Letitia Wright Responds to Backlash for Sharing Transphobic, Antivax Video

Letitia Wright as Shuri in Black Panther.
Letitia Wright as Shuri in Black Panther.
Screenshot: Marvel

In yet another example of how the best rule of thumb is to simply never tweet, Black Panther star Letitia Wright has found herself on the receiving end of a significant amount of backlash from the public. This came after she shared a video of a YouTuber who questioned the seriousness of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, casting doubt on the efficacy of any potential vaccines, and espousing a litany of transphobic ideas.

On Thursday evening, Wright sent out a now-deleted tweet with a prayer hands emoji along with a link to a video by Tomi Arayomi, a self-proclaimed prophet, author, and founder of RIG Nation, “a media platform with the Christian mission” in 2007. In the video titled “COVID-19 VACCINE, SHOULD WE TAKE IT?”—since removed by YouTube for violating its terms of service—Arayomi shared his thoughts on a number of current events, and stated his belief that people should cling to their right to put faith in factually incorrect information.

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“If you want the trust of the people, you must lead them to the understanding that they have the right to be misinformed,” Arayomi said in the video. “Part of freedom of speech involves the right to believe that aliens are real, and wearing tin foil hats will protect me from their mass mind control communication.”

While Arayomi’s largely incoherent musings bounce all over the place throughout the video, what specifically drew the public’s attention to Wright sharing it were Arayomi’s suggestions that vaccines produced by Chinese pharmaceutical companies cannot be trusted. Also, while making the argument that the “jury’s still out” on whether humans play a significant role in the exacerbation of climate change, he—for some reason—brought up people who are transgender as another example of “something [he] just technically, biologically [doesn’t] believe in.”

Wright herself didn’t explicitly endorse any of Arayomi’s views, nor did she make it clear whether she watched the entire 69-minute-long video before sharing it in her initial tweet. However, many of her followers interpreted her posting it as an invitation to entertain its ideas. Responding to the backlash on Thursday, Wright claimed that people were attempting to cancel her for being a nonconformist, but by Friday morning, she posted a statement attempting to clarify her reasoning for sharing the video.

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Wright’s social media habits come into the spotlight at a time when multiple fandoms are making a point of paying closer attention to the stances that high-profile celebrities take relating to pressing, real-world issues. Fellow Marvel Studios star Chris Pratt’s faced vocal criticism for his association with Zoe Church, an offshoot of the celebrity-centric Hillsong Church whose founder has stated that the organization does not support a “gay lifestyle.”

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Additionally, another Disney actor, The Mandalorian’s Gina Carano, came under fire recently for varying uses of her social media accounts. Fans alleged she was mocking people who share their pronouns in their Twitter bios—“I’m not against trans lives at all,” she commented afterward, also writing “Beep/bop/boop has zero to do with mocking trans people & [everything] to do with exposing the bullying mentality of the mob that has taken over the voices of many genuine causes.” Her Twitter account also showed her liking posts disparaging the Black Lives Matter movement, spreading conspiracy theories related to the 2020 election, and making fun of coronavirus mask mandates.

What these celebrities have in common—beyond being household names in part because of their association with Disney—is that they’re all entitled to have their beliefs no matter how factually inaccurate, offensive, and rooted in bad faith they may be from the perspective of the general public. But when people listen to the things celebrities say, watch the things they do, and come to the conclusion that they’re being out of pocket, the stars can’t cry foul when people lose faith in them and whatever sense of relatability they’re always trying to project.

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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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DISCUSSION

angriergeek
Angrier Geek

If nothing else this public display of ignorance will hopefully slow down cries for Shuri to become Black Panther and make them accept recasting T’Challa (I’m going with John David Washington). Boseman can be what Connery was to Bond: the originator who set the standard all others will be judged against. Benching the first successful black superhero goes against all that success accomplished.

And you left out Evangeline Lilly who also posted about COVID being just “the flu” and went full Fox news on how liberty was in danger. She recanted because I think she got the same phone call from Disney that Wright is about to get: “Remember Ed Norton and Terrence Howard...?”