Why Was Letitia Wright Dragged More Than ‘Ant-Man’ Star Evangeline Lilly?
The third film in the Ant-Man franchise, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, is now playing in theaters everywhere. While the movie stars the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s smallest heroes (subatomic-sized, to be exact), it’s a pretty big deal, as it marks the official start of the MCU’s Phase 5. Since the film was announced, social media has been inundated with trailers, promos, cast interviews , cover profiles, sneak peeks, and more. But you know what’s been missing? A continued reproach of lead actress Evangeline Lilly’s anti-vaccine mandate views — especially in the wake of the nonstop attention Black Panther: Wakanda Forever actress Letitia Wright received for far less. What gives?
Wright’s problems began in June 2022, when the Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever first began production in Atlanta, Georgia. Public sentiment for the actress, who alongside her co-stars was still reeling from the death of the franchise’s legendary star Chadwick Boseman, was high. But in December 2020, Wright came under fire for tweeting and then immediately deleting a video skeptical of the ingredients of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“if you don’t conform to popular opinions but ask questions and think for yourself….you get cancelled,” she wrote at the time, adding, “my intention was not to hurt anyone, 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.”
And when The Hollywood Reporter published an article claiming Wright had shared anti-vaccination views while on the set of Wakanda Forever, rumors that potential anti-vax beliefs from Wright could delay the movie further sent the controversy into a tailspin.
Wright (and her PR team) have successfully dodged commenting on Wright’s actual vaccination status. And the British actress has since apologized for the tweet, even going so far as to delete her Twitter account following the backlash. But in November 2022, another Hollywood Reporter article named Wright alongside Brad Pitt and Will Smith in a column discussing how public allegations could ruin the actors’ chances at Oscars nominations. Wright called the article “nasty” and a personal vendetta against her. (THR later changed the image accompanying the piece from the three actors to a photo of the Hollywood sign.)
“How dare you,” she said on Instagram. “You mentioned my name alongside men who have been accused of abuse & sexual misconduct. This is vile behavior. Stop your nonsense. I apologized TWO years ago.”
While Wright has been unable to escape her controversial comments regarding COVID-19 vaccines, fellow Marvel actress Evangeline Lilly, who stars as The Wasp in the Ant-Man films, hasn’t gotten remotely the same energy. Despite apologizing for initial posts early in 2020 saying she wouldn’t self-isolate, Lilly has continued to run her mouth about vaccine mandates at every conceivable turn.
In January 2022, Lilly doubled down, attending an anti-vaccination march in Washington, D.C., led by anti-vax conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy. Yes, the same rally rally where Kennedy compared vaccine passports to slavery and the Holocaust, saying, “Even in Hitler’s Germany you could cross the Alps into Switzerland, you could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did.”
To make matters worse, Lilly bragged about the march on her Instagram, calling it a rally to support “body sovereignty” (a common anti-vax line). And yet, the actress has enjoyed a months-long Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania press tour relatively free from any questions or genuine critiques about the missteps.
This isn’t the first time a superhero franchise has had to deal with the consequences of its actors’ off-screen behavior. Zachary Levi, star of the Shazam! films, recently received a smattering of online backlash for appearing on a podcast with (and praising) the men’s rights activist Jordan Peterson, while also tweeting out comments that many interpreted as anti-vax. And Warner Bros., the studio distributing the DC Extended Universe films, is constantly dunked on for its dogged determination to bankroll Ezra Miller’s reign of terror. I mean, how many times can Miller be arrested before Warner Bros./DC stops letting them star in films? But Marvel doesn’t boast a spotless record — which makes the all-around refusal to hold Lilly accountable highlight a blatant double standard.
The answer to why Wright was treated differently than Lilly is obvious: racism. But there’s still a lesson to be learned from the ongoing hypocrisy. It was never wrong to critique Wright’s public comments on social media about vaccines. Actors with platforms hold significant power, and it’s important to challenge detrimental misinformation that could harm others. But the fact that Wright’s comments have continued to follow her long after her apology, while Lilly has stood behind her statements and continued to star in one of the biggest blockbusters of the year without even the slightest of prodding, should have us re-examine who — and why — we let some things slide. The superhero film industrial complex has proven that once actors make them money, studios will stand by their fuckups. But viewers don’t have to do that job for them.