Chris Pratt’s Hollywood Defenders Only Cry ‘Bullying’ When White Men’s Feelings Get Hurt
None of the Marvel actors who defended Pratt spoke up for Tessa Thompson or Brie Larson, who endured racist and misogynist—respectively, and for Thompson, both—attacks from fans.
Every few months on Twitter, regular people rank the Hollywood Chrises. Out of Chris Pine, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Pratt, one—as they say—gotta go. Nearly every time, Wonder Woman hunk Pine easily comes out on top while Thor’s Hemsworth sluggishly follows in second place. Captain America’s Chris Evans, bless him, does not have to bring up the caboose because inevitably, it’s always Pratt, of Guardians of the Galaxy and Parks and Recreation fame, who can be sacrificed in the imaginary world where only three chiseled Chrises can make it to superhero franchise heaven.
Strangely, several of Pratt’s celebrity friends and franchise co-stars stepped up to scoldingly defend the actor from the white Chris ranking gutter, including Mark Ruffalo, Josh Gad, James Gunn, and—help us—Zoe Saldana (who famously claimed “there’s no such thing as people of color” before later donning Blackface and a prosthetic nose to play Nina Simone in a widely panned film which she recently said she regretted doing). Ruffalo, known almost as much for his progressive political campaigning as for his acting, was the most surprising actor to step up to Pratt’s defense, writing, in a weirdly hedging tweet:
“You all, @prattprattpratt is as solid a man there is. I know him personally, and instead of casting aspersions, look at how he lives his life. He is just not overtly political as a rule.”
Ruffalo’s statement is not only in response to the totally unserious Chris rankings, but to some Twitter users’ reasoning for putting Pratt last: He attends Hillsong, a trendy Hollywood evangelical church that condemns homosexuality, and has never openly contradicted the church’s stance; he has not attended anti-Trump fundraisers with the rest of the former Parks and Rec cast; and on both Twitter and Instagram, he follows several reactionary conservative media personalities, politicians, and organizations—like Ben Shapiro, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, and PragerU.
In an industry where a very loud bigot like Mel Gibson can still have a roiling Oscar-nominated career (his next major role is as a gritty Santa Claus), you can imagine why the humble people of non-celebrity Twitter would cast aspersions at money-raking stars who refuse to speak out against injustice and instead seem more likely to be listening to Ben Shapiro rants on YouTube. Hollywood’s own standards, like Pratt’s ranking amongst the Chrises, are so low that the only institutions left to hold anyone accountable are idle Twitter denizens, using their screens to hide away from a pandemic and abetting government that together have spent the summer systemically wiping out Black people and the poor.
Of course, Iron Man marched in to offer his own valiant defense of the most dubious Chris. On Instagram, Robert Downey Jr.—who has become increasingly smarmy since his career revival in the previous decade—wrote:
“What a world... The ‘sinless’ are casting stones at my #brother, Chris Pratt... A real #Christian who lives by #principle, has never demonstrated anything but #positivity and #gratitude... AND he just married into a family that makes space for civil discourse and (just plain fact) INSISTS on service as the highest value. If you take issue with Chris,,, I’ve got a novel idea. Delete your social media accounts, sit with your OWN defects of #character, work on THEM, then celebrate your humanness... @prattprattpratt I #gotyerbackbackback.”
Parsing such a statement will take a degree of close reading. Downey highlights Pratt’s Christianity, sarcastically calling the latter’s Twitter poll critics “sinless” while earnestly calling his celebrity BFF “principle[d].” Downey also works in an awkward plug for the Schwarzenegger-Shriver dynasty, a cynical “bipartisan” union that benefits from Trump-era revisionist history. Pratt “married into” the family by wedding Katherine Schwarzenegger, who herself came to her husband’s defense by decrying “cyber bullying.” The whole thing would be disturbing if it weren’t hilarious that a very wealthy white man, with a successful career and plenty of rich and powerful friends and in-laws, must corral his people to defend his increasingly apparent closet conservatism (and polled unlikeability relative to the other Chrises) from bored people on Twitter. Notably, none of the actors who have defended Pratt have done the same for either Tessa Thompson or Brie Larson, who have been on the receiving end of racist and misogynist—respectively, and for Thompson, both—attacks from Marvel fans.
The Pratt affair is so central in the world of digital pop culture not because it intrinsically matters, but because it’s analogous to the disproportionate influence of the wealthy and patriarchal in modern society. Too controlling to just leave the Twitter plebes alone to talk their shit, box office smashing actors must protect their own from any perceived dip in marketability. Yet, this microcosm offers some hope about what stubborn refusal can achieve for the masses: like Gal Gadot’s cringe “Imagine” video from earlier this year that just “didn’t transcend,” Pratt’s real-life Avengers rallying call will not shuttle him to the top.