New research finds that about 50 percent of Star Wars: The Last Jedi backlash directed at Rian Johnson was political trolling. As anyone who's been following the galaxy far, far away for the past year can attest, Johnson's Episode VIII proved to be quite the polarizing blockbuster when it premiered in December 2017. To this day, fans remain sharply divided on its merits, with some feeling The Last Jedi was a necessary step forward the franchise needed to thrive in the future, and others accusing Johnson of ruining Star Wars and failing to understand what made the series great.
Whenever something as massive as Star Wars is involved, even the filmmakers know they can't please everyone, but reactions to The Last Jedi were quite heated. Due to constant harassment, actress Kelly Marie Tran left Instagram, and circles of the fan base called for Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy to be replaced. The severity of the backlash left many puzzled, and one person attempted to get to the bottom of it all.
On Twitter, Dr. Morten Bay shared a paper he wrote detailing the politicization of Star Wars fandom, particularly with how it relates to The Last Jedi. The study found around 50 percent of the backlash was political trolling, but that the "haters" represented a "small minority." Johnson retweeted the paper to his followers.
In the wake of The Last Jedi's release, Johnson maintained that a majority of Star Wars fans were respectful towards him on social media and the most vocal naysayers were not indicative of the fan base at large. While it's nice to see there's research backing those claims up, it's nonetheless disheartening that this has become the norm for Johnson online. This may explain why he deleted an extensive backlog of tweets following James Gunn's firing from Guardians of the Galaxy 3. If Johnson's the target of political trolls now that he has a prominent role in shaping the Star Wars franchise, he didn't want anything out there that could be misconstrued. Gunn was singled out by a right-wing group that uncovered his old, offensive tweets and Johnson wanted to avoid that same fate. To be fair, Johnson is fairly "normal" on Twitter (recent posts of his include tweets on his music videos, his updated website, and the Los Angeles Dodgers), but it's still a smart move by him.
Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change for Johnson moving forward. Once he completes his mystery/thriller Knives Out, he'll resume work on his new Star Wars trilogy, which was announced before The Last Jedi hit theaters. Despite Disney allegedly scrapping more character-based spinoffs and planning a slowdown after Episode IX, the Johnson Trilogy remains in Lucasfilm's plans. No doubt, viewers will have varying opinions about that narrative, but hopefully the negativity will be toned down by then. Being a separate story from the Skywalker saga, perhaps expectations won't be as high. Everyone had their own ideas for what happened to Luke Skywalker, but audiences should have less ownership over the new cast Johnson comes up with. Still, since it's Star Wars, it'll surely be a roller coaster.
Source: Rian Johnson
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019