It’s been a while since we’ve had some good old-fashioned Hollywood Chris fun. It’s meant to be a fun activity with low stakes drama that simultaneously operates as a vessel for wider critical conversations about pop culture, celebrity, and the various intersections that define both. As I’ve said before, when we talk about, say, Best Chris Pine, we’re seldom talking about just him: We’re thinking about ideas of masculinity, whiteness, attractiveness, privilege, and so on. The entertainment industry, and indeed the world at large, will always prize certain ideas and traits above others, and it just so happens that the perfect exemplification of this currently exists in the form of four very similar men with the same name. Plus, it’s a handy way to get some solid social media engagement. So we all win!
A lot of Chris chatter happened this week in various forms on Twitter and Instagram. Really, it wasn’t anything especially strange or brutal. All that happened were a few polls, including one from E! News, and people did what they always did: They said Chris Pratt was the worst Chris. I’ve done a lot of Chris work in my time as a professional pop culture hot-takes merchant, and nearly every single poll or research tweet yields the same results for last place. The top three may move around as freely as the changing winds but Pratt will always be the worst one. Many people expressing this view mentioned his reportedly right-leaning politics as well as his association with the notoriously homophobic Hillsong church, a group that has preached the benefits of conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people. Pratt had already defended himself against the latter charge in a way that did not satisfy the doubters, mostly because he didn’t acknowledge said elephant in the room. Mostly, however, people just don’t tend to like Pratt as much as Evans, Pine, or Hemsworth, or, at the very least, the always-online crowd doesn’t.
So, why did this particular round of Chris-dom set off such a hubbub?
Pratt’s wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger, waded into the comments of the E! News Instagram post to claim that people were being too mean and that polls like this were somehow divisive. Then, as if by magic or mass publicist wrangling, huge swaths of the Marvel Cinematic Universe joined in to create a shield around poor little Chris Pratt. Mark Ruffalo insisted that Pratt is ‘not overtly political as a rule’ and that to discuss minor issues such as his support of a homophobic church is ‘distracting.’ Robert Downey Jr. tried to grandstand over the issue. Zoe Saldana quoted Tupac. Even the Russo brothers felt the need to jump in. In their post, they said ‘normally, it is our policy not to engage in, or lend credence to, the toxic cycle of misinformation and false accusations that have become so prevalent on social media.’
This point seemed especially galling given that none of these actors exhibited this kind of energy or passion towards defending women in the MCU like Brie Larson, who continues to face a barrage of abuse, harassment, and right-wing attacks for daring to be vaguely feminist. So, Chris Pratt being gently ribbed for his Republican-adjacent qualities is absolutely unacceptable but oh no, we can’t engage with the rape and death threats Larson is getting because that would only make things worse? Screw that.
I’ve talked before about the various elements of Pratt’s life, work, and public persona that have led to him being labeled as the undeniably worse Chris. It’s a wide-spreading issue. His films are less interesting than the other Chrises, he seems less ambitious with his choices, and his decision to try and become a 21st-century Harrison Ford feels like an ill fit. His role in the Jurassic World series brought him down a few steps thanks to the sheer misogyny of those films. There’s a lot of drama surrounding his past treatment of his pets. His social media slides dramatically between tone-deaf and sanctimonious. His politics, or at least his perceived political stances, are but one part of the puzzle. They have, of course, come to the forefront because it’s an election year, there’s a fascist creep in the White House, and the notion of being ‘apolitical’ at any time in history, but especially now, is not an option.
Calling yourself apolitical or claiming that you are ‘not overtly political as a rule’ is in and of itself a deeply political choice. It’s also one that doesn’t apply to Chris Pratt or his own actions. Check out the heinously awful political poem he dropped on Instagram that tried to position himself as some centrist bound by the glory of God. Or how about getting people to vote for his movie at the People’s Choice Awards and describing it as ‘the most consequential vote in the history of mankind times a million infinity.’ Sure, it was a tone-deaf joke that fell flat, but couple all of this with his insistence that oh no, he keeps away from nasty divisive politics, and the end result is a man who is, at best, a coward.
You don’t get to treat politics as a game you can choose to sit out, especially not this election. It’s not ‘divisive’ to discuss how a highly public figure’s engagement (or lack thereof) with such discourse is indicative of many wider problems. There is nothing righteous or empathetic about evoking your faith as a defense against criticism, especially when said faith is tied to a church with a history of conversion therapy and that’s one of the things people are calling you out for. The sheer energy being wasted on this guy is only exacerbating his status as the worst Chris. The thin skins of everyone involved would be laughable if it weren’t so hypocritical. It’s another reminder that this sort of fervor and solidarity is seldom afforded to those who are truly most at risk of harassment and abuse. If Pratt, his team, and his colleagues truly can’t handle the mildest of heat then perhaps he should reconsider his false neutrality.
Then again, I think the silence from Pratt himself, at least as of the writing of this post, is kind of the point. I’m convinced that Pratt is going through this cycle as a way to position himself as a future political candidate. All of these big names, most of whom are known Democrat supporters or even further to the left of that, take the time to shout out Pratt as a good man who lives a good life, and for what? Who does this benefit other than Pratt? Well, obviously Marvel, and I imagine that Pratt will be a more central face in the fourth phase of the MCU once the narrative goes cosmic. This is about the bottom line as well as Pratt’s own ambitions. He wants to be The Nice Guy, the Hero who everyone can get behind, the God-fearing hunk with a Kennedy for a wife and Hollywood at his feet. And doesn’t all that just make his bullsh*t ‘apoliticism’ seem all the more insidious?
Can we replace Pratt with Messina already?
Header Image Source: Getty Images.