The Avengers are assembling to protect Chris Pratt from the ignominy of being declared the worst of the Hollywood Chrises.
Hollywood Chris discourse has been a staple of online conversation since 2014, when Pratt joined the Chrises Hemsworth and Evans under the Marvel umbrella as the lead of Guardians of the Galaxy, becoming the studio’s third blue-eyed, blond-haired action star named Chris. (At the time, Chris Pine was only a borderline Chris, best known for playing Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek, but he carved out a permanent spot for himself on the roster of Hollywood Chrises after his role in 2017’s Wonder Woman.) The internet did what the internet does and started ranking the Chrises, and it hasn’t really stopped since.
And over what I would conservatively estimate as the 59.8 trillion times the Chrises have been ranked, a loose consensus has formed on the parts of social media where media and entertainment people hang out: The top three shift around in the rankings based mostly on which one has released a movie most recently, but consistently, Chris Pratt is the worst one. Also, you can sometimes get away with acting like a visionary if you suggest a different Chris should join the roster. (Most people go for Chris Messina or Christine Baranski, but I stand by my pick of Kristen Stewart.)
So when producer Amy Berg posted a picture of the Four Hollywood Chrises to Twitter on October 17, with the instructions, “One has to go,” the internet went on doing what the internet does. It picked Pratt to go, overwhelmingly, with more than 10,000 replies.
“Pratt was banished from Chris Island years ago,” declared one respondent.
“I hate his hypocrisy of playing the nice guy while supporting a homophobic cult,” said another, referring to Pratt’s membership in Zoe Church, which reportedly has anti-LGBTQ views. “It’s one or the other. You don’t get to fund my abuse while telling me you want me as a fan.”
Declaring Chris Pratt to be the Chris Who’s Gotta Go in 2020 — the apocalyptic year of plague and riots 2020 — is a fairly ice cold take. That’s why so many people have the take: It’s been established as the obvious conventional wisdom. So by all rights, Berg’s tweet should have done what all other Chris discourse does by now and generate a mild chuckle from a few people before quietly fading away.
Instead, Berg’s Chris tweet trended internationally. It made the news, and multiple A-list celebrities made public statements avowing their support for Pratt and their disdain for those heartless internet bullies who have invoked the laws of Gotta Go to tell Chris Pratt he Gotta Get.
So now, just weeks before the election, here we all are caring about the Chris Discourse again.
Why not. Quarantine’s made us do weirder things. Let’s do this.
How Chris Pratt went from Best Chris to Worst Chris
It might be difficult to remember now, but there was a time around 2014 when Chris Pratt was a popular choice for Best Chris.
He had all that comedy cred from his years on Parks and Rec, but then he transformed himself into a buff action star! He was so goofy and fun as Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy! He said such nice stuff about his then-wife, Anna Faris! He was so charming in interviews, and he even French-braided that one girl’s hair. What was not to like?
But gradually, the bloom seemed to come off the Chris Pratt rose. He’s been a Hollywood Chris since 2014, but around 2016, he began sliding inexorably from Best Chris to Worst Chris.
Was it the roles he was taking? Starlord is fun, but he’s kind of a douche. And then there was Passengers, the space romance Pratt starred in opposite Jennifer Lawrence that seemed like a sure thing until early reviews started to suggest that his character was coming off as kind of a creep. Was it his personal life, and the mysterious divorce from Faris? Was it the resurfaced story from 2011 about how he tried to rehome his elderly cat on Twitter? Was it the story of the time he flashed Amy Poehler as a joke on Parks and Rec?
It was all of those things, probably, but more than anything else, it was politics.
Pratt’s political affiliation is a mystery. He rarely talks about politics in public, and public records show him donating to both Democrats and Republicans. Certainly he has never gone so far as to endorse Donald Trump. But as he’s grown more famous, he’s used more and more signifiers of conservatism in public.
In 2017, he gave an interview about how Hollywood doesn’t tell enough stories about the working class. In 2019, he was photographed wearing a Gadsden flag, the one with the “don’t tread on me” logo over a snake that’s become beloved of the Tea Party and is used by far-right militias. He posts on social media about how much he loves the cops. Observing fans began to wonder if he was maybe a Trump supporter (he’s never publicly discussed it).
And sometime between 2014, when Pratt told Esquire he didn’t identify with any religious denomination, and 2019, Pratt joined Zoe Church, an evangelical church for the beautiful and cool in LA. Which, as the actor Ellen Page has pointed out on Twitter, is also a church that seems to have issues with the LGBTQ community.
“If you are a famous actor and you belong to an organization that hates a certain group of people, don’t be surprised if someone simply wonders why it’s not addressed,” Page tweeted after Pratt discussed his membership on a talk show in 2019.
Pratt responded defensively, writing on Instagram that Zoe Church “opens their doors to absolutely everyone.” The church does not have an official position on any LGBTQ-related issues. But as CNN reported, Zoe Church’s church’s pastor, Chad Veach, produced a film that refers to “same-sex attraction” as one form of “sexual brokenness,” comparing it to a pornography addiction. And as Laura Turner wrote for Vox of celeb-friendly evangelical churches like Zoe Church, “It isn’t much more forward-thinking than the churches our parents grew up in. It just looks a little cooler.”
Zoe Church appears to espouse teachings that make life harder for LGBTQ people, by suggesting that queerness is a choice or a problem that can and should be reversed or fixed. And Pratt, as one of the church’s most high-profile celebrity members, helps it spread those teachings. Regardless of what Pratt’s personal beliefs are, that’s harmful.
So for those who hang out on social media and track things like the fortunes of the Chrises — and who are also interested in progressive issues — the narrative was set: Chris Pratt belonged to an anti-LGBTQ church, he was culturally conservative enough to seem like he maybe could be a Trump supporter too, and he was henceforth the Worst Chris. By 2019, the debate was settled.
This kind of internet discourse traditionally has little effect on the actual careers of actors, and they can generally ignore it safely. But in 2020, the celebrity world has decided to weigh in on what the internet thinks of their good friend Chris Pratt.
Here are celebrities caring about which Chris is best, for some reason
This latest round of Chris Pratt controversy appears to have started when Pratt’s wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger, weighed in on an E! Instagram post aggregating Berg’s tweet. Schwarzenegger decried the tweet as an example of “meanness and bullying,” and soon Pratt’s celebrity friends were following suit, including some of the biggest names in the MCU.
Politically minded Mark Ruffalo (a.k.a. the Hulk) — who has previously endorsed Bernie Sanders for president and called for George W. Bush to be “brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War” — declared Pratt “as solid a man as there is” and urged his followers not to be distracted but to focus on the election. (Is there a conspiracy theory going that the Pratt wars are a Russian disinformation campaign? Because I feel like Ruffalo’s tweet would be grist for that particular mill if so.) Iron Man himself joined in, as Robert Downey Jr. put up a hashtag-heavy Instagram post declaring Pratt to be his “#brother” and urging the haters to delete their accounts. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn called Pratt “the best dude in the world.” And Guardians of the Galaxy costar Zoe Saldana quoted Tupac in her support of Pratt.
In the larger scheme of things, Ruffalo is probably correct that Chris Pratt’s place in the internet Chris discourse is an incredibly pointless thing to care about. That is why it is fun for normal people to bicker about it, and why celebrities don’t usually waste their time on it. And lots of us could probably all agree that it’s nice-ish-ranging-to-fine that Pratt’s friends and colleagues want to support him, pretty bad that Pratt promotes a church that seems harmful to the LGBTQ community, and downright embarrassing for everyone that a bunch of celebs would be so unchill as to care what Twitter says about who’s cool or not, and then move on with our lives.
But there is one weird wrinkle to this story that I’d like to spend a little time on.
MCU actresses get harassed online all the time. Where is all this support then?
Pratt is not the first MCU actor to become a target of social media hate. But he is the first one to get the “Avengers assemble!” solidarity treatment from his co-stars.
When Brie Larson was cast as Captain Marvel, she was subjected to years of hatred and an attempted boycott because she is a feminist in public. Thor: Ragnarok’s Tessa Thompson received a similar treatment for saying she hoped Hollywood sets could become more diverse. And it might be the case that A-list actors don’t want to engage with the misogynist set that harassed Larson and Thompson, but consider the lefties criticizing Pratt to be “their sort” and hence more game for chastising — still, Scarlett Johansson can barely get through an interview without saying something so cringe that Twitter starts clowning on her.
Did Robert Downey Jr. issue them hashtags of support? Was Mark Ruffalo posting political tweets in their favor? Where were the Oscar winners and A-listers offering their female co-stars public encouragement any of those times? Oscar nominee Don Cheadle was there for Brie Larson. But where was everybody else?
Look, of course it makes celebrities look weak and petty to get all het up about Chris Discourse now — Now! In 2020! At least three years after the Chris Discourse stopped being interesting! — but whatever, staying home all the time because of the pandemic is boring, the election is looming, and everyone is saying things they’ll regret later on social media.
And yet it is a glaring fact that not one of these Marvel movie stars who jumped to Chris Pratt’s defense this week has previously appeared inclined to lend the enormous weight of their public support to the actresses they work with when they felt the sting of public backlash and harassment. And because those actresses are women in public, they’ve faced a lot more backlash and harassment than Pratt has. Meanwhile, the reason this situation began in the first place is that Pratt does not appear to care about the way his church pastor talks about LGBTQ people, meaning that he is lending the enormous weight of his support to an organization that’s been accused of harming a vulnerable community.
The whole thing is shaping up to be another example of how rarely American pop culture treats women and people of color as full human beings worthy of empathy and compassion — and of how, in contrast, our biggest pop culture artifacts and the people who make them seem ever ready to empathize with straight white men. Especially when the straight white men have blond hair, blue eyes, and the name Chris.
Anyway, Pine is the best Chris.