A recent article published by UK-based news outlet The Independent has claimed that “alt-right make up a not insignificant proportion of [Battle Angel:] Alita’s fanbase,” citing disingenuous characterizations of fandom members and social media interactions as their evidence.

In the article The cult of ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ – alt-right parable or neglected classic?, Independent contributor Adam White aims to take an in-depth look at the self-titled “Alita Army,” a name proudly worn by members of the Alita: Battle Angel fandom. Yet, rather than lending a fair ear to the feelings and criticisms held by the fandom, White instead frames these opinions as evidence of the fandom’s association with the alt-right:

“These fans call themselves #AlitaArmy, congregate on YouTube and Reddit, and typically possess an oddball but undeniably sweet reverence for a well-made, and at times genuinely fascinating, movie. But like most things on the internet, there is a darker underbelly. The alt-right make up a not insignificant proportion of Alita’s fanbase, and they are encouraged not to speak to “fake news” outlets about their love for the film. While others insist that a smear campaign funded by Disney to diminish its chances at award shows and earn middling reviews from critics has prevented the film from becoming the earth-shattering smash it should have been. And it’s a murky puddle of conspiracy and hysteria that hasn’t just made #AlitaArmy the most unexpected community of individuals on the internet, but representative of the internet as a whole.

As is typical with many discussions revolving around Alita, White touches upon the oft-drawn comparison between Alita and Captain Marvel, claiming that Alita was “positioned as a right-wing alternative to Captain Marvel” while remaining confused as to why the Alita Army enjoys a film “arguably even far more liberal in its politics than many of the “SJW” movies the #AlitaArmy have waged war against.”

White attempts to draw comparisons between the Alita Army and Gamergate, as do most writers claiming that a piece of pop-culture is associated with the alt-right, stating that a “collection of misogynist themes, related to female likeability, “believable” female strength and regressive views on how women should express their sexuality” underpin the Alita fandom. Though White states that “What many within #AlitaArmy won’t do, however, is actually tell you why they love [the movie] so much,” if White were to genuinely listen to the fandom, he would notice that their reasonings are extremely similar to White’s own praises of the film:

“While adapted from a popular, if niche, manga by Yukito Kishiro, it exists for many as a relatively original property, unattached to pre-existing brands or its own “universe” of interconnected movies – an increasing anomaly in modern blockbuster filmmaking, and therefore deserving of at least some respect.

And while the film’s special effects are remarkable, full of whirring machines, inventive design work and technical ingenuity, it’s also appealingly old-fashioned in its storytelling. There’s none of the deadpan quirk or quippy verbalising of the Marvel Universe, and none of the modern studio-movie compulsion to eschew sincerity for a kind of snarky cynicism. There’s a colour and weight given to its world, too: the film’s central location of Iron City a diverse tapestry of junk yards, basketball courts and back-alleys.

Alita herself is also intriguingly joyous and heartwarming as a heroine. She gazes at the world with wonder, discovers herself, falls in love. She’s barely real, being both a cyborg and a motion-capture creation embodied on set by Salazar – but emotionally human all the same.”

In the course of the article, White puts forth an anecdote regarding an unnamed female reporter who, according to White, ran afoul of the fandom after publicly asking them for their opinions and was made the subject of “malicious targeting of a female journalist”:

“Earlier this month a journalist from a US entertainment news site tweeted a request for #AlitaArmy members to share the reasoning behind their devotion, only to be set upon after an old tweet resurfaced in which she appeared to mock the fanbase. She was then made the subject of an attack video posted to YouTube in which Alita fans were encouraged not to speak to her, or the press itself. The video has since been deleted, after the journalist herself apologised on Twitter and asked for forgiveness. Her #AlitaArmy story has additionally never run.

If the tactics used in the response, from outlandish conspiracy claims, to YouTube antagonism, to the malicious targeting of a female journalist, feel familiar to anyone who has spent as little as five minutes exploring the modern alt-right, then you would be correct in spotting the crossover between the right-wing internet and elements of Alita fandom. For Alita: Battle Angel has been a battleground for society’s current culture wars for much of 2019, and just as jarringly nonsensical an arena as much of it deserves.

However, this claim is entirely disingenuous and paints a false, dramatic picture of the events that transpired. The reporter in question, Kylie Harrington, began by posing a public question to her Twitter account:

Following this question, members of the Alita Army responded to Harrington, not with anger and insults, but rather with explanations as to why these fans felt uneasy speaking with the press:

The “old tweet […] in which she appeared to mock the fanbase” was presented by one user who believed it showed “hostile intent” and was quickly met with an acceptance of responsibility for the tweet and an apology by Harrington:

Following the publishing of the article, Harrington herself would call out The Independent for their blatant mischaracterizations of her interactions with the fandom:

Ultimately, while elements of regressive politics and bigotry may have appeared individually within the fandom, one finds it hard to believe that these issues are as pervasive as White claims, especially in the fandom of a Hispanic-directed film based on a Japanese author’s work whose fans praise and adore the Hispanic-female protagonist.

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  • About The Author

    Spencer is a contributing reporter for Bounding Into Comics. Unabashed anime fan, life-long comic book reader, avid video game player, and in need of a separate house for all of his figures. Trying to sift through the noise to bring the readers the facts.

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