This Newsletter Was Brought To You by Chris Pratt’s White Male Fragility

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Stacy Lee Kong

Jan 06 2021

8 mins read

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I’m sure you’ve seen the One Gotta Go meme before—it’s a completely innocuous internet game that has been applied to breakfast foods, ’90s TV shows, white comedians, Black comedians, rappers, pie, Disney movies, gangster movies… You get the picture.

Although, I guess I should say that it’s completely innocuous unless you jokingly

apply it to a famous white guy, in which case it clearly becomes internet bullying and/or a tool of oppression, depending on who you ask.

I’m not even exaggerating. On Saturday, Amy Berg (the TV producer, not the documentarian) tweeted a version of the One Gotta Go meme featuring the Hollywood Chrises (Hemsworth, Pratt, Pine and Evans). Now, this is not the first time someone’s made this joke—or even posted this exact same meme. Ranking the Chrises has been a pop culture Thing for ages. In 2017, Vanity Fair published a thinkpiece that broke down how the Chris Rankings came to be and argued that the foursome had come to “define modern Hollywood stardom.” Entertainment pubs publish “power rankings” with dependable regularity. And honestly? Pratt has always ranked last.

All of which is to say, this is not a new or subversive conversation, unless you’re talking about how there are so many men named Chris in Hollywood that we can have opinions about which one is best. (As my friend Ishani Nath pointed out, you really can’t do that with racialized actors—there’s just the one Dev, sadly.) But for some reason, it really made an impact this week. Maybe that’s because Pratt didn’t attend a Oct. 20 fundraising event for Joe Biden, though some of his Marvel co-stars did. For some Twitter users, his absence was just another piece of evidence that he is a Trump supporter.

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Whatever the reason for this to become a trending topic, it obviously upset him enough to call in the cavalry—that is, his famous co-stars (and his wife). Katherine Schwarzenegger commented on an E! News Instagram post, arguing that this whole discourse is “bullying.” Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Josh Gad, Zoe Saldana (who had the audacity to reference Tupac in her post 🤢) and director James Gunn all posted in support.

Here’s the thing, though: they are wrong. I’m not 100% sure if Pratt is pro-Trump (it seems like he donated to Barack Obama in 2012 and to Democratic contender Tulsi Gabbard during this election’s primaries) but he is absolutely the worst Chris.

Let’s count the reasons: He’s affiliated with two megachurches that have problematic policies regarding LGBTQ+ people. His former church, Hillsong, doesn’t “affirm gay lifestyles,” which means they don’t support marriage equality, nor do they allow LGBTQ+ people to hold positions of power, paid or unpaid, within the church. And his current church, Zoe Church, has similarly questionable values.

Who he’s following on social is also a good indicator of the types of opinions he values, or at least is surrounding himself with, and on Twitter, they’re… not great. As in, Ben Shapiro, Nikki Haley, Tucker Carlson, a bunch of law enforcement agencies and Turning Point USA, which is known for its Professor Watchlist, a site with the mission to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The org also has ties to white supremacist groups.

And he famously wore a Gadsen flag t-shirt, which yes, has a long history and isn’t explicitly racist but has been co-opted by (surprise!) white supremacist groups.

So no, Mark Ruffalo, I don’t think “he is just not overtly political as a rule” is a defence. First of all, you have to be incredibly privileged to be able to opt out of conversations about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc. Let’s be honest: You only think staying silent is morally defensible if you’re not actually invested in the fight for a more equal world.

But also, I don’t believe he is apolitical. He clearly has conservative leanings, which isn’t a problem as long as you’re not a bigot—but is that the case? As Observer writer Noah Berlatsky pointed out this week, there’s no way to know because he chooses not to explicitly express support for LGBTQ+ people. “If Pratt wanted to say, ‘LGBTQ+ people are awesome; discriminating against them is wrong,’ he could have,” Berlatsky wrote. “Instead he hedged, presumably because he doesn’t want to alienate some of the conservative homophobes with whom he attends church services, and/or possibly because he harbors some of those conservative homophobic beliefs himself.”

I admit, I’m actually kind of annoyed that this has turned into a Discourse™️. And not just because it ruins a fun, kind of cheesy internet saying. The worst part for me has been the disappointing reality that so many of his ostensibly liberal co-stars were inspired to speak up in support—though for the most part, they didn’t have the same energy for Brie Larson, Zendaya, Tessa Thompson or Chadwick Boseman, who were all the subject of sexist and/or racist online hate. (Is Pratt even standing up for Zoe Saldana, who’s getting racist backlash for defending him? Nope.)

But while this whole situation is silly, the message it sends about whose well-being we prioritize is dead serious. I mean… Chris Pratt’s hurt feelings dominated the celebrity news cycle for days over—and I can’t stress this enough—a truly meaningless joke that doesn’t impact his life at all, even a little bit. It’s hard not to see the connections to real life, where white men’s feelings are still paramount in many spaces, while for everyone else, racism and cruelty are just the unfortunate by-products of any type of success. Ask any woman who posts an opinion online, especially if she’s racialized. Not only does she expect to be flooded with racist and sexist threats, she also knows it’s unlikely anyone will protect her from the trolls. And, as Janet Burns pointed out in a Forbes piece that reflected on the abuse Leslie Jones experienced when she was cast in Ghostbusters, “it’s no secret that behavior and biases that have been shown to be tolerated online… also tend to be met with acceptance in real life — and, of course, will have their roots there.”

I also wonder if class solidarity is at play here.

As Petr Knava explained in a 2019 Pajiba article, “the rich inhabit a different world to the rest of us. It’s a world that plays by an entirely distinct set of rules, and there is an unspoken yet wildly powerful, often purely subconscious allegiance that those who live in it have for each other. They go to the same ball games. They holiday at the same resorts and attend the same parties.” He was trying to explain why Ellen would be friends with George W. Bush and, in a more overarching way, why celebrities tend to support centrist political candidates who will keep things (especially their ability to maintain and grow their wealth) pretty much the same, but I think the same logic applies here. Maybe it doesn’t explain why these Marvel actors would vocalize their support for Pratt but not Boseman, Thompson or Zendaya, since they all belong to the same celebrity class, but it does explain why Pratt’s feelings over being accused of homophobia trump the lived experiences of actual LGBTQ+ folks.

The funniest part is, this is a perfect example of the Barbra Streisand effect—if Pratt hadn’t mobilized the groupchat, this would all have blown over—just like every other Chris showdown has. Instead, I thought about it for days, people are still tweeting about it and, worst of all, the whole conversation drew attention to just how fickle celebrity support can be. Because it’s easy to say you’re for LGBTQ+ rights—until it means having hard conversations with your friends.

Don’t Forget! Friday Picks #2 Is Next Week

We’re discussing Jeff Barnaby’s Indigenous zombie movie, Blood Quantum, on Friday, Oct. 30 at 7pm on IG Live. Find links to where you can stream, discussion questions and further reading on fridaythings.com, and be sure to follow Friday on Instagram.

And Did You Hear About…

This Jezebel deep dive into the stereotypical basic white girl who loves fall.

Those three dudes who make dance videos in their basement. (I love them.)

Tory Lanez’s most recent IG Live—and Megan Thee Stallion’s reaction.

Kanye’s latest campaign video 😬

New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin and the effort to make his recent “scandal” (that is, incident of workplace sexual harassment) about pretty privilege or prudishness [https://twitter.com/NYDailyNews/status/1318929803702132738].

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