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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. 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?

  • 26
    The question, while goofy, doesn't really deserve downvotes IMO. Any good reason for the vote, downvoters? – Gabe Willard Jan 18 '16 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 '16 at 20:24
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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 '16 at 21:25
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    Is lighting a cigarette lighter at a concert passe? Clearly it was meant as a positive gesture. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jan 18 '16 at 22:03
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    Anyone with a modicum of exposure to character profiling and body behavior will tell you it's a thumbs up. It's clear that BB-8 is mimicking the positively reinforcing behavior displayed by Finn after they reach a newfound level of trust. – TylerH Jan 19 '16 at 20:27
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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.

109

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.

As does the 2017 Star Wars Annual

enter image description here
"After BB-8 reveals the location of the Resistance base, both exchange a thumbs-up."

As does the Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know, Updated and Expanded edition

enter image description here
"Using his welding torch to give a thumbs up"


The original screenplay 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

The film's special effects master, Neal Scanlan, explicitly confirmed in an interview with MTV.com that it was intended to be a 'thumbs up'.

"I think the reaction that BB-8 has to Finn would have been a practical effect that we shot on the Milennium Falcon, but the reaction to the thumbs up is something that definitely came later in the day," Scanlan said.

"That thumbs up moment is exactly that," confirmed Guyett. "I think it’s a real BB-8 and then we inserted a CG panel and its arm that came out. So all of his tools, if you like, when he fires his wires and he does that stuff, that’s sort of digital CG."

‘STAR WARS’: BB-8’S THUMBS UP MOMENT ALMOST DIDN’T HAPPEN

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    Great GIF, I can see why there's confusion... He seems to "flip" the thumbs up. – Lindsey D Jan 18 '16 at 23:10
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    @LindseyD - Cheers. I made the gif myself. – Valorum Jan 18 '16 at 23:22
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    The more I see it the more it looks like the bird. – Jasen Jan 19 '16 at 22:52
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    That gif gets funnier the more you watch it :,) – maguirenumber6 Jan 20 '16 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 '16 at 14:44
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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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    Any evidence of this? – John Bell Jan 20 '16 at 16:56

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