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Sunday was May 4. For one corner of social media, that means it’s “Star Wars” Day, because “May the fourth” sounds like “May the force,” as in “May the force be with you,” an oft-repeated line from the movies.
For brands that market to fans of science fiction and similar genres, it’s a big opportunity to drum up excitement and sales. Black Milk Clothing, an Australian company that sells apparel—including a line of “Star Wars” clothes—online, tried to do that by posting this image to its Facebook page:
Fans immediately reacted with anger, saying the image is misogynistic, an act of body shaming, and violates Black Milk’s own rule that commenters shouldn’t “make critical comments on other women’s bodies.”
Black Milk didn’t see it that way. Its social media team wrote a number of defensive posts saying the original post wasn’t shaming anyone and that the company would not apologize. The team said those upset by the post constituted “a small minority.” BuzzFeed has a collection of screenshots here.
Worse yet, the company deleted users’ comments and barred users from continuing to post on the Facebook page. In a Monday post, after deleting the initial thread, Black Milk explained that people were barred because they had “had overstepped the mark and were being disrespectful.”
Critics on Reddit called the company’s social media meltdown the “worst since Amy’s Baking Company.” Some said that the company’s license with Disney to sell “Star Wars” apparel could be in danger.
Tuesday, two days after the initial post, Black Milk posted a lengthy apology to Facebook, signed by the company’s head of marketing, Cameron Parker. All the other posts about the initial thread were deleted.
The apology reads, in part:
The senior management at Black Milk take full responsibility for the post and the way complaints following the post were handled. Any criticism should be directed there, and not to the social media team who were simply acting under the direction of management.
I want you guys to know that this wonderful, diverse community means so much to me personally. Having gone to meet ups and being involved in all the amazing things you guys do for each other is such a humbling experience. I don’t want to think that what has taken years to build could be jeopardized.
We are taking ownership of this situation, from the original post to the way complaints were handled. I will work together with the Black Milk team to ensure we learn from this.
The responses are a mixed bag. Some are from people saying they weren’t offended by the original post, others seem to accept the apology, and still others say the apology simply isn’t enough to inspire them to forgive the company.
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