And yes, I wrote that as well as said that in my best Yoda voice.
As you can tell by these last couple of posts, this weekend was an interesting one. To say the least.
Lena Dunham wildin. The Orange One™ skittering into Black churches. And then, Mark Ruffalo…going full Well-Meaning Chet™.
“What he do, Lex?” You ask.
But the real question is, what didn’t he do this past week.
Still lost? Okay, I’ll explain:
Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer both landed in hot water recently for doing typical Cis things. That is, casting men as Trans women in the age-old bid for the golden statue. This is in reference to Anything, a movie Ruffalo is producing and Bomer is starring in as said Trans woman.
Mark is rightfully catching a bit more flack because he’s been at this socially conscious thing for awhile. But if I am to simply relay the reactions I’ve been seeing to his latest offense, I’d say people are of mixed minds.
Many considered him their “woke bae™” (blech), so they’re reluctant to tell him what for. Others are rightfully gunning for his neck, pointing out that even the most “socially conscious” people can be out of line every so often.
And this is true. We all got a lot to learn.
Admittedly, I’m somewhere in the middle…though I’m increasingly inching towards the latter.
I’ve got a soft spot for ol’ dude. I sat through 13 Going on 30 for him (which says something considering how highly problematic and dumpster-firey™ I consider that film now) and he’s like 3/4ths the reason why I have shamelessly watched Just Like Heaven 309839483284093 times and it remains one of my favorite movies. I talked a lot of cash some time ago when Marvel recast him as the Hulk over Ed Norton in The Avengers (because I hate recastings based on principle), but I was pleasantly surprised. I stuck around for the film Thanks For Sharing because of him even though I do not care for Gwyneth Paltrow in the slightest. He made me laugh in The Kids Are All Right. And Spotlight made me fucking cry because that is how you use your platform to speak truth to power.
So, as you can see, all these things—and more—make his latest social “blunder” of talking about “getting woke to the Transgender Experience” (on top of the act of casting a Cis man as a Trans woman to begin with) hard to watch.
From a distance, the situation makes me see Mark as that one friend who you see balancing on that one rickety ass table—the same table that YOU know and HE knows he shouldn’t be balancing on—and he eventually falls down which causes him to simultaneously bust his ass and his face somehow even though that should be impossible and it’s rightfully funny and people are laughing and you wanna laugh too if we’re being honest but you try not to because he’s your friend so you just sit there, half-stifling a laugh and half-mortified that he was asinine enough to try this. Which of course creates enough secondhand embarrassment to go around.
But of course, that would be taking it lightly. That would also be assuming that what he did was benign. That what he did only hurt himself.
That’s not what happened. And that’s the point.
Yeah, sure, the street cred he established with all these social justice movements that he’s stuck his big toe in took a hit, but the most important thing here is that he hurt the people in these movements (Trans people in particular). That needs to be acknowledged—intentions be damned.
Without that acknowledgment, we end with with tweets that include “getting woke to the Transgendered Experience”…which is a bunch of malarkey for two reasons: the first and foremost being the fact that he will never know what the “Transgendered Experience” is and the second being the appropriative use of the word “woke”.
For the former, Mark cannot suddenly become “hip” to an experience–a life–that he will never be a part of or have to deal with firsthand. He is a Cis man, after all. And that kind of misplaced (read: “well-intended™”) empathy need not be attempted to begin with.
I say this because from where I’m standing, when members of the Trans community told Mark that this movie was going to bring harm to their community and wreak havoc on their already unstable safety, the answer should not have been to get hip or “woke” to their experience.
The correct course of action should have been to figure out how he was going to rectify the harm that had been done, in addition to realizing how angry and hurt they were…rather than trying to side-step the brunt of that anger by asking for understanding and “compassion.”
I peeped that.
And that made me angry, if I am to be frank.
You want us to extend a compassion to you that you did not extend to a group of people who you took the liberty of making a movie about? Is that it?
Here’s the thing:
That line of thinking is lazy (as was casting Matt Bomer in the first place because if I’m gonna keep it 100 with you, if you had brought Trans people onto the project from jump street, you wouldn’t be in this mess right now). And not only is it lazy, but it wreaks of tone policing and borderline respectability politics. Trans folx don’t have to care that Matt worked really, REALLY hard on this movie and you don’t get to control how angry they are at you. You know why? Because they are the crux—the backbone—for which all of our beloved social justice movements rest on.
There is no Black Lives Matter, no LGBTQIA+ community (re: ESPECIALLY Pride), no feminism, no NOTHING without the inclusion and acknowledgment of Trans people, Trans history, and Trans lives.
So purposely excluding their involvement when it comes to a film like this is not the move, Mark. Therefore, instead of being squeamish about rightfully-earned criticism, you need to take your “L” like a champ. Take that shit to the chest and hope for the best.
Now…as for the “woke” thing?
Yeah, that whole thing was a “no” for me as well.
Woke should not be a word that is coming out of Mark Ruffalo’s mouth. “Woke” he is not. “Woke” he will never be.
Frankly, I’m tired of the damn word, but as it stands, woke is a word that B l a c k people coined to describe what it feels like having your eyes opened to the injustices that you have been quietly living in and under (that’s the key here! Lived experience) all this time. It also describes what happens when you decide that quietly living under said injustices is not enough anymore.
As a cis White man, this doesn’t describe Mark. At all.
Being woke also doesn’t describe coming “into the know” or rather, the obvious, about someone else’s lived experiences with oppression as a White person or being simply open to “discussions” about said oppression (yeah, I didn’t forget about you either, Jack of Twitter, or your tone deaf “Stay Woke” shirt).
This also doubly applies to all “allies” and “male feminists”. A proclamation of “wokeness” or a title is not at all needed or necessary to do the obvious work of a decent human being. And this especially is the case because these titles you’re toting and this “wokeness” that you’re trying to claim for yourself likely came from you regurgitating the thoughts and words of a marginalized someone who had the lived experience to back it all up.
It’s okay to help. To empathize or sympathize. Solidarity is great. You can even spread the word…in your own [privileged] circles, of course. That’s where that word is most needed anyway. But you can’t expect a pat on the back for it and you can’t always expect to be “seen” when you are doing these things. You can’t. And if you are expecting these things, you’re doing them for the wrong reasons.
Learning about a sliver of what Trans people go through day in and day out should not have required this amount of self-serving fanfare. It shouldn’t have. And I need you, Mark, to ask yourself why you did that.
Businessinsider.com, Tenor.co, Alphacoders.com, Gifsec.com, Aceshowbiz.com, The Wrap, Transequality.org, Jezebel, AP, Giphy.com