Note: The following was originally posted on 12/3/20 at 11:53 PM. -Ed.
Letitia Wright is trending on Twitter tonight, but not in the way that she (or, at least, her employers at Disney) might probably want. Which is to say, Wright—best known for her role as Wakandan royalty Shuri in Black Panther and other Marvel films—has come under criticism for a pretty typical one-two punch of internet notoriety: Saying something controversial, and then accusing those who were critical of her for saying these things of “canceling” her in its wake. In this case, it’s not even what Wright said, but what she retweeted: A video from Invazion Media Network questioning the value of vaccinations in general, and proposed COVID-19 vaccines in specific, with an accompanying prayer emoji of easily interpreted support.
The video, hosted by minister Tomi Arayomi, is an hour long, and, if we’re being honest, we haven’t allowed every second of it to infect our brains just yet. But here’s a fairly representative line from early on, where Arayomi—not a doctor, in case that wasn’t depressingly clear—states outright that, “I don’t understand vaccines medically, but I’ve always been skeptical of them.” Wright seemingly endorsed this sentiment with the aforementioned emoji, transmitting Arayomi’s rambling collection of anti-science clichés to her 367,000 or so followers. When people suggested via Twitter that she might be, you know, spreading dangerous disinformation by doing so, she fired back with this:
(Sorry, we’re still listening to Arayomi’s video; he just described “the jelly bit of the cell,” talked about “some kind of nanotech,” and then reminded viewers, as though this were necessary, that he is not a doctor.) Wright, who recently soared in Steve McQueen’s Mangrove (the first installment of the Small Axe anthology series), and who’s been speculated to be set to become the new lead of the Black Panther franchise after Chadwick Boseman’s death, has never been especially concerned with her public presentation; she’s talked about turning down parts in the past because she was focused on her own spiritual development and recovery from earlier difficulties. Tonight, that process seems to mostly involve being quietly contentious with people on Twitter—telling one person who noted that she works for one of the planet’s biggest media conglomerates, “No, I work for God”—and liking tweets from people calling for her to be kicked out of the Black Panther franchise. She’s also contended in a few spots that she doesn’t support everything in Arayomi’s video—we just got to the part where he rails against fact checkers, then dubs Dr. Anthony Fauci “the pope of COVID,” by the way—but that she was simply supporting his questioning of people rushing to take any proffered vaccine.
Anyway, that sound you just heard was a Disney PR rep waking in a cold sweat, their franchise-preservation instincts suddenly kicking into a hideous, drop-everything damage control override.
UPDATE, 12/4 @ 9:38 AM: And right on schedule, Wright has deleted the tweet supporting the video and issued a response to the backlash. It’s not an apology for spreading dangerous misinformation, but rather our favorite kind of walk-back: the Statement Of Intent. “My intention was not to hurt anyone,” Wright began, “my ONLY intention of posting the video was it raised my concerns with what the vaccine contains and what we are putting in our bodies. Nothing else.” Though she has removed the tweet that sparked the outcry, she has left the one about getting “cancelled” on her page, so… take that for what you will.