White nationalists and far-right trolls have attempted to twist the inclusive and empowering message “Black Panther” to promote their own hate-filled ideologies, a new study shows.
Researchers at the Data & Society institute found that numerous members of alternative far-right communities have posted videos and memes suggesting the Marvel smash-hit movie’s hero T’Challa — the king of a self-sustaining African nation called Wakanda — is a character they can get behind.
A meme cited in the study, for example, badly misconstrues the values of T’Challa to accuse him of being an “isolationist” who is against immigration and diversity. That same meme — which is titled “Black Panther is Alt-Right” — shows the character with a hat reading “Make Wakanda Great Again” edited onto his head.
In reality, the movie makes it clear Wakanda is kept hidden from the outside world to protect the nation’s people, and even still, T’Challa strives to share his country’s vast resources with the rest of the planet.
Becca Lewis, a researcher for the study, says white nationalists and trolls have a range of reasons for attempting to co-opt the movie’s identity.
“They are embracing it in part because they know it is not expected, and they want to kind of trick people and they want to confuse people,” Lewis told the Daily News. “At the same time, they are doing this manipulative rhetoric where they are trying to equate black identity politics with white identity politics, which erases any issues of power, colonialism and racism that actually are the basis for black identity politics.”
The study, which was obtained by the Daily News, has not been released to the public. The Washington Post first reported on the study.
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