Rise of Skywalker

Rise of Skywalker/Star Wars

Competing hashtags reignite the fight between fans of J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson

Amid the debate, fans raise more than $40K for Adam Driver's nonprofit.


Nahila Bonfiglio

Internet Culture

Posted on Dec 24, 2019   Updated on May 19, 2021, 7:38 pm CDT

As 2019 comes to a close, a large portion of the internet can’t stop talking about Star Wars.

Thanks to the recent release of the final film in the Skywalker saga—a series of films that has stretched over four decades—most of our minds are in a galaxy far, far away. Advertising for the movie, including appearances by the cast and crew, has been saturating the internet for months now. The constant Star Wars talk has reignited a nearly two-year old argument about the quality of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. As fans of the film argue with its critics online, several hashtags were born.

The hashtag war appeared to begin with Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker‘s promotion crusade. As the actors and director J.J. Abrams did their interview circuits, several quotes were interpreted as criticism of The Last Jedi and its director, Rian Johnson. Reacting to these apparent criticisms, fans of The Last Jedi took to Twitter to thank Johnson through the #ThankYouRianJohnson hashtag. Posts using the hashtag are mostly positive, pointing out particular aspects of the film audiences were grateful for. In response to the trending hashtag, however, viewers who preferred Abrams’ directorial style took it as a challenge. In no time, a new hashtag—#ThankYouJJAbrams—began trending.

The different hashtags started a competition of sorts between the two director’s fanbases. For Johnson, praise was mostly directed at his use of strong female characters, subversion of fan expectations, and a deep dive into emotion.




After the #ThankYouRianJohnson hashtag took off, fans that preferred Abram’s films quickly created their own competing hashtag. Fans of Abram’s Star Wars take complimented the director on his ability to channel the original trilogy and for the excellent characters he introduced in The Force Awakens.




There were, of course, also fans who appreciated—or hated—both directors equally. “I see #thankyourianjohnson & #thankyoujjabrams are trending and it’s just folks relentlessly trying to destroy each other over something they claim they love,” one Twitter user wrote. “All 9 movies have flaws. None of them are perfect. They all have something goofy about them. New trilogy is no different.”



In response to the outpouring of both love and hate online, fans of Johnson and The Last Jedi focused their energy in an altruistic direction. According to one user, the fandom came together to “raise the annual budget for AITAF in honor of Ben Solo and spearhead a wave of love and appreciation for Rian Johnson and TLJ.”

AITAF, or Arts in the Armed Forces, is a charity started by Adam Driver—who plays Kylo Ren/Ben Solo in the films—and his wife, Joanne Tucker.



The charity’s mission, as stated on its website, is to “use the powerful shared experience of the arts to start conversations between military and civilian, service member and family member, the world of the arts and the world of practical action.” The GoFundMe page for AITAF has raised more than $40,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.


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*First Published: Dec 24, 2019, 12:33 pm CST