But what if a significant portion of the hate directed at Johnson wasn’t authentic, but rather a weaponized attack orchestrated by Russian Twitter accounts? It seems ridiculous but a new study finds that, well … that’s exactly what happened.

In an academic paper released this week titled “Weaponizing the Haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation”, researcher Morten Bay examined a sampling of 967 tweets (one per account) sent to Rian Johnson over a period of six months. After analyzing the language used in the tweets and the qualities of the accounts tweeting them, Bay came to the conclusion that approximately 50% of criticism directed at Rian Johnson “was political trolling, some of it likely from Russia.” Even more interestingly, authentic haters of the film only made up a small minority of the tweets.

The tweets were first divided into three categories: positive, negative, and neutral. A total of 206 tweets (21.9%) ended up in the negative column, and these were further divided into the following categories: 11 tweets from bots; 33 from sock puppet or troll accounts; 61 that were driven by a political agenda and 101 (10.5% of the total) from demonstrably real people with a non-political reason for disliking the film. In other words, over half of the negative tweets were “politically motivated or not even human.”

Based on the findings in the present study, it is not fair to generalize and paint all of the The Last Jedi detractors as alt-right activists, racists or misogynists. However, the findings above show that a majority of the negatively-poised users included in the study do express such sentiments, either in The Last Jedi-related tweets or in other tweets on their accounts. These identity-based political values combine with traditional party politics and issue-based politics to represent a politicization of Star Wars critique which is found in more than half of the negative accounts in this study.

Furthermore, Bay discovered that 16 of the selected accounts exhibited multiple characteristics (verbiage, account activity patterns, etc.) shared by the types of Russian troll accounts that “hacked” the 2016 US election. Some of these were even among the accounts that were later deleted by Twitter for that reason and that all of them were anti-The Last Jedi in some way. It’s not clear how hating a Star Wars movie benefits Russia but Bay has some ideas:

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 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.

Bay elaborates further by pointing out that The Last Jedi isn’t much more progressive in its politics than other Star Wars films and argues that the reason the film caused such a backlash among conservative viewers is because those same viewers had become more politicized themselves in the Trump era and had never really engaged with the politics of Star Wars films previously.


Of course, Bay’s findings shouldn’t be taken as the final word on The Last Jedi backlash, as even he admits that his study has shortcomings. For one thing, he only chose a representative sample and didn’t collect every tweet about the film. The study also doesn’t take into account opinions from outside of Twitter or tweets not directed at Johnson. These same flaws can also be applied to all the positive responses too. Nevertheless, Bay notes “that a majority of the negativity stems from politicized accounts which are often part of an organized attempt to disrupt and sow discord using The Last Jedi controversy.”

The full study can be read here. For what it’s worth, Rian Johnson himself has corroborated Bay’s findings and says that it’s consistent with his experience online:


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Follow me on Twitter at Nick_Steinberg.

With its large cast of new characters and introduction to an all new chapter in the Skywalker saga, Star Wars: The Force Awakens did an excellent job of setting up some tantalizing mysteries for the next film to solve — heck, the film ended with Luke Skywalker standing on a cliff, which may just be the most literal cliffhanger in movie history. Ironically, that film’s follow-up, The Last Jedi, feels like it goes out of its way to ignore or otherwise downplay a lot of the big questions J.J. Abrams set up in The Force Awakens which, judging by the film’s surprisingly low user rating on Rotten Tomatoes, hasn’t been well received by some fans. Still, while the film may not address the origins of Snoke or the identity of Rey’s parents to the satisfaction of some, it does bend over backwards to delight fans with all sorts of Extended Universe nods, original trilogy references and cameos galore.

Here are the hidden details you may have missed in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Be sure to highlight any we may have missed in the comments!

23. X-Wing Door

In a nice callback to The Empire Strikes Back, we find out early on in The Last Jedi that Luke Skwyalker’s X-Wing has suffered a similar fate on Ahch-To as it did during its first visit to Dagobah. Whereas Luke accidentally crashed his ship into a swamp in the earlier film, the X-Wing’s submersion at the bottom of a small inlet on Ahch-To appears to be a deliberate parking job on the Jedi Master’s part. While Luke may not be using his X-Wing anymore, he has at least utilized a part of it in his day-to-day island life, as we see that the door to his hut has actually been fashioned out of one of the X-Wing’s S-foils. Unfortunately, that reinforced door is no match for the brute strength of a certain Wookiee …

Entertainment Weekly

22. “Lasersword”

During Rey’s many attempts to convince Luke to come with her to help fight the First Order, the elder Jedi rather devastatingly asks her what she and the Resistance expect him to do against an entire intergalactic army. Though Luke is a Jedi Master, he states that he can’t just “walk out with a laser sword” and vanquish all their enemies even if he wanted to. Though we do get to see Luke sort of do this during his final confrontation with Kylo Ren, his choice of words is the true Easter egg here. Specifically, Luke referring to his lightsaber as a “laser sword” is a callback to the very beginning of Star Wars, as George Lucas’s original scripts referred to the Jedi weapons as “lazerswords.” Hmm, do you think Luke’s been going by “Luke Starkiller” while he’s been in hiding? Source: Star Wars Wiki

21.  Blue Green Milk

The Star Wars universe contains all sorts of weird, alien foods and beverages but none as iconic as the legendary “blue milk,” a favorite of the Lars household in the first Star Wars. Director Gareth Edwards even went so far as to feature blue milk in Rogue One, as a container of the stuff can be seen on the counter of Jyn Erso’s childhood home, but Rian Johnson arguably tops that Easter egg with a milk-related one of his own in The Last Jedi. We see that milk is still an important component of Luke Skywalker’s diet on Ahch-To but since there are no Banthas around (the creatures that produce blue milk), he now harvests his dairy beverages from creatures called thala-sirens. We even see Luke milk one and swig back a big gulp of fresh milk, only the milk is now green instead of blue. Apparently, milk comes in all sorts of colors in the Star Wars galaxy, though it must be said that the blue milk of Tatooine looks a bit more appetizing than the vomit-colored stuff Luke drinks now. Source: Inverse

20. Game of Thrones Cameos

Admittedly, it’s not all that surprising to see actors from Game of Thrones show up in a major production like Star Wars: The Last Jedi (they’re both UK-based productions, after all), but it’s still pretty wild just how many of the film’s bit parts are occupied by actors we’ve seen previously in Westeros. First, there’s Kate Dickie — otherwise known as Catelyn Stark’s demented sister Lysa Arryn — playing the First Order operator speaking to General Hux on the bridge of the Finalizer in the film’s opening scene.

Captain Canady, the commanding officer of the ill-fated Dreadnought, is played by Mark Lewis, who had a role in Game of Thrones’ first season as Shagga, Son of Dolt, the hill tribesman Tyrion cuts a deal with when he’s captured in the Vale of Arryn. Later, when Finn and Rose get caught by the First Order trying to disable the hyperspace tracking device, they’re arrested by Security Bureau Colonel Ansiv Garmuth, played by Ralph Ineson, who made an appearance in Game of Thrones season two as Dagmer Cleftjaw, one of Theon Greyjoy’s Ironborn raiders at Winterfell. Source: Gizmodo Australia

19. Finn’s Jacket Repair

When we first meet Finn (John Boyega) in The Last Jedi, he’s just woken up from time spent in a bacta tank recovering from wounds suffered in his battle with Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. As you’ll recall, Finn gets hit a couple times with Kylo’s lightsaber, including one particularly painful-looking injury to his shoulder caused by the weapon’s crossguard. At the time, Finn was wearing the jacket Poe Dameron gave him, meaning that the lightsaber attack put a hole in the jacket. When Finn wakes up and puts the jacket back on, we see that the hole has been repaired. According to the Visual Dictionary, a visual reference guide for the film, Poe did the stitching himself, further reinforcing the close friendship forged between the two characters.


18. The Raddus

It’s easy to miss but the Resistance’s flagship — you know, the one that Laura Dern’s character rams into the First Order fleet at the speed of light — is called the Raddus. Although the ship is captained by none other than Admiral Ackbar (RIP), it’s named for another Mon Calamari military leader just recently introduced to the Star Wars canon. That’s right, the ship is named after Raddus, the commanding officer from Rogue One who led the Rebel fleet during the Battle of Scarif. Raddus gave his life in the battle, becoming a legendary Rebel Alliance hero in the process and according to canon, it was Ackbar himself who requested that the ship be named in his compatriot’s honor.


17. Holdo’s Star Chart Cuffs

One of the most significant character additions in The Last Jedi is Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, played by actress Laura Dern. While Holdo is a fresh face in the Star Wars saga films, she’s been a part of Leia’s life since the two were both teenagers. Leia met Amilyn at a youth version of the Galactic Senate, which helps explain why the pair are presented as close friends in The Last Jedi and why Leia entrusts her with the fate of the Resistance fleet.

What you may not have noticed is that Amilyn Holdo’s wardrobe choices reflect the refined culture of her native planet, Gatalenta, a planet that Luke actually journeyed to at one point during his quest to find the first Jedi Temple. Holdo’s bracelets in particular feature designs based on the constellations visible from her homeworld. Hopefully, we’ll get to see Gatalenta for ourselves in a future movie!


16. Origins of Rose’s Ring

Despite being stuck with arguably the least interesting storyline in the film, Kelly Marie Tran knocks it out of the park as Rose Tico, a rank-and-file Resistance member who goes on an adventure with Finn and gets the chance to follow in her late sister Paige’s heroic footsteps. Rose is a true believer of everything the Rebellion stands for and speaks for the downtrodden and oppressed peoples of the galaxy.

At one point in the film, we see her flash a ring featuring the original Rebel Alliance insignia to let a young boy know that she can be trusted and according to the Visual Dictionary, this ring has a bit of a storied past. As it turns out, the ring was worn in the halls of the Imperial Senate during the days of the Galactic Civil War and the inner engraving would be shown in secret as a way to prove loyalty to the Rebel cause. By the end of the film, we see that that same boy Rose showed the ring to now has it in his possession and wears it proudly.


15. Alderaan’s Trees

The casino resort on Canto Bight is overflowing with striking imagery, as it features all variety of creatures from around the galaxy. One aspect of the resort’s design that you may not have noticed is that its walkways and promenades are lined with exotic trees. What’s the big deal about trees, you may ask? Well, they’re actually a species native to Alderaan, Leia’s homeworld which was so callously destroyed by the Death Star in the first Star Wars. The presence of these trees only helps reinforce how obscenely wealthy the casino and its patrons are, as these Alderraanian chinar trees are incredibly rare and are a status symbol for the rich. Source: Star Wars Wiki

14. The Uneti Force Tree

If you just follow the Star Wars movies, there’s a good chance you missed the significance of the massive tree on the Jedi temple island, but fans with extensive knowledge of the Star Wars comics and animated TV shows likely lost their minds when they saw it. The Jedi placed great importance on the uneti-wood tree that grew in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and while it’s unclear whether the Temple tree was a descendant of the original on Ahch-To, both are very important parts of the Jedi legacy. As noted in The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary, Luke originally found his way to Ahch-To by following uneti saplings, implying that the island’s ancient tree possesses some sort of connection to the Force.


13. Poe’s Connection to the Force Tree

This is the last point we’ll make about trees, we swear! In case you didn’t know, there’s a lot more going on with Poe Dameron than just being a reckless (though highly skilled) X-wing pilot. Poe’s parents were both important figures within the Rebel Alliance, with Poe’s mother Shara Bey having been an ace pilot herself who adventured with both Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker, and his father Kes Dameron having belonged to the Rebel Special Forces unit known as the ‘Pathfinders,’ a.k.a. the same unit that assisted Han Solo in capturing the Shield Generator on Endor in Return of the Jedi.

Additionally, Poe has a connection to the aforementioned Force tree that used to be housed in the Jedi Temple. As detailed in the Shattered Empire comic prequel, Luke recruited Shara Bay for a secret mission that involved breaking into a vault belonging to Emperor Palpatine. The prize inside? Living sections of the tree from Coruscant, which Palpatine apparently wanted to be kept alive for some reason. Luke gave Shara one of the living samples to take for herself and she eventually planted it at her home on Yavin 4, which means that Poe grew up with it always near him. Perhaps there is some basis for those theories about Poe being Force-sensitive after all … Source: BleedingCool

12. Knights of Ren, Confirmed?

It’s difficult to say whether this qualifies as a legitimate Easter egg or not, but we’ve decided to include it due to the intense discussion surrounding the Knights of Ren among the Star Wars fan community. As you’ll recall, the Knights of Ren were teased in The Force Awakens but never really explained. Snoke makes reference to Kylo Ren being the leader of the Knights of Ren and we see Kylo leading the group during some sort of rain-soaked slaughter during Rey’s mysterious vision sequence but beyond that, we don’t actually learn much at all about them. The Last Jedi is even less interested in revealing the Knights of Ren, as their name is not brought up even once throughout the film.

However, it does seem as if Luke confirms their identities in a roundabout way when he tells Rey that his new Jedi Order had consisted of Ben Solo and “a dozen” other students. According to Luke, when Ben Solo betrayed him, he left with a group of Luke’s other students and slaughtered the ones who refused to join him, implying that the group who joined him ARE the Knights of Ren. Again, we can’t say for sure that Luke’s former students were the Knights of Ren but considering the movie never tells us what became of them after they left Luke, it sure seems likely. Source: Blastr

11. Snoke’s Ring

Other than possessing a flair for the dramatic and an affinity for elegant gold robes, The Last Jedi doesn’t reveal much about Supreme Leader Snoke before he’s unceremoniously sliced in half by Kylo Ren. That being said, we can piece together some things about the mysterious Dark Side master based on appearances alone. Specifically, the gold ring on his finger, which is engraved with images of the Four Sages of Dwartii — philosophical figures that date back to the early days of the Republic.

The four figures — Sistros, Yanjon, Faya, and Braata — were particularly popular among the Sith, as their teachings encouraged the exploration of the Dark Side of the Force (it’s fitting, then, that Palpatine had them cast in gold when it came time to furnish his Coruscant office). The ring’s black stone is made from obsidian and apparently taken from the volcanic caverns beneath Darth Vader’s Mustafar castle. Snoke may tease Kylo Ren for trying (and failing) to become the next Darth Vader but it’s clear that he’s just as much a fan of the legendary Sith Lord himself.


10. Knights of the Old Republic Callback

The Jedi Temple on Ahch-To is filled with more than just ancient Jedi texts, as there are also a number of relics scattered around the island’s various caves and structures. One of these items is a necklace that once housed a small kyber crystal, the same crystals used in the forging of lightsabers. According to the Visual Dictionary, the crystal is actually a “trophy” holding a “Sith lightsaber crystal” classified as a “Jedi Crusader Pendant.” This is significant as there is only one group in Star Wars history known as Jedi Crusaders — the Revanchist — who were named for their leader Revan, who was once known as Darth Revan. In other words, The Last Jedi contains a callback to the beloved Star Wars video game, Knights of the Old Republic! How cool is that?


9. Beastie Boys Easter Eggs

The alien race known as the Abednedo were first introduced in The Force Awakens. The only new member of this race to appear in The Last Jedi is named Slowen-Lo and is the guy who rats on Finn and Rose to the two police officers on Canto Bight. Not only is this character voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt but his name is actually a reference to the Beastie Boys song “Slow and Low.” In fact, every Abednedo character is named after a Beastie Boys song: Resistance pilot Ello Asty (“Hello Nasty), Ilco Munico (“Ill Communication”), Roodown (“Root Down”), and Brasmon Kee (“Brass Monkey”). It all stems from J.J. Abrams being a big fan of the group, prompting Pablo Hidalgo and the rest of the Star Wars story group to make it a rule that every Abednedo be named after a Beastie Boys song. Source: Star Wars Wiki

8. “I Have a Bad Feeling About This”

The iconic line first uttered by Luke Skywalker as the Millennium Falcon approached the Death Star in the original movie has been repeated many times in subsequent entries in the franchise, but the line isn’t in The Last Jedi … at least, not in English. According to Rian Johnson, the line is in the movie but as of this writing, he hasn’t revealed where. We can only assume that the line is spoken in one of the film’s alien languages or by one of the droids. Given how much noise BB-8 makes and his penchant for being involved in highly dangerous situations, we’re going to go ahead and guess that it’s he who utters the line. Specifically, he likely does this during Poe’s attack run on the First Order dreadnought, as Poe replies to BB-8’s worried chirping noises with “Happy beeps here buddy, c’mon.”


7. Carrie Fisher’s Dog Gary

In light of Carrie Fisher’s tragic death in December 2016, it’s fitting that The Last Jedi does such a fine job of honoring the late actress and her legacy. Not only is the film dedicated to Fisher, but every scene in the film that features Leia has added weight to it, as you can practically feel the reverence every other character has for her leaping off the screen (R2-D2’s playback of Leia’s message from A New Hope is particularly moving).

Sadly, Episode IX was initially being set up to give Leia much more of a spotlight than either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi did, so it’s understandable why director Rian Johnson would want to include some form of tribute to Carrie Fisher that went beyond a dedication in the credits. That’s why if you pay close attention, you’ll be able to spot a tribute to Fisher’s beloved French Bulldog, Gary, during the Canto Bight sequence (you can spot an alien fashioned in Gary’s image on the left of the image above).


6. “Slicer”

When Finn and Rose (reluctantly) recruit Benicio Del Toro’s codebreaker D.J., the expectation is that he’ll be doing some old fashioned hacking to pass through the First Order shields undetected. However, rather than enter a code, D.J. uses a pre-programmed key to “slice” through the barrier. While casual viewers likely thought nothing of D.J.’s choice of words here, that line surely made some fans of the Star Wars Extended Universe happy. The term “slicer” has been in regular use in the EU for years and is basically the universe’s version of hacking. D.J.’s use of the term represents its first acknowledgement in the Star Wars films.


5. The Master Codebreaker

While Finn and Rose end up recruiting the “wrong” codebreaker — looking back on it, it’s incredibly convenient they end up in the same cell as him — they do manage to catch a glimpse of the “Master Codebreaker” Maz Kanata recommends to them. According to the Star Wars Wiki entry on the character, the Master Codebreaker is forbidden from playing electronic games on Canto Bight, which is why we see him playing a dice game. The Master Codebreaker also represents one of The Last Jedi’s bigger cameos, as he’s portrayed by The Leftovers star Justin Theroux.


4. Edgar Wright Cameo

Baby Driver director Edgar Wright is good buddies with Rian Johnson, so it’s hardly surprising to see that he makes a cameo in The Last Jedi. Wright revealed his cameo on Twitter, as well as a few others, noting that he, his older brother Oscar, Attack the Block director Joe Cornish, and Wright’s assistant Leo Thompson all appear as Resistance fighters during the Battle of Crait. Here’s what Wright had to say specifically about his cameo:

“If you are looking for my cameo in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ this is my grubby Resistance costume. With big brother Oscar, Joe Cornish & Leo Thompson. Shot this cameo on June 23rd, 2016. Thanks to @rianjohnson for making it happen.”

Tom Hardy also apparently appears as a stormtrooper somewhere but we have no idea which one. If you do, let us know!


3. Jacen And Jaina Solo Connections

While fans of the old Extended Universe are likely still a bit miffed that the new canon has replaced Han Solo and Leia Organa’s twin children Jacen and Jaina Solo with Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, The Last Jedi does seem to be keeping their spirits alive in certain ways. Specifically, Kylo Ren’s journey starts to mirror that of Jacen’s more throughout the film. Both characters fell to the Dark Side — Kylo as an apprentice, Jacen as a full-fledged Jedi Knight — and both consolidated power and took over the galaxy.

Likewise, even though Rey isn’t related to Ben Solo (or so we’re led to believe), her arc also mirrors that of Jaina’s in some ways, as she becomes the last, best hope of stopping Kylo Ren. In the Legends universe, Jaina ends up killing her brother, then known as the Sith Lord Darth Caedus, in a lightsaber duel. Will things play out in similar fashion with Rey and Kylo Ren in Episode IX? We’ll just have to wait and see. Source:

2. The History of Crait

Judging by Poe Dameron’s reaction, Leia and Amilyn Holdo kept most of the Resistance in the dark about the existence of the Rebel base on Crait; in fact, it’s arguably the place where Leia first became part of the Rebel Alliance! As revealed in Claudia Gray’s novel Leia, Princess of Alderaan, a teenage Leia traveled to Crait after learning that the remote mining planet was receiving a large number of supplies. When Leia went to investigate, she discovered her father Bail Organa there, coordinating the Rebel Alliance. It’s fitting then that the spark of the new Rebel Alliance is lit in the same place at the close of The Last Jedi.

If you want to know more about Crait and its history, be sure to check out the upcoming Storms of Crait comic series put out by Marvel. Set between the events of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, the series explores how Luke and Leia traveled to Crait following the Battle of Yavin in hopes of making it the new headquarters of the Rebel Alliance.


1. Rogue One Connection

Even though they are set more than three decades apart, it makes sense that there would be some sort of connection between Rogue One and The Last Jedi considering how close their release dates are to one another. In The Last Jedi, we discover that the First Order has developed the technology to track Resistance ships through lightspeed, which is the first time we’ve seen such a technology deployed in the franchise. While this would seem to be a new technology developed specifically for this film, its origins actually go back to a scene from Rogue One. As discovered by one eagle-eyed viewer on Twitter, the scene in question involves Jyn Erso attempting to locate the Death Star plans.

During her search, she comes across a record of other technologies the Empire is working on, with one of them being hyperspace tracking. In other words, the Empire had been dabbling with the tech during the early days of the Rebellion and while they never got it up and running, the First Order clearly did. It makes sense that The Last Jedi would pick up on this seemingly throwaway line too, as Rogue One director Gareth Edwards  and Rian Johnson are friends and likely collaborated on certain aspects of each other’s films. Johnson even had a cameo in Rogue One and Edwards returns the favor in The Last Jedi (he’s standing next to the soldier on Crait who tastes the salt).

Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)

Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)