Since the release of Avengers: Infinity War, fans have flocked to a subreddit dedicated to the film’s villain, Thanos. Once mostly a place for jokes, memes, and chatter about the mad Titan’s ideologies, the more than 200,000 members of r/ThanosDidNothingWrong have turned their attention to fulfilling a one-off joke that will decimate their community: randomly banning half of their members. Today, a moderator announced that they’d finally received permission from the subreddit’s administrators. The ban will take place July 9th.
It’s all an elaborate riff on the plot of Infinity War, where (spoilers) long-teased villain Thanos collects the powerful Infinity Stones to complete his goal of wiping out exactly half the population of the universe. Having experienced the consequences of overpopulation and limited resources, he sees it as an act of mercy: an indiscriminate killing of young and old, rich and poor, decided in a single second by chance. Moderator The-Jedi-Apprentice, who originally announced the news, has posted regular updates about their quest to bring this much-requested culling to the subreddit.
According to The-Jedi-Apprentice, much of the efforts revolved around logistics and site stability. “[A Reddit admin] told me that doing a massive ban the day before July 4 was a terrible idea, because many of Reddit’s engineers would be out with their families,” the mod says in a forum post. “Also, the engineers would not be prepared for a mass ban so close to it. However, I presented a solution to these two problems, and I now have their permission to ban half of the sub!” The ban will target random members and eradicate 50 percent. “The admins are designing a bot for me that will allow me to do the job in a quick and easy manner,” the mod says.
Since the announcement earlier today, r/ThanosDidNothingWrong has been full of rejoicing members eager to see if they survive. “GIVE BAN,” they repeat over and over. Others post lines from the film, crowdsourcing Thanos’ speeches one line at a time. “Dread it.” “Run from it.” “Destiny still arrives.” It’s a role-playing game they’ve been playing with each other for months. According to 17-year-old user Jared Stephenson, the subreddit has allowed him and his friends to turn the tragic ending of the film into an easy-to-swallow joke. “Now that it’s basically just a meme, it’s hilarious to see so much of the internet collectively buying into this idea,” he tells The Verge. “I think the funniest part for me as well is seeing people make such a joke out of something that once devastated us. It’s like making a really dark, offensive joke that doesn’t actually hurt anybody, which is just great all around.”
The subreddit has steadily been gaining thousands of followers as more and more lurkers and passers-by scramble to join in on the fun. Stephenson says that he’s missed out on many of what he calls “fabled” Reddit events like this, but he expects this one to be big. “It’s just great to be able to say I was a part of that. I suppose if I do get banned then I would just anxiously await the next Avengers movie and see what happens with the sub then,” he says. Other members who joined the community at its start, like 19-year-old Rahul from India, tell The Verge that pulling off what started as a joke is two-fold: to mimic the film’s iconic snap, and to see if such a widespread instant ban could actually be done. “The role playing is all part of the fun and jokes,” he says. “The main appeal really is to see if this can actually be pulled off! It has been a long road from ‘it’s impossible’ to ‘maybe’ to ‘this is happening.’”
As for any members who do get the privilege of being saved by the Great Titan, there’s still homes for them: places like r/SoulWorld or r/InTheSoulStone, where all banned members can find a refuge. Although the ban will split the community (at least, for those that actually honor their ban), it will create a new sense of kinship, depending on their respective fates. It’s that sense of community that many users who spoke to The Verge reference when they explain why they want to participate. “Users can come together for one reason, even if that reason does not make much sense to the average person,” says one user who goes by ThanosOFFICIAL. “More often than not, I personally find that reason to be dedication to the subreddit and the creation of original content based off some theme (in this case, support for Thanos’s decision in Avengers: Infinity War).”
ThanosOFFICIAL says that if banned, they intend to honor that ruling and head to r/InTheSoulStone, rather than make a new account to lurk. Not everyone in the subreddit might call what they’re doing role-playing, but ThanosOFFICIAL says that’s essentially what is bringing these people together in a unique way. “I’m not too sure on any other spaces that exist for this kind of online interaction,” says ThanosOFFICIAL. “People can probably do the same thing in the comments section of a YouTube video, but it wouldn’t have the same effect, in my opinion because youtube is known primarily for videos while Reddit is primarily known for the comments section.”