'Black Panther' Targeted By Alt-Right Trolls Who Also Tried to Tank 'Last Jedi'

On Thursday, a group of self-identified "fanboys" announced its plan to systematically tank the Rotten Tomatoes audience score for Marvel's Black Panther. A day later, the group's Facebook page, "Down With Disney's Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys," and its event page for Black Panther were deleted from the platform.

The group got no love from Rotten Tomatoes, either. Speaking with The Wrap on Thursday, a spokesperson for the website promised that it would no longer tolerate bad-faith reviews from trolls. "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," the rep explained.

Black Panther as he'll appear in his 2018 Marvel film Marvel

The campaign against Black Panther was launched by the same alt-right trolling group who, last year, took aim at Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And as it has in the past, the fanboys are leaning on the conspiracy theory that Disney "pays off" critics to support Marvel superhero movies and criticize DC superhero movies.

That logic doesn't hold up to recent evidence. DC's Wonder Woman was beloved by critics and audiences. And while Black Panther has already received rave reviews from critics, the relationship between writers and the studio is strained at the moment. Late last year, Disney came under fire for blacklisting The Los Angeles Times over a story. Disney reversed that decision when other publications vowed to stand in solidarity with the Times and boycott the company's movies.

But there might be a different reason the group is targeting Black Panther. "Fringe right-wing activists love some of the same pop culture as the rest of the nation—they just don't want to see it begin to reflect the rest of the nation," SYFYWire wrote in January.

That's certainly true of the group behind the botched attempted to tank Black Panther on Rotten Tomatoes. In 2017, the trolls managed to get The Last Jedi's Rotten Tomatoes score down to 56 percent by mobilizing an effort to review the film badly among like-minded folks on social media. They also admitted on their Facebook page that they were using bots to swarm the site.

M'Baku, leader of the White Gorilla mountain tribe in Wakanda, played by Winston Duke. Marvel Studios

For a while, the group was able to hide behind its claims that The Last Jedi tossed out valuable additions to the Star Wars canon; they argued that Rey (Daisy Ridley) was a "Mary Sue," a term nerds use to describe female characters who are too adept at certain skills, and they criticized director Rian Johnson's storytelling style. But it became clear that the reason for their anger was the inclusion of non-white actors in sci-fi and fantasy franchises. When the Facebook group's leader spoke with Inverse about their plans, he said, "Minorities...should stay that way."

The fanboy group's focus on Black Panther brings the subtext of their arguments more into the open. The film is directed by Ryan Coogler, an African American; features an almost all-black cast; and is an adaptation of a 52-year-old comic book character, who is both a superhero and a king. The film has also inspired a massive amount of excitement—it has been dubbed the "most anticipated superhero film in history" thanks to blockbuster pre-sale ticket numbers—and is a watershed moment in big-screen representation.

Whatever the fanboy group hoped to accomplish by dinging Black Panther on Rotten Tomatoes has been prevented—for now. But even if it hadn't, the metric these "fans" wanted to manipulate is likely to have little to no effect on the film's success. (The film is also a lead-in to The Avengers: Infinity War, which will likely attract even more viewers.)

So it's probably best to get used to the idea that a film featuring a black superhero will likely be one of the biggest movies of the year—whether the trolls like it or not.

Black Panther hits theaters February 16.