Mark Ruffalo, the breezy, floppy-haired two-time Oscar nominee from Kenosha, Wisconsin, is what 4chan trolls would refer to as an “SJW,” or Social Justice Warrior. For the uninitiated, it’s a bit of bullshit acronym ammunition employed by the narrow—and feeble—minded to box in those who yearn for a better world. And Ruffalo is one of those people.Unlike most tight-lipped actors these days, Ruffalo is very outspoken on Twitter and his personal blog, voicing his support for Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ movement, feminism, anti-fracking, you name it. So it should come as little surprise that the sometime superhero has decided to portray a journalist in the film Spotlight, which made its premiere at the 2015 Venice Film Festival.
Directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent), Ruffalo plays Michael Rezendes, a real-life Boston Globe reporter and member of their elite “Spotlight” investigative journalism unit that helped uncover a sex abuse epidemic within the Boston archdiocese, thrusting the issue of child sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests into the national discourse. For their efforts, which resulted in the conviction of five Catholic priests for child sexual abuse, the Globe won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
And, despite the emergence of the 24-hour news cycle and implosion of the newspaper biz, Ruffalo says he still has faith in contemporary journalism.
“I think the news media lost an incredible amount of credibility during the Iraq War, and leading up to the Iraq War—certainly centralized news,” Ruffalo said in Venice. “So you’ve seen a lot of long-term investigators move into the digital realm, and they’re doing some darn good work in that realm. It doesn’t come to us as centralized as it does in The New York Times or The Boston Globe, but it is coming to us. I think we have a lot more information and it’s getting aggregated a lot better than the centralized model. We’re at the infancy of a new news media. To some degree, the old model has moved to the 24-hour news model, but they’re losing viewers and they’re losing readers because they’re not as credible as they used to be, and we want credibility.” “We all want investigative journalism, and so there are great investigative journalists still out there who are a lot freer to follow stories in ways that I don’t think they could’ve in the past because of editors, because of the pressures that The Boston Globe and these reporters are under,” he continued. “They had to make money. A lot of longform investigative journalism like ProPublica and Truthout are not beholden to anybody; they’re reader-funded. So I think it’s an exciting time to be an investigative journalist.”
As for his own social justice streak, Ruffalo credits his Catholic upbringing and the role it played in helping to guide his moral compass.
“Let’s face it: Christ was a social justice activist to some large degree, and he and his gospels speak to that,” said Ruffalo. “I was raised Catholic as well, and I’d like to think that my love for social justice also came in large part from those teachings… I see it as good work and as a way to give back some of the good fortune I’ve been blessed with.”
Ruffalo is also holding out hope that Spotlight will help “heal the wounds” of both the immediate victims and those who lost their faith because of the sex abuse revelations within the Catholic Church.
“I hope that the Vatican would use this movie as a perfect opportunity to begin to right these wrongs—not just for the victims and their destroyed lives, but for all the people who’ve lost a way to order a chaotic world for themselves,” he said.