Black Panther has found another set of fans: the alt-right. Yes, you read that right.
New research from think tank Data & Society has uncovered that a certain segment of the alt-right believes T’Challa and Wakanda embody their beliefs, according to the Washington Post.
Alt-right and supremacist groups are generating memes, that highlight T'Challa as a hero of the alt-right, which have spread across social media.
One puzzling image shows the hero wearing a red “Make Wakanda Great Again,” hat styled after Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. Beside the picture is a checklist, claiming TChalla is “anti-immigration, isolationist, pro-wall, strict trade restriction, anti-diversity, ethno-nationalist, anti-refugee, anti-democracy [and] traditionalist.”
A quick glance at Reddit shows supports for this reading of the film. In one thread, users draw parallels between T’Challa's and Trump’s beliefs.
“He's a nationalist superhero with an incredibly strict anti-immigration policy who's literally built a wall around his country,” wrote one user.
In trying to explain what the alt-right sees in the film, another user evoked Bannonism, calling Wakanda "conservative, anti-globalist and nationalist. Pride in your race and county of origin is emphasized. They have an isolationist immigration policy Steve Bannon would love."
Similar messages can be found on Youtube, Twitter and 4chan, the site responsible for online trolling campaigns like Gamergate.
One Youtuber, in a video titled "Black Panther: A Hero the #AltRight Deserves?" suggested the alt-right use Black Panther to troll the left.
“The alt-right should not only consider supporting the Black Panther movie, they should meme it all over social media, and attend screenings en masse, proudly showing their solidarity with him and his values,” the YouTuber said in the video’s description. “If not only just for the giggle factor, it would definitely confuse, disorient and discombobulate those on the far-left."
Overall, the Data & Society researchers surmised that white supremacists hope to cash in on the Black Panther craze to recruit more people for their movement.
“They're very savvy about social media use. They know if they can cover Black Panther, it'll show up in search results for people looking to learn more about the movie,” said Becca Lewis of Data & Society. “They try to phrase white nationalism as identity politics for white people … They’re essentially trying to co-opt its identity politics."