While most Star Wars YouTube channels tend to focus on “breaking down” trailers or official news items in order to uncover hidden plot points, Mike Zeroh’s consists almost entirely of “exclusive” information that originates from deep inside Disney and Lucasfilm (allegedly). Stuff like Rey being a Skywalker, Luke Skywalker being able to tear down Sith destroyers by Force alone and Snoke being the actual Emperor. His output of such theories is relentless. On a typical day, in fact, he might upload anywhere from three to five videos, each between 10 to 15 minutes in length. Their “exclusive” contents have been picked up in numerous well-respected entertainment publications.
And yet, for all this effort and Zeroh’s 200,000-strong YouTube following, his real claim to fame is how his Star Wars “leaks” are almost always wrong.
He’s particularly eye-rolled on r/starwarsleaks, a subreddit that fact-checks and scrutinizes franchise plot leaks. Moreover (and without precedent), in 2018, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson went out of his way to address Zeroh’s videos, claiming in a now-deleted tweet that “Zeroh” was used on-set as a verb to refer to inaccurate leaks that ended up going viral. Even Zeroh himself includes disclaimers on his videos that warn that his leaks might not be 100 percent — or 80 percent for that matter — accurate.
There is, of course, a giant market for leaks — bullshit or not. Mega-fans like me spend hours upon hours scouring blogs, subreddits, Twitter hashtags and private WhatsApp and Telegram channels devoted entirely to them. It’s gotten so out-of-hand that Disney and Lucasfilm reportedly have people whose job it is to take down anything that might remotely ruin the franchise’s latest installment.
“Knowing the big plot points before you see the movie means you can enjoy it more,” says Ellis, a 26-year-old developer from Toronto who checks r/starwarsleaks daily, looking for screengrabs from the movies’ trailers and TV spots that he and other subscribers use to try to piece together the plot. Others on the subreddit believe that leaks serve as an important nod to fans. Along those lines, Sarah, a 28-year-old “Reylo” (a Rey and Kylo Ren shipper), tells me that leakers who can confirm particular aspects of the plot (such as how accurate they are to the official canon), can prove that “the studio is listening to the fans and taking our ideas seriously.”
Obviously, this passion can cut both ways. Or better put, because Star Wars fans rely on leakers to help figure out how they’re regarded by Disney and Lucasfilm, a reputation for incorrect or poorly sourced information can ultimately lead to the whole fandom turning on you.
And yet, it hasn’t stopped Zeroh from posting “leak” videos seemingly around the clock (business is especially booming in the run-up to The Rise of Skywalker). What fans have noticed, though, is that his leaks are way less zany now than they were a couple of years ago. Some fans familiar with his work believe that he’s trying to keep some degree of credibility, and the fact that The Last Jedi was so different from his predictions has resulted in him being more careful this time around.
Others, however, point out that Star Wars leakers have grown more sophisticated generally. For example, in a recent interview with Inverse, Jason Ward, who runs the site Making Star Wars, compared vetting wild, thinly sourced rumors to serious investigative journalism. By doing so, he explained, he’s been able to get tips and scoops from those working on the movies, which enables him to piece together a feasible plot line. It’s a method other popular Star Wars leak channels (e.g., Den of Nerds and Thor Skywalker) seem to be imitating. They’re apparently hitting the mark, too, as a recent Reddit leak about The Rise of Skywalker supposedly forced Disney to reshoot parts of the movie and even cut entire sections completely.
What, then, will happen to Zeroh’s totally speculative, mostly erroneous videos?
If his recent work is anything to go on, he’s moving away from leaks and “exclusives” to criticizing the direction of Disney and the new trilogy. Just today, he posted videos purporting that J.J. Abrams has “wrecked” the final installment, that the movie will be “a complete trainwreck” and that Disney is “ignoring fans.”
After all, it might now take a journalism degree to sufficiently scrutinize every last leak and arrange them within a plausible, compelling narrative. But anyone can be a critic.