Star Wars Fandom Survey, Part 5: Importance of Movie Characteristics

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Welcome from Part 1, where I talked mainly about methods; Part 2, where I discussed the three major types of Star Wars fans; Part 3, where I discussed sexism and political attitudes; and Part 4, where I discussed age and nostalgia. In this part, I will focus on age and nostalgia. As always, email [email protected] with questions about analyses, methods, results, and so on.


People enjoy movies for different reasons. Some want to have fun or want the film to challenge how they think, some want to be emotionally moved or to see compelling action—and others want a combination of these things. I wrote a questionnaire about “movie importance” to gauge what respondents want from their movie-watching experience. (I briefly mentioned this in Part 1.) And I wanted to know how each of these correlated with favorability toward each Star Wars trilogy. I asked participants, “How important are each of these to you when watching a movie?” and presented them with this list:

  • Fun: “Having fun while watching the movie.”

  • Meaningful: “Finding the movie meaningful.”

  • Emotionally Moving: “Being emotionally moved by the movie.”

  • Complex Characters: “That the movie has complex characters.”

  • Thought-Provoking: “That the movie be thought-provoking.”

  • Action: “That the movie has engaging action.”

  • Artistically Valuable: “That the movie is artistically valuable.”

  • Twists and Unexpected: “That the movie has twists and unexpected events.”

  • Feel-Good Ending: “It has a feel-good ending.”

  • Costumes and Setting: “The costumes and sets are aesthetically appealing.”

  • Logical Worldbuilding: “That the movie builds a logical world and lore.”

Participants answered each on a 1 (not at all important) to 7 (very important) scale. Every item correlated positively with one another (minimum correlation: .09, maximum: .58, average = .27), so looking at correlations between each item and favorability toward each movie could surface illusory correlations. For example, the “fun” question correlated with the “action” question at .39, and if fun correlates with enjoying one of the trilogies, it could be due to the overlapping correlation with action. What I did here, then, was use all these questions as simultaneous predictors in a multiple regression equation. Then I looked at any movie importance item that was significant at p < .01.

As I’ve done in other parts, I averaged how favorably people feel toward each of the main Star Wars films by trilogy. This created favorability scores for the originals, prequels, and sequels. There were three regression models, one for each saga. I plotted the standardized regression coefficients below.

 

get-coefs-1.png

 

Wanting action and logical worldbuilding were positive predictors of enjoying the originals, while needing complex characters and a feel-good ending predicts feeling unfavorably toward movies of the original trilogy.

We see more significant predictors for the prequels. People who enjoy the prequels also tend to like action, a feel-good ending, well-made costumes and settings, meaningful films, twists and unexpected events, and logical worldbuilding. Much like the originals, wanting complex characters predicted not enjoying the prequels.

We see different relationships for the sequels, which has been a recurring theme in each part. Yet again, the data showed how this trilogy is divisive and breaks from the other two Star Wars trilogies. People who want a feel-good ending, twists and unexpected events, complex characters, to be emotionally moved, to have fun, and to watch something with artistic value are all more likely to enjoy the sequels. For originals and prequels, wanting complex characters predicted disliking the movies; conversely, finding complex characters important to a film predicts enjoyment of the sequel movies.

The biggest relationship here, however, is that those who wanted logical worldbuilding and lore tended not to enjoy the sequel trilogy. This also flips relationships that we see for the originals and prequels, where logical worldbuilding predicted enjoyment. This flip is likely because of the bold character and narrative choices Rian Johnson made in The Last Jedi.

These data do not necessarily mean that, for example, the originals had non-complex characters (e.g., Lando’s actions on Bespin in Empire Strikes Back are neither deplorable nor laudable). It also doesn’t mean that the sequels lack logical worldbuilding (e.g., Leia’s Force pull in space in The Last Jedi has canonical precedent from Rebels). What these data do show, however, is the psychological relationship between what people want from a movie and how much they enjoy each trilogy. And yet again, we see the sequel trilogy is empirically separated from the other two trilogies.

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on their blog: Mark H. White II, PhD.

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