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‘Last Jedi’ Director Tweets Study Blaming Film’s Backlash On Russian Bots

(Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

Jon Brown Associate Editor

Rian Johnson, the director of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” tweeted an academic study Monday that claimed around half of the criticism directed toward him online about the movie was “political trolling,” with “some of it likely from Russia.”

The academic paper, entitled “Weaponizing the haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation,” was written by Morten Bay, who holds a Ph.D. in information studies from UCLA. Tweeting his analysis to Rian Johnson, Bay wrote, “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.”

According to the paper, “the results of the study show that among those who address […] 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.” He adds that “a number of these users appear to be Russian trolls.”

Johnson tweeted out the study, saying that he was “looking forward to reading it,” and added that “what the top-line describes is consistent with my experience online.” He clarified that he was not referring to fan opinions, but “specifically about a virulent strain of online harassment.”

Johnson was the object of considerable backlash for “The Last Jedi,” a film which many considered to have pandered to political correctness. Though generally well-received by professional critics, fan opinions were less enthusiastic, and the movie experienced the sharpest second-week revenue drop-off in history. As of the writing of this article, a fan petition urging Disney to strike the film from the canon and remake it continues to add to its more than 115,000 signatures. (RELATED: ‘The Last Jedi’ Is Full Of Weak Male Characters And Steeped In Politically Correct Orthodoxy)

The latest installment in the franchise, “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, cost the studio at least $50 million. Its box office performance was so poor that a slate of other Star Wars spin-offs have reportedly been “flushed,” according to Variety. (RELATED: ‘Solo’ Bombed So Hard They’re Pressing Pause On Future Star Wars Spinoffs)