In terms of critical response and opening weekend box office, Marvel’s Black Panther has been an unmitigated, record-breaking success. Anticipation has been high from the beginning, with the film outstripping all other Marvel movies in first-day ticket sales volume, and becoming the most-discussed movie on Twitter.
But all the positive coverage and fan enthusiasm clearly angered a small minority of trolls, who organized to sabotage the movie’s ratings on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and the IMDb. And over the weekend, Twitter saw a wave of posts from users claiming they were white filmgoers who were physically assaulted by black attendees at Black Panther screenings. Most of the scam posts claimed the attackers shouted some variant on “this film isn’t for you,” playing on viewers’ racial anxieties about the movie’s intended audience. In some cases, the tweets seemed to be a ploy for attention. One of the first users to go viral immediately began soliciting money via Patreon, though the Twitter account that posted the assault claim has since been suspended. In others, the intent seemed to be to stir up racial tensions or stoke social media users’ fears enough to keep them from seeing the movie.
All these tweets were instantly and easily debunked; reverse image lookup tools make it easy to trace how the pictures of the bleeding “victims” were taken from stock-footage sites, TV shows, or legitimate news stories about domestic assault or other real attacks. Twitter users begin rapidly vetting each new false assault claim, responding to the posters by revealing their image sources. Twitter has suspended some of the accounts posting false assault claims.
Twitter users have also fought back by satirizing the false assault claims. Some people have just parodied the original versions with comparatively subtle details:
I was attacked at the movie theater by a group of black youths who said I don’t belong at the Black Panther screening because I’m “not a king.” They proceeded to take out highly advanced Vibranium technology and laser weaponry and assault me until the ushers showed up. pic.twitter.com/UPvPohK806
— ᴾ ᴼ ᴰ / ᴀ ᴡ ғ ᴜ ʟ™ ᴡ/ – (@PodAwful) February 17, 2018
Others have ramped up the tone:
last night i was attending black panther when a black child who looked to be around four years old told me “this movie wasn’t for me” and proceeded to violently assault me with an eighteen megaton atomic bomb pic.twitter.com/g2LQeDG4pb
— Hachimals (@AkinasEightSix) February 16, 2018
Others have made fun of the trolls’ use of TV images:
This is my little brother Tyler. He took a break from making soap to see Black Panther. Some black youths told him “this movie isn’t for you” and proceeded to assault him. Now he can’t stop quoting annoying movies from 1999 pic.twitter.com/m2dJbOA5p7
— Ian Boudreau (@iboudreau) February 18, 2018
While others used the format to call out the racism of the people making up assault claims:
This is my racist uncle Bob, he went to see #BlackPanther and someone in the theatre assaulted him by saying there are only two white guys starring in the film. When will Hollywood stop this assault on white peeps!? pic.twitter.com/OmYwV2e8kh
— Sprout of Wrath (@KilgoreSprout) February 17, 2018
Some invented reverse narratives where white people assaulted black people for trying to see movies with white leading men:
This is my cousin Ricky , I took this picture just as he was shot and killed while we were leaving a viewing of fifty shades freed “that’s the closest you getting to free blackey “ were the shooters last words before pulling the trigger pic.twitter.com/nzUFPQwB4D
— Good Will Stunting (@WillieBeamon) February 18, 2018
Or where white men were assaulted for entirely different reasons:
This is my uncle, who was attacked by hoodlums simply for trying to go see Paddington 2. They shouted “bears are not for you old man” and threw jars of marmalade at him that the theater had been giving out pic.twitter.com/sUvEBXqD3L
— Blorb Blumberbung (@pharmasean) February 18, 2018
The two-pronged approach — thoroughly debunking frauds, then publicly mocking them — seems like one of the healthiest things happening on the internet today. Instead of getting angry, users are getting even by inventing steadily more absurd and exaggerated stories, like this elaborate thread about time travel, exploding robots, and the never-ending war against Babadooks. Because who wouldn’t rather fight a Babadook than fight racists who are spreading fake news about racial violence in an attempt to undermine an uplifting success story?
So I went to see #Blackpanther today, but as I tried to go into the theater I was approached by 4 black youths. They said “Old man, you can’t go into that theater.”
“Why not?” I asked.
They answered “Because that Theater’s full of Babadooks.” (Thread)
— Rodrigo☠Lopez (@FearsomeCritter) February 18, 2018