'Star Wars' director Rian Johnson says he's thankful for the 'Last Jedi' backlash

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 09:  Writer/Director Rian Johnson at the world premiere of Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Last Jedi at The Shrine Auditorium on December 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for for Disney)
Rian Johnson at the world premiere of Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Last Jedi in Los Angeles, California. (Credit: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for for Disney)

Emerging from the 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' school of thought, Rian Johnson has said that the vicious fan backlash to The Last Jedi might have been good for him.

While critics were generally kind (a 91 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes covers a multitude of 'just OK' notices), audiences were less kind.

Ignoring the grotesque sexist abuse that many of the female stars were subject to by a minority of hardcore fans, many objected to the ultimately fruitless plot featuring Finn and Rose at the casino, while according to many fans, Commander Holdo's hyperspace assault broke Star Wars lore.

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But speaking to the Reelblend podcast, Johnson has said that the criticism stopped him from poring too much over what people think of him, and honed his 'survival' instinct.

“In terms of the bad stuff, I’ll tell you it’s interesting. That’s been one of the really healthy things for me about the past couple of years, is getting exposed to it,” he said.

Laura Dern as Commander Holdo in The Last Jedi (Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)
Laura Dern as Commander Holdo in The Last Jedi (Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

“Before I made The Last Jedi, I had never had anyone hate me on the internet. If during the course of a year I got one negative tweet I would go into a panic. I’d be like ‘Oh my god, someone out there doesn’t like me. I need to fix this!’

“The thing is though, I am really really thankful. Because what that meant is that my sense of self-worth was attached to the notion of everybody liking me online. And the fact that this process has made me, out of survival, disconnect from that.”

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He added: “And also it’s given me a more realistic view of the system that is social media. There’s a lot of great, genuine interaction that goes on.

“The bad stuff, the systematic trolling, the almost gamified abuse that some people devote their entire online presence to; honestly, once you’ve seen enough of it, you see the pattern of it. It just sort of gets boring after a while. It doesn’t even give me that little negative ping anymore.

“And I don’t think it’s even my skin growing tough. It’s just I’ve put in perspective. I realise this is kind of a byproduct of this social Twitter system. There’s going to be some degree of people where this is their hobby, basically. So overall I found it made me adjust to social media where I’m seeing it and using it in a healthier way.”

It's worth remembering, of course, that Kelly Marie Tran, who was introduced as resistance fighter Rose Tico to the Star Wars universe in The Last Jedi, had a considerably less pleasant experience.

She shut down all her social media channels following the movie's release, after being plagued with sexist and racist abuse for months.

The incident drew attention to the so-called 'toxic fandom' that has detracted from the franchise in recent years, but also saw her fiercely defended by Star Wars royalty like Mark Hamill.

Tran will be back for the final chapter, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, hitting the UK on December 19.