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A Brief History Of Zachary Levi Meaning Well And Also Missing The Point

By Tori Preston | Celebrity | May 2, 2018 |

By Tori Preston | Celebrity | May 2, 2018 |

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Twitter seems to exist purely to give people the opportunity to a) say dumb shit, and b) get angry about dumb shit other people have said. It’s an ecosystem that brings out the best witticisms and the worst hot-takes humanity has to offer, but in that balance sometimes important conversations evolve. And when you stumble across one, it can be hard to trace the smaller interactions that led up to That Thing Someone Said That Maybe They Shouldn’t Have, But That They Want To Defend, But Also Maybe They Should Just STOP. Which is why I just spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy trying to figure out what Zachary “Chuck” Levi did to piss off the Twitterverse.

Now, this isn’t the first time Zachary Levi has gotten a big ol’ taste of his foot. Frankly, I’ve never given much thought to the guy. He seems… nice? I guess? He’s playing the superhero alter ego of a child in DC’s upcoming Shazam! movie, which seems appropriate. And I know he founded The Nerd Machine/Nerd HQ, which hosts panels and parties at conventions and often engaged in charity events (usually connected to Operation Smile). Basically, if you were to look up “Well-Meaning Nice Guy” in the dictionary, his picture would be there.

But as we all know, Well-Meaning Nice Guys don’t always get it. “It” in this case being why women or people of color might be upset about a white dude lecturing them on what is or isn’t sexism/racism.

Yeahhhhh. So, what led up to this particular interaction? From what I could tell, in the time I definitely could have better spent doing basically anything else, this has been brewing over the course of weeks. Apparently, Levi is a very active Twitterererer, and his fans have taken to asking him for advice — which he is very responsive to, and seems to enjoy dishing out. So when he got this question…

… he gave this answer:

And guess what! That friend-zoning comment pissed a LOT of people off:

And then other people jumped to Levi’s defense, and it turned into a whole thing. Enough of a thing, in fact, that Levi decided to address the topic in a (very long) live Instagram session, where he defended the comment as his own “personal experience” based on his own personal definition of what friend-zoning is, and said he felt bad for the people who responded negatively because there must be “something very wrong with them.”

Yes, really.

But to his credit, he then invited people to stream into the video and engage with him on the topic in the interest of trying to understand the different perspectives. Here’s part one, if you’re interested:

His reason for doing the video seemed to be to make the conversation more personal, because what seemed to really bother him about the reaction on Twitter was that everyone just got angry, but nobody was trying to educate. Which… fine.

So where is all of this going? Well, this week a fan posted a note about something Levi said in one of his live video sessions (I’m guessing the one I referenced above).

Levi then responded to the tweet:

And in the comments on HIS tweet… well, shit got nasty. One user in particular took him to task, and Levi did his thing where he just kept responding:

Annnnd now we’re back where we started. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE… in the form of a long-ass note he posted, which again tries to defend/justify his position on all of this:

Look, it’s great that Levi is trying to use his privilege and platform to bring people together. The problem is that his reaction to reasonable criticism is to assume he’s being silenced and that it constitutes discrimination.

DUDE. Nobody wants to silence you. They just want you to stop trying to “lead” the conversation. Because frankly, white men have been in the position to “lead” conversations about sexism and racism since FOREVER and they fucking haven’t. Besides which, your attempts to “lead” conversations seem to just “lead” to you getting defensive when people disagree with you. So instead, take your privilege, and your platform, and use it to shine a light on the voices that HAVEN’T been given the opportunities that white men have. And then sit back and truly LISTEN, even when it’s uncomfortable. And if at the end of it, your opinions haven’t been swayed, then that’s OK. Your perspective is your own. Nobody can take it away from you. But realize that when you rush to defend yourself from what you perceive as attacks, you’re really just digging a deeper and deeper hole for yourself.

So Mr. Levi: Take a moment to sit back and think about how it felt when you thought people were dismissing your opinions and belittling your point of view. Now think about how it feels for women, and people of color, and anyone else who has always had their perspectives discounted or dismissed, and who didn’t have the privilege or position to defend themselves. I believe that you mean well, and you want to give people opportunities to come together in discourse. But when they try to actually engage with you on things they disagree with you on, mayyyybe don’t shout them down so quickly.

Because even Well-Meaning Nice Guys get things wrong sometimes. How you handle it matters. And giving people a chance to speak isn’t the same as truly listening to them.