The new actor rumored to be cast as the Black Panther 2 villain has already been canceled for homophobic tweets. Except now many are left questioning whether they were actually homophobic. Why is it so difficult to tell? Because the actor in question is from Mexico and his tweets are in Spanish. Those claiming that the actor is homophobic are relying on Google Translate to find the tweets they’re claiming are homophobic. However, many of them appear to be tweets where the actor is actually calling out bigotry and making fun of the hypocrisy involved in hating people who are different from you. What in the world are Marvel executives going to do with this mess? Especially since they have yet to officially announce the actor has been cast? This is certainly an interesting case of cancel culture. Let’s take a deeper dive into what’s happening here.
Only a few days ago, insiders announced that Tenoch Huerta, an actor well known in Mexico and a star on Narcos: Mexico, has been cast as Namor the Sub-Mariner. While Namor is sometimes a hero, sometimes an antihero, and sometimes a straight-up villain in Marvel Comics, the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to have plans to make him the Black Panther 2 villain. This decision made a lot of sense on the part of the studio. There have been rumors that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will be taking place underwater, which is where Namor thrives. The character is legendary in the comics world and fans have been waiting to see him on screen for years.
As soon as it was rumored that Tenoch Huerta was cast as the Black Panther 2 villain, fans dove into his Twitter account to learn more about the new star for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His tweets are almost exclusively in Spanish. This makes sense, as the actor is from Mexico and his audience knows him from Spanish-speaking roles. Twitter makes it fairly easy to use Google Translate on tweets, translating them directly on the website with a click of a button. However, Google Translate is not exactly 100% reliable. It can get you very close and is a premier tool on the free market for translation. Is it something that can be trusted when judging another human being’s character? Can a free translation tool capture meaning and intent in 140 characters?
To illustrate how Google Translate can get close, but not quite, there is a running skit on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. In it, they take a song with lyrics in English that is currently popular. Then, they translate the song it into another language using Google Translate, and then translate that back into English. Because of the double translation, this is an extreme example of how the translator can get things wrong, but does fairly well exemplify how it can’t be trusted as entirely accurate, particularly when trying to convey a complex or nuanced thought. It may not be a great tool for judging the new Black Panther 2 villain’s intentions with his tweets.
For example, when Miley Cyrus was on the show, they translated Shape of You by Ed Sheeran. The simple lyric, “I’m in love with your body,” became “I like that cadaver”. In English, that’s technically sort of accurate. A “body” doesn’t mean a dead body in the way that a “cadaver” does, but if someone said “I like that cadaver”, they could also mean that they love that body. This is morbid, dark, unexpected, strange, and makes us laugh when Miley Cyrus sings it. It also shows how the Google Translate tool is accurate, but not a reliable way of knowing what someone meant, especially when a sentence in question may be something as complex as a sarcastic comment mocking homophobia, racism, and other forms of bigotry.
So, is the actor playing the Black Panther 2 villain tweeting homophobic statements? At this point, it’s very difficult to tell whether Tenoch Huerta’s tweets are homophobic or mocking homophobia. One example that people are pointing at is the below tweet. In this tweet from 2018, Tenoch Huerta specifically says that the comment is a joke meant to mock homophobic people. This tweet is mocking people who say “Merry Christmas”, but don’t actually wish well to many groups of people, including the LGBTQ+ community. It makes it sound very much like Tenoch Huerta believes it’s important to support this community.
According to Google Translate, the tweet reads: “Merry Christmas to everyone except the poor, immigrants, homosexuals, trans, feminists, liberals, indigenous people … And if you don’t understand that it’s a joke Not for you either!” The text in the photo is specifically calling out extreme conservatism. “De la extrema derecha” means “the extreme right”. The empty box is the nativity scene without anyone in it, because the picture is supposed to be the nativity scene without immigrants, refugees, Arabic people, or Black people.
So, has Tenoch Huerta tweeted homophobic statements? Or is he a guy on Twitter actively calling out homophobia and racism? Has cancel culture come for the actor playing the Black Panther 2 villain without properly understanding his tweets? It’s hard to say. It’s also hard to say what Marvel is going to do about this. They have yet to officially announce Tenoch Huerta as the actor playing the role. They have also yet to officially announce that Namor the Submariner is going to be the villain. At this point, Marvel has the ability to backtrack, but should they? It seems highly possible that Marvel will ignore this incident and wait for it to blow over, but that depends on how much attention the situation draws. We’ll be watching to see if the actor is announced in the official cast for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soon.