As a film with an almost all-Black cast and a film that’s already breaking pre-sale records, Black Panther stands to smash box office records and break new ground for inclusivity. And it will likely do both even amid the effort of one former Facebook group to sabotage the superhero movie’s performance.
A Facebook page called “Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and Its Fanboys” organized an event called “Give Black Panther a Rotten Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes” — hoping to bring down the crowdsourced rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregating website — and used hashtags like #DCOverMarvel and #BringDownDisney. The same group previously tried to sabotage Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The Star Wars franchise, like Marvel, is now a Disney property.
While this “Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and Its Fanboys” Facebook page might look like a relatively innocuous byproduct of the ongoing DC-vs.-Marvel rivalry, many Twitter users are calling the page’s members racist, perhaps with good reason. HuffPost reports the page’s moderator self-identifies as a member of the White Nationalist “alt-right” movement, whose “core belief is that ’white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Facebook group fosters other offensive biases, too: talking to HuffPost, that same moderator expressed concern that that Star Wars was turning its characters gay and said men should be reinstated as rulers of society.
Some 3,700 people reportedly responded to the event, but then Facebook took the group offline. “People often use Facebook to challenge ideas, institutions, and practices. Such discussion can promote a diversity of perspectives and greater understanding,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN. “However, we’re opposed to hate speech and bullying, and don’t allow either on our platform. We want Facebook to be a space where both expression and personal safety are protected and respected.”
Meanwhile, a Rotten Tomatoes spokesperson told CNN, ”While we respect our fans’ diverse opinions, we do not condone hate speech. Our team of security, network and social experts continue to closely monitor our platforms, and any users who engage in such activities will be blocked from our site and their comments removed as quickly as possible.”
Responding to the sabotage plan, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler told TheWrap he’s “really looking forward to sharing the film with audiences regardless of what their political views are.”
The good news is that the hateful Facebook page will probably fail in its goal: Fandango reports Black Panther has already outsold every other superhero film in pre-sale tickets, and the first reviews of the February 16 release have been overwhelmingly positive.