When I was in the Navy, I learned that nuclear technicians have a tendency to overthink a problem when there are much simpler solutions. We called the phenomenon "nuking" a problem. The article entitled "In Plain Sight: How White Supremacy, Misogyny, and Hate Targeted the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy and Won" is certainly nuking it.
While it's research and length is initially somewhat impressive, it's obvious from the start that the author(s) wrote that article already believing that the problem we have with the films was it's diversity. Within their first paragraphs they speak of how The Last Jedi was "a film that dares to move culture into a more diverse and hopeful future. And in response, the film has been faced with an organized hate campaign against it."
And now they will manipulate the facts to meet this bias. I read the entire article and I wanted to point out a few things:
They start with a "Timeline of Outrage" that begins in 1984 when Rush Limbaugh started his radio show.
Wait... Rush Limbaugh? What does this have to do with Star Wars?
The problem with this timeline is that these events aren't reliant on each other and have nothing to do with the Star Wars franchise. Rush Limbaugh starting his radio show in 1984 did not cause or lead to criticism of the Last Jedi in 2017.
They follow Rush until 1996 when Bill O'Reilly starts his show - another unrelated event which has nothing to do with criticism of Star Wars or the sequel trilogy. In fact, none of this timeline is relevant to their argument until 2006 when YouTube launches.
They also seem to be missing very important events between 1999 and 2005. Namely the release of the prequel trilogy. In fact, they don't even mention the Disney buyout in 2012. Instead they talk about how Breitbart launched "Breitbart tech", further trying to link things that have no links. I searched the article for key words like "phantom" "clone" "revenge" "sith" "empire" and "vader". There is absolutely no mention of the prequel trilogy, or the original trilogy for that matter.
Why would they leave out the 2012 buyout? I mean, Disney's ownership of Lucas Film is a large factor in how people saw the direction of the franchise. It was big news when it happened and was met with a mix of joy and dread. None of that history is in this article.
There's no Star Wars in their timeline.
The author(s) of this article sees the Star Wars fandom through a strictly political spectrum, rather than as a group of people who remember being taken to a galaxy far far away as children. Why else would someone use this political media history instead of the history of how Star Wars fans reacted to the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy? Possibly because realizing that fan criticism of the franchise had started as far back as 1980 - 4 years before Rush Limbaugh had a radio show - would ruin their entire argument.
Let's make a timeline that makes more sense.
A New Hope (originally just called Star Wars) was released in 1977 to very positive reviews, making $775.8 million at the box office from an $11 million budget. Roger Ebert praised the film with one minor criticism, "And perhaps that helps to explain the movie's one weakness, which is that the final assault on the Death Star is allowed to go on too long. Maybe, having invested so much money and sweat in his special effects, Lucas couldn't bear to see them trimmed."
The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980 to mostly positive reviews, though there were some negative comments beginning to pop up. Ebert had a problem with Chewbacca, saying he was "thrown into the first film as window dressing, was never thought through, and as a result has been saddled with one facial expression and one mournful yelp".
The Daily Telegraph, Eric Shorter wrote “(T)hey assure us that their latest offering is only episode five in a nine-part saga ... Meanwhile what we get on the screen is the usual emphatic pride in machinery and paucity of characterisation that marks so much space fiction. Who are these people? What are they up to? Why is it so hard to care what happens to them? If you ever saw and committed to memory Star Wars such questions may seem naively exacting, since this episode reintroduces many of the figures and fantasies from the earlier film.”
Pauline Kael wrote "I’m not sure I’m up for seven more Star Wars adventures, but I can hardly wait for the next one."
So by 1980, four years before Rush Limbaugh starts his radio show, people were already complaining about certain aspects of Star Wars. Yet the author(s) believe that Limbaugh led to Breitbart which led to Gamer-Gate, which was something that centered around a relationship gone bad. They claim all of that created some blueprint for hating the Last Jedi, or the Sequel Trilogy. What a stretch of the imagination. The cognitive dissonance one needs to maintain to try and hold up this myth that the only people who didn't like the movies were bigots, and the lengths they go to twist the facts to fit this narrative is colossal.
Return of the Jedi was released in 1983 and while financially successful, there were some mixed reviews:
"Although it was great fun re-watching Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back again on the big screen, Return of the Jedi doesn't generate the same sense of enjoyment. And, while Lucas worked diligently to re-invigorate each entry into the trilogy, Jedi needs more than the patches of improved sound, cleaned-up visuals, and a few new scenes." - James Berardinelli
Most of the negativity came from the reveal of the Ewoks and even today people still go back and fourth over whether or not it was really good. In a recent Vice article from 2018 mentions that Return of the Jedi was "derided as a lazy re-write of A New Hope that relied on the same plot device (the Death Star) to drive the action, suffered from the return of George Lucas’ stilted dialogue, used Ewok teddy bears to shamelessly sell toys, and employed the tired “nature versus technology” moralizing."
Hmmm... that sounds... familiar.
The movies were later remastered and re-released in theaters, starting with A New Hope in 1997. While the purpose was to clean up the movie's quality and special effects, George Lucas made a number of changes to the films, including the infamous "who shot first" scene between Greedo and Han Solo. This upset many fans who remembered seeing Han shoot first in the original release, but now see Greedo shooting first. Ever since then, a "despecialized" cut of the original Star Wars trilogy has been floating around the internet.
Then in 1999, the Phantom Menace came out to some pretty negative reviews except now, the internet existed, which meant that now anybody could start a web page and blog about what they thought of the movie. Not just professional critics like Ebert, who, while praising the technological achievement of the film, wasn't into the scene where Anakin had to say goodbye to his mother, "The film's shakiness on the psychological level is evident, however, in the scene where young Anakin is told he must leave his mother (Pernilla August) and follow this tall Jedi stranger. Their mutual resignation to the parting seems awfully restrained. I expected a tearful scene of parting between mother and child, but the best we get is when Anakin asks if his mother can come along, and she replies, "Son, my place is here." As a slave?"
While the original trilogy did receive criticism, that criticism paled compared to the criticism this movie received, which seems to have had an effect on some of the actors. The boy who played Anakin in this film, Jake Lloyd, was bullied in school after playing this role which led him to quit acting. Even today, people have a hard time seeing the future Darth Vader going "Yippee!"
However, the biggest complaints were about Jar Jar Binks. His clumsiness and his silly speak seemed to rub fans the wrong way. They hated him. They went as far as to accuse George Lucas of racial stereotypes, which both Lucas and Ahmed Best, the actor who played Jar Jar, denied. Years later, Best opened up about how playing that character affected him negatively to the point of suicidal thoughts.
Attack of the Clones came out in 2002 and the complaints continued. Ebert was clearly losing interest in the films. He gave only 2 out of 4 stars and wrote "as someone who admired the freshness and energy of the earlier films, I was amazed, at the end of "Episode II," to realize that I had not heard one line of quotable, memorable dialogue. And the images, however magnificently conceived, did not have the impact they deserved."
By Revenge of the Sith, the criticism became brutal. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers wrote: "Drink the Kool-Aid. Wear blinders. Cover your ears. Because that’s the only way you can totally enjoy Revenge of the Sith — the final and most futile attempt from skilled producer, clumsy director and tin-eared writer George Lucas to create a prequel trilogy to match the myth-making spirit of the original Wars saga he unleashed twenty-eight years ago."
"Heralded for its savagery (my God, it's rated PG-13), the film follows Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen - to merely call him wooden is an affront to puppets everywhere) as he loses his limbs and his conscience and takes on the evil mantle of Darth Vader."
Ebert said, "The dialogue throughout the movie is once again its weakest point: The characters talk in what sounds like Basic English, without color, wit or verbal delight, as if they were channeling Berlitz."
George Lucas had originally intended to make 9 movies, but after the criticism of the prequel trilogy, he had seemingly changed his mind. While he had seemed to grow weary of the criticisms, to his credit, he never attacked the fans. However, after talks with Disney CEO Bob Iger in 2011, Lucas sold Lucas Film to Disney in 2012, who promised to make the last three films.
Meanwhile, in that other timeline, they're talking about how Steve Banon took over for Andrew Breitbart when he died in 2012, as if this is what starts the road to criticism of The Last Jedi, lol!
There also seems to be a lot of lying in this article. For instance, the author claims ItchyBacca has published "a slew of white supremacist articles on their blog". That's not true at all. The funniest part is that while there are links in every other sentence in that article, there is no link to his Disney Star Wars is Dumb page, probably to discourage you from checking for yourself.
Just to make sure, I went on his page and read every article this year that had the word "white" in it. What I found was that he points out tweets where people are dismissing others arguments because they came from a white person. He'll often ask things like "But one has to wonder if Cavan has performed the exercise whereby you take any of Krystina’s comments, and exchange the word “white” for any other ethnicity. Though it’s debatable that he would learn anything from that even if he did."
I've found articles such as "E.K. Johnston (Star Wars Author)Wants White Women To Stop Ruining Things". Yet I see no indication that he thinks white people are superior, nor is it even implied - consciously or not. The author(s) states that ItchyBacca's site "gets to the heart of what hate against The Last Jedi, in particular, is really about: the battle to preserve “white” culture."
The only thing that I get from reading these articles is that ItchyBacca is a conservative who feels like he's publishing hate speech from liberals who like the sequel trilogy, and are trying to use race to dismiss those who don't. He does resort to name-calling at times, but that's a far cry from "a slew of white supremacist articles".
Another lie has to do with an attack on a Furry convention in 2014. The author(s) wrote, "It should also be noted that during this same year, a chlorine bombing attack at Mid-West Fur Fest linked to Nazi radicalization in the furry community put 19 people in the hospital."
The problem is that the gas attack occurred in 2014 and was never "linked to Nazi radicalization in the furry community". In fact, according to the Wikipedia page of the event, nobody was ever charged with the attack. However, the author(s) try to use a 2017 Vice article that made a loose reference to the 2014 attack as an excuse to link the bombing to "Nazis" without any evidence.
Honestly though, what the hell does what happens at a Furry convention have to do with criticism of The Last Jedi? None. Yet, rather than use their mental gymnastics to try and further link the two, instead they quickly move onto "How Far Right Hate Turns Into Fact", or in other words:
Spoiler alert: All "How Far Right Hate Turns Into Fact" talks about is the hashtags, boycotts, downvotes and other methods we use to get heard. They do list a few other things, but "an alarming media culture that puts profits over facts" is more of a societal condition than what someone would do to turn hate into "facts". "(T)he use of socks, bots, and super users" is an interesting one. The article it links to claims that over 50% of "those tweeting negatively was likely politically motivated or not even human". Yet it also claimed that "most fans aren’t so dissatisfied with The Last Jedi that they’re going to boycott any new Star Wars films."
Finally, "a lack of education about how to navigate online spaces, especially those under political attack" talks about downvoting and review-bombing. I'm not exactly sure why they see it as a problem because both sides actually do it. In fact, YouTube welcomes this and uses it to help their algorithms decide what to feature. If I like something, I may upvote it and leave a comment. If I don't like it, or if it is somehow offensive to me, I may downvote it.
If you put out a video claiming the Earth is flat, or that some race is superior to another, or that The Last Jedi (or Star Trek Discovery) is good, I will probably downvote your video. Furthermore, if a corporation does something to upset me (like fire Gina Carano), I have every right to boycott that corporation. I have every right to encourage others to boycott it as well. I have every right to let them know how disappointed I am, through these peaceful methods of hashtags, boycotts and downvotes. When Solo lost money, it was the free market speaking. Not racists.
It's not white supremacy to have a negative feedback about a tv show or a movie. It's just fandom. In this case, a fandom that has been around since 1977 who simply misses the great story telling that brought the original Star Wars to life. We've been complaining about certain aspects of the franchise since 1980. The only difference was that our political beliefs didn't factor into our entertainment back then. To some it still doesn't.
There is way much more "data" that they analyze, signifying nothing. When I realized that the bias in this article is so nakedly on display - the labeling, the linking of events that have nothing to do with one another, and the lack of actual Star Wars history, along with the outright lies - I realized that I didn't have to work too hard to debunk this. I don't need to nuke it to know it's bullshit.
So why did this group put out this hit piece on YouTubers who are critical of the sequel trilogy and in particular, The Last Jedi? While I'm sure there is still some good in these people (Luke never gave up on Vader), there seems to be a trend of using racism, sexism, etc. as an excuse to dismiss people who disagree with them on just about any sort of issue. Originally, that type of crap was isolated to the topics of politics and religion. The reason why politics and religion are so difficult to discuss for some is because people often judge each other's morality over such topics. That somehow has permeated to pop culture. You don't like a show that has bad story-telling? It must be because you're an alt-right Nazi who hates diversity and not because of the bad story-telling. Utterly ridiculous.
I realized that some of these people think that going on Twitter and calling people racists was a form of activism. Real activism is hard and will take its toll on a person, so this is easier for them. They think that finding people who use terms they think are dog whistles, or constantly mocking them for thinking the wrong way, is somehow the equivalent of actual activists who work tirelessly against all hope to organize in order to change the laws for the better.
This faux-activism they've been doing though became so vitriolic, that I began reading physical threats in the comments of YouTube videos. I soon began writing the occasional article about how Star Trek Discovery fans treat those who dislike the show. This eventually led those Discovery fans to do their best to label and black list me from Star Trek community pages on Facebook. All it did though, was push me towards the very channels they're now trying to libel as white supremacists. I've seen actual racism as well as real activism. This is not the way. If they want to be real activists, they can go get arrested for a good cause.