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No, Tom Hanks not cast to play US civil rights leader Martin Luther King in upcoming Netflix film. Ignore AI-generated poster

IN SHORT: The rumour that Tom Hanks will play Martin Luther King in an upcoming film has caused anger. But it’s based on an AI-generated poster that wasn’t made by Netflix.

Hollywood actor Tom Hanks is to play US civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr, known as MLK, in an upcoming Netflix movie.

That’s the rumour circulating on Facebook in several countries including South Africa in June and July 2023.

The claim has sparked online outrage, with some users saying:

  • They don’t want us have no HISTORY!!!!
  • This is disrespectful!! MLK is a real character not fictional and he is African American!! Only a African American should play that role!!!
  • Tom Hanks playing MLK is a prime example that Jesus was never white…and that everything that we see was stolen from us, this $hit is crazy.
  • Tom Hanks coloring himself black to play MLK is blackface and should be cancelled immediately.

King was a leader of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

The movement opposed US Jim Crow laws that denied black people education, segregated them from the rest of the population, prevented them from voting and banned marriage to people from other population groups.

King was assassinated in 1968 in the US state of Tennessee.

In response to the rumour, social media users have argued that many black actors could play the role of King, and that the casting of a white actor will promote blackface.

Blackface dates back some 200 years. White people in the US painted their faces black to make fun of often enslaved black people. The practice hasn’t died out.

But has Netflix cast Hanks in the role of King in an upcoming movie?


AI-generated poster 

The rumour comes from what seems to be a Netflix poster for the movie MLK that shows Hanks, in blackface, leading a crowd. 

But a Google reverse image search reveals that the poster isn’t legit and the movie doesn’t exist.

We traced the poster to a subreddit – a category on the discussion forum Reddit – dedicated to the AI or artificial intelligence image-generating app Midjourney. The poster was produced through AI.

It was uploaded on the Midjourney subreddit on 14 June, tagged “Jokes/Meme”. This indicates it wasn’t made to mislead. Its caption reads: “New tom hanks movie is gonna be pretty lit lol.”

But where did the Midjourney user get the idea?

US gaming blog, the Wolfshead Online, published an article in its satire section In April.

The article is headlined: “Tom Hanks to play Martin Luther King Jr. in Upcoming Speilberg Directed Biopic.” The misspelling presumably refers to US film director Steven Spielberg.

But this is not true. The movie poster is AI-generated and the article is, supposedly, satire

Satire is the use of humour or exaggeration aimed at criticising people or their ideas.

Tom Hanks won’t be playing Martin Luther King Jr in an upcoming Netflix movie. There is no such movie being filmed.

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