“I do not stand by in the presence of evil!” – Alita
SHORT & SWEET: In February 2019, Alita: Battle Angel fans gathered on social media to share their love for the film that opened on the 13th. As #Alita threatened to become a box office failure, fans rallied to save it. In March 2019, the Alita fan community on Twitter began calling themselves the “#AlitaArmy”.
THE LONG STORY: In advance of its release, many entertainment websites and critics had harshly criticized the Alita: Battle Angel film, and while some of them were based on the plot of the movie, a number of them were punishing it for not being progressive enough. Yes, the female character Alita having breasts was (and still is) a problem for some critics. These bad reviews certainly had a negative impact on the film’s box office by deterring people from seeing the film.
Before there was an “Alita Army” in name, there were people on the internet discussing how unfair these reviews were and how they might save Alita from financial disaster. At the time, the most we could do was see Alita as many times as possible, share our movie going experiences with each other on Twitter, and spread the good word of mouth to whoever we came across.
Although it’s not directly related to the formation of the Alita Army, it’s important to recognize the internet campaign that took place between late February and early March that was called the “Alita Challenge” (#AlitaChallenge). The Alita Challenge was a campaign started by an Alita fan on YouTube who wanted to make Alita “bigger than Captain Marvel” on March 8th, which was International Women’s Day and the opening weekend of the film Captain Marvel. The Alita Challenge became very big on social media, attracting the attention of many politically motivated people and they became the face of the challenge and the Alita fandom. That led to many who criticized Alita: Battle Angel for not being progressive enough doubling down on their dislike for the film. It also led to true fans being accused of being closeted misogynists. Those people who were primarily interested in protesting Captain Marvel left the scene almost as quickly as they had arrived, regardless of whether they were actual fans of Alita or not.
There were many genuine fans of Alita who continued their efforts to save Alita after the challenge had ended. On March 18, 2019, Rotten Tomatoes posted a poll asking: “What’s your favorite movie of 2019 so far?“ Many Alita: Battle Angel fans surged into the thread to vote for Alita. Though many of us knew each other before that thread, there were many fans of Alita that we did not know were out there. The overwhelming support for Alita caught us by surprise. It was on this day that @MisterJinxToast called us the “Alita Army” for the first time. (Note: There was a Facebook group created in February that was called “Alita Battle Angel’s Army”, however none of us who were on Twitter were aware of that at the time. No infringement was intended.)
We continued to vote in Twitter threads as “the #AlitaArmy”, encouraging people to get out to the movie theaters and watch Alita: Battle Angel while there was still time to save the film from financial failure. During these months of campaigning, we saw the damage that the Alita Challenge had done to the brand. We faced constant accusations of being fake fans who only pretended to like Alita out of hatred for Captain Marvel. It was a very frustrating problem and we made many attempts to overcome this stigma that Alita fans now had. We had to prove that our fandom was genuine before we could effectively reach people who had never even watched Alita for themselves. We encouraged each other to be positive and respectful in our interactions with everyone online because it is what Alita needed from us. Throughout the spring and summer, we even made friends of some Captain Marvel fans who would attest to the Alita Army’s love for Alita being true.
During that time, the official Alita: Battle Angel social media account often went silent for weeks at a time. There was even a period of time between March and April when it was inactive for about a month. This troubled us greatly and we saw the Alita Army as being Alita’s “life-support” in such times. With Twitter being an open and public platform, our very, VERY vocal community got the attention of numerous entertainment news websites. While most of them did not mention the Alita Army by name, it was clear to us who was being referred to.
A thread by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (@Academy), posted in June 2019, is where the Alita Army surprised a lot of unsuspecting people and gained more media attention. Alita: Battle Angel was a film that many people wrote off as a flop, so to see that it had such a fervent fan base astonished those who came across the thread.
Through this thread, we met a female journalist who asked to interview us. There was a misunderstanding between some of us and the journalist in the beginning, which led to some public debating. But these misunderstandings were cleared up and apologies were made between both sides. Unfortunately, a writer from the Independent was monitoring our conversations and decided to publish defamatory and easily disprovable lies about the #AlitaArmy following those events that happened on Twitter. However, on a positive note, the female journalist who interviewed us published her article for The Wrap and Yahoo! News on July 9th. It is that article which Jon Landau, the co-producer of Alita: Battle Angel, responded to on Facebook:
It was in late July, when Alita: Battle Angel was released on Blu-ray and DVD, that people who had a primary interest in using Alita to combat Captain Marvel began comparing Alita’s home video sales to Captain Marvel’s sales, only this time they did so posting as “#AlitaArmy”. No doubt, because of the popularity of the name, these Captain Marvel haters wanted to use it for clout. In spite of our requests that the hashtag not be used to attack Captain Marvel and that they should simply create their own name and hashtag, they insisted that we didn’t own “Alita Army” and that we should stop “gate-keeping” it. But we resisted them turning something that was meant to be positive into something destructive.
There were a number of Twitter battles fought that were also made public on YouTube. These people were warned that using the hashtag to attack other characters or movies would ruin the increasingly positive reputation of the Alita Army and lead to it becoming as toxic as the “#AlitaChallenge”. Weeks after these warnings were given, Comic Book Resources published an article asking why Alita was still being used to attack Captain Marvel — in it the Alita Army was blamed. The writer of which still has an ax to grind against us.
Just as with the Alita Challenge, however, the people who want to use Alita to attack other characters or movies eventually moved on to other things and they left the people who truly cared about Alita to deal with the mess. The Alita Army has not been, nor ever will be, here for fan rivalries or a culture war. We are genuine Alita: Battle Angel fans and we are here to secure at least one Alita sequel. Following Jon Landau’s instructions to us to continue “peppering” Disney:
On December 5, 2019, just days after Landau’s words were published by Cinemablend, we showed our desire for a sequel by making #AlitaSequel trend on Twitter. And then we did it again February 6, 2020. Then we flew a banner that read “#AlitaSequel #AlitaArmy” over the Dolby theater where the Oscars were held on February 9. All of this was enough to get another response from him (as well as Rosa Salazar).
We, the #AlitaArmy, are not going to give up on Alita: Battle Angel. There is still so much amazing story left to be told and she is a character who deeply resonates with us. We will continue campaigning across social media and on the ground. Our rallying cry, as Rosa Salazar more than once has said: “Buy those Blu-rays, baby!”