As Marvel's latest superhero movie, "Black Panther," draws praise and rakes in millions of dollars at the box office, Twitter trolls have emerged across the country attempting to stoke racial division by spreading false reports about the film's largely African American fans.
Over the last few days, users have posted false claims that they were attacked by blacks while going to see "Black Panther," the first movie from Marvel Studios led by a predominantly black cast.
"It's very unfortunate that a film that is poised to become a cultural icon is being marred by this fake news," said Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences at UCLA. "In the long run, it will not detract from the cultural significance of 'Black Panther,' but it does blunt some of the positive force it has as it opens. It is both surprising and not surprising."
"Black Panther" is the story of T'Challa, played by actor Chadwick Boseman, who returns home to Wakanda, an isolated, technologically advanced African nation, after his father, the king of Wakanda, dies and T'Challa must take his place as ruler.
The movie, which has being doing extremely well at the box office — it's expected to take in at least $150 million in the United States and Canada by Monday — has been especially embraced by African Americans and blacks around the world. Many have been turning up at moviehouses in African garb or wearing all black in homage to the film. But the movie has given birth to an unusual movement — whites claiming they have been attacked by blacks while attempting to see the film.
Public information officers for police departments in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston contacted by The Times said they had received no reports that would match the assault claims appearing online.
In the tweets, the posters frequently blame "black youth" for the attacks, using images taken from various unrelated sources of bleeding and battered faces or images of blood in sinks and on towels.
"I was so excited to see #BlackPanther and a young black man at the theater shouted 'you in the wrong place, cracker!' And proceeded to bloody my face. It hurts so bad I can't take it!" Twitter user @RobloxZionist wrote.
The image that accompanies the tweet is of actor Jensen Ackles, who plays Dean Winchester on the TV series "Supernatural," with makeup and fake blood on his face from a fight scene filmed on the show.
A user named @sharkwheat attempted to claim that a photo of a man beaten outside a Dallas nightclub in 2013 was of his brother after being assaulted while seeing "Black Panther."
"#BlackPanther this is my older brother Kenan. He was jumped just trying to see the movie. 'This movie ain't for you whitey' was the last thing he heard before he was beat up by 2 black men, rupturing his eardrum. He didn't even make it inside of the movie theater. Smh," the tweet read.
One user even pulled the image that Colbie Holderness, an ex-wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, shared when she wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about the abuse she faced from Porter. The user claimed the photo of Holderness was an image of his wife after she was attacked when they went to see "Black Panther."
Other Twitter users have been quick to call out trolls, noting where their images originally came from.
Some of the accounts spreading the false reports have since been suspended.
UCLA's Hunt, a race, culture and media scholar, noted that the trolls' posts were somewhat predictable, given the current political climate in the United States.
"We live in very polarized times," he said. "There have been rumblings on message boards about white superheroes being reimagined as black superheroes. There is clearly concern from those who are worried about the changing demographics of the country."
5:30 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the movie.
8:42 p.m.: This article was updated with the amount the film is expected to gross in the United States and Canada through Monday and additional details.