Data Conclusively Proves That The Force Awakens Is Just A Newer Hope

Illustration for article titled Data Conclusively Proves That The Force Awakens Is Just A Newer Hope

In other news, a bear shits in the woods and the Pope is Catholic.

Okay, that’s a bit dismissive of a fair amount of actual data analysis. McGill University computer science professor Derek Ruths mapped the similarities between the two movies by figuring out how many scenes each character had and how often they interacted with each other.


As reported by Wired, the results were that the character groups and roles are nearly identical—droids, rebels, Force users, etc. Weirdly, though, an algorithm looking at who interacts with whom matched Kylo Ren to Obi-Wan Kenobi and Rey to, of all people, Darth Vader.

“The mapping isn’t looking at attributes, it’s looking at who interacts with who,” Ruths told Wired, “so we get a different retelling of that story.”

The numbers tell us one thing, while our instincts about the qualities of the people involved tell us that Rey is obviously more Luke than Vader.

So, on the one hand, the data tells us something we all already knew: The Force Awakens is very similar to A New Hope. On the other hand, it also tells us something we might reject: that the characters matches are different than we think. The question then is whether the themes and characterizations are more true than the numbers.

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I don’t think this “proves” anything. Structure isn’t content. Every sonnet (or limerick or haiku) has the same structure, but they can have very different content and substance. If this statistical model lines up Rey with Vader and Kylo with Kenobi, then obviously the structure is being used to convey extremely different ideas.