2018 has been a year ripe with juicy celebrity feuds: Nicki Minaj vs. Cardi B, Eminem vs. Machine Gun Kelly, Kim Cattrall vs. Sarah Jessica Parker. The strangest of them all, however, is unfolding right now before our very eyes: Lady Gaga fans vs. the comic book movie Venom.
The two parties have little in common save for the date Oct. 5—the day on which both Venom and Gaga’s new film, A Star Is Born, hit theaters in the United States.
The beef, like so many these days, is happening on social media: Gaga’s online army of fans are coordinating en masse to discredit Venom by flooding the internet with negative reviews for the film, often using fake accounts.
BuzzFeed first reported this odd development, and one of these Gaga acolytes told the publication that the attacks on Venom were synchronized in order to drive more people to see A Star Is Born this weekend. “It’s us Gaga fans creating fake IDs to trash the Venom premiere,” the person said.
Some of these fake accounts take the form of wholesome, middle-aged white suburban women, a tactic used by Gaga stans in past online feuds. (That’s also, incidentally, one of many strategies employed by Russian trolls in their disinformation campaigns during US elections.)
The audiences for the two films could not be more different, and A Star Is Born was always likely to be a box office success, with or without a campaign to destroy its competition. The romantic musical directed by Bradley Cooper (who also stars opposite Gaga) earned rave reviews from critics after playing at the Venice and Toronto film festivals. It now has a terrific 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered a frontrunner for several Oscars, including best picture. As of last month, it was tracking for a healthy $30 million domestic debut.
But that’s still half as large as the box office expected for Venom, a Marvel blockbuster starring Tom Hardy about the famous Spider-Man villain.
Mayhaps therein lies Gaga fans’ anxiety: Though the people who might feel compelled to see both Venom and A Star Is Born on opening weekend are few and far between, Venom is still a comic book movie starring an A-list actor, and it’s the only thing standing in the way of Gaga’s movie being the number one movie in the world for the next few weeks.
Gaga has asked her fans not to engage in this type of behavior before (she told fans to stop fighting with followers of pop star Katy Perry in 2013), but we’re not sure if the online discord campaign against this guy warrants a stern talking-to from the queen mother. We’ll update you if Gaga herself addresses the war against Venom that her henchmen and women have waged on her behalf.