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At one point in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Finn and BB-8 are talking. Finn gives BB-8 a thumbs-up. In return, BB-8 extends a little lit welding torch/lighter. I've heard two different understandings of BB-8's gesture:

  1. It was a thumbs-up, agreeing with Finn.
  2. It was a middle finger, as BB-8 disagreed with Finn.

Which is the accurate analysis?

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The question, while goofy, doesn't really deserve downvotes IMO. Any good reason for the vote, downvoters? – Gabe Willard Jan 18 at 20:12
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I've actually seen a lot of speculation on other websites as to what he was doing, it's obviously a thumbs up, but a lot of people aren't getting that. It's a good question. – Exploitable Jan 18 at 20:24
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@Mikey - You'll be pleased to learn that that clip is already available, as part of the latest trailer; youtube.com/watch?v=9cTjX1WOMhw – Valorum Jan 18 at 20:38
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@PaulD.Waite I didn't even consider the middle-finger possibility until I saw this question, so it goes both ways. – JAB Jan 18 at 21:25
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Is lighting a cigarette lighter at a concert passe? Clearly it was meant as a positive gesture. – JoeTaxpayer Jan 18 at 22:03
up vote 202 down vote accepted

Some Industrial Light and Magic people discussed the process behind animating that moment, in an interview with MTV:

“We did several different prototype ideas of what that could look like, and we had various amounts of metal and plastic on there,” added Patrick Tubach, another ILM visual effects supervisor for the film. “One of the difficult things with animating something like that is you have to be very careful that it doesn’t look like he’s giving you some other sort of gesture! We moved all the pieces around to make sure it was very clearly a thumbs up over any other kind of ’salute.'”

So it is meant to be a thumbs up.

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Extended discussion on self answers had been removed. Please continue in Science Fiction & Fantasy Chat if you wish to continue. – AncientSwordRage Jan 18 at 22:27
    
I just assumed it was a shout-out to Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy. Stan had a "magic lighter" where he could generate a small flame from his thumb. (Of course when Hardy managed to do it, he burned his thumb). youtube.com/watch?v=yDrYVzb5KAU – Paul Johnson Jan 20 at 19:16

The novelisation of the film explicitly states that it is indeed intended to be a "thumbs-up" from BB-8

“Doing the best I can down here.” Rey vanished again. As soon as she was out of sight, the grateful Finn gave BB-8 a thumbs-up. The droid responded by shooting out a welding torch in imitation of the human’s gesture.

The script is slightly more ambiguous, but the intention seems pretty clear

Finn: Yeah, the Ileenium system, that's the one -- get us there as fast as you can.

A smiling Finn gives BB-8 a THUMBS UP. BB-8 quickly extends his WELDING TORCH and TURNS IT UPWARD, then retracts it.

enter image description here

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23  
Great GIF, I can see why there's confusion... He seems to "flip" the thumbs up. – Lindsey D Jan 18 at 23:10
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@LindseyD - Cheers. I made the gif myself. – Valorum Jan 18 at 23:22
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The more I see it the more it looks like the bird. – Jasen Jan 19 at 22:52
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That gif gets funnier the more you watch it :,) – maguirenumber6 Jan 20 at 5:51
    
@LindseyD he does from this angle but if you look closely, the entire arm rotates counter clockwise (from our view) – Gusdor Jan 20 at 14:44

I always thought it was a thumbs up. BB-8 thinks that Finn is honest about who he is, and BB-8 respects his honesty somehow and decides he may be a good guy after all.

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2  
Any evidence of this? – John Bell Jan 20 at 16:56

The fact the flame is lit along with the sound of a blow torch is a threatening gesture to me. That sound is often used when a blow torch is used to suggest imminent torture or harm. I have seen the movie three times and never questioned BB-8's response was you pressured me in to revealing the information, so ‘screw you’ – particularly based on the dialog and tension of the scene.

Conveniently, if anyone is offended by it, the studio can say it is a thumbs up in response to Finn's

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downvote because no evidence or sources to back up the claim which is based on your own, highly subjective, interpretation of the scene. – Gunnar Södergren Jan 20 at 9:20
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The movie always portrayed BB-8 as a very friendly and trusting fellow who does not hold grudges against people. Why should he reveal the information at all, how is he really pressured by Finn? He just says "BB-8 knows the coordinates" he could as well betray Finn and reveal that he's not of the Resistance. It makes no sense to help somebody and than say "screw you", if you didn't have to. It's a dick move. – JustGoscha Jan 20 at 11:40
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@JustGoscha: well maybe BB-8 is a dick? Really, I can't wait to see what Darths&Droids is going to make of him! – oliver Jan 20 at 16:26
    
I also understood it like that in the movie. It's like "Finn: thanks (thumbs up). BB8: I'm letting this one slide, but I'll burn you if you betray us". – orion Jan 21 at 6:28
    
But his animatronics and body language suggests that he's cool with it. I mean he leans back and also does the thumbs up more to the side not like a "screw you" in your face. It's impossible for him to be a dick, because everything in the movie sets him up as a cute robot, who wants to please his masters. – JustGoscha Jan 21 at 15:53

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