[Editor’s note: This post has been updated to include a more detailed explanation of the various uses and associations of the Gasden flag.]
Well everyone, the debate is finally over. For years the internet has been plagued by the ultimate celebrity horse race: Who is the best Chris in Hollywood? It’s a competitive category, with Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine and Chris Evans all in the running. But, we can finally take one Chris out of the race entirely—because Chris Pratt is 100% the worst.
The actor is being criticized on social media after being photographed on July 15 wearing a T-shirt with the Gadsden flag while out for a day of exercise with his wife, Katherine Scwharzenegger. For those unfamiliar with the flag (a.k.a. non-Americans or non-history buffs), the coiled rattlesnake over the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me” was created by Christopher Gadsden—a general in the Continental Army—and came to prominence during the American Revolutionary War of the 1770s (again, history buffs).
— hunter harris (@hunteryharris) July 15, 2019
Why are people so up-in-arms about an ugly design of a snake that an old man probably created by candlelight, you ask? Great question! The uproar comes from the fact that over the years the flag has been adopted by far right political groups, becoming a symbol of conservatism and, more recently, associated by some with white supremacy (although the jury is out on whether there is an official connection). So yeah, maybe not so innocent. Also, we can bet he did *not* pick that up at the Gap.
This isn’t the first time Pratt has made a questionable decision—or comment—and, it’s starting to become a trend. Here, all the ways Chris Pratt is problematic.
Aside from being just an ugly shirt, it’s important to note that the Gadsden flag is a controversial symbol. Debates around its meaning have been ongoing, with The New Yorker reporting that the flag has held several meanings since its inception. Through the years, it has picked up various connotations, from a sign of nationalism and liberty to “strident anti-government sentiment” that was directed with particular hate towards Barack Obama, the first African-American President, during his presidency. According to a 2016 article in the New Yorker, the symbol is now “sometimes interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in some contexts,” and has been equated by some with the confederate flag, which has long been seen as a symbol of violence and white supremacy.
But it’s not so black and white. The Gadsden flag also has more positive ties to the U.S. military as a symbol of liberty and patriotism. An interpretation of the flag has also been used by Texas-based non-profit Brain Treatment Foundation, an organization that is dedicated to providing support for brain health initiatives; this includes helping members of the military diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress or a Traumatic Brain Injury. The U.S. navy has a similar snake-centric patch emblazoned with the same slogan—“Don’t Tread on Me”—based on the First Naval Jack. Pratt’s shirt, specifically, is reportedly from Forged Clothing, a for-profit veteran-owned clothing company founded by Navy Seals.
But according to military.com, the navy has distanced and differentiated their patch from the Gadsden flag after a 2016 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision that declared workplace display of the flag as racial harassment.
So, it’s complicated. It’s important to know that the flag means a lot of different things to different groups of people. But a lot of these people do associate the flag with racism. And there have been several reported instances of Black employees requesting the flag be removed from their workplaces.
If we’re giving Pratt the benefit of the doubt—that his intention is simply to support the U.S military or wounded veterans—that’s certainly less malicious. But, if that’s the case he should seriously educate himself. Because wearing something like the Gadsden flag—even if well-intentioned—in our current political climate, is dangerous.
In the United States, the number of hate crimes increased by 17% between 2016 and 2017, according to reports by the FBI. And in Canada, racism is getting worse; with police-reported hate crime on a steady rise over the past few years, according to data from Statistics Canada. In 2017 there were 2,073 reported incidents of hate crimes, up from 1,295 in 2014, 1,362 in 2015 and 1,409 in 2016. The biggest increase were crimes related to race, ethnicity and religion.
Promoting images like the one emblazoned on Pratt’s T-shirt, and in essence promoting the co-opted ideology behind it, only further adds fuel and support to those ideals and the people who hold them and *do* see the flag as a relic of a greater (ie: whiter) past.
And with Pratt’s history of conservative comments regarding gun ownership, praise for law enforcement and his ambiguous politics, this shirt doesn’t seem *quite* so happenstance—which makes it a seriously big problem. Because that means it’s reflective of his politics and makes his politics pretty questionable.
I like him, but all these small things about his politics makes me wonder when he’ll say something transphobic, tank his career, and do the full heel-turn into a Fox commentator https://t.co/Emfzd02GmK
— Tim Byrnes (@timbyrnes89) July 16, 2019
His problematic church
Like many in the city of Angels, Pratt is a proud member of the hip, Hollywood church set. Church and Christianity are having a moment among celebs, and at the centre of this moment are funky churches led by men in expensive Balenciaga sneakers. Pratt is a member of Zoe Church (pronounced “zo-AY,” “like be-yon-SAY” for those wondering), an institution known for its celebrity parishioners like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez and its non-inclusive ideology.
On February 8, actor Ellen Page waded in to the subject of Pratt’s faith after his appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where Pratt talked about his 21-day, bible-inspired fast (more on that later) and his faith. “Oh. K. Um. But his church is infamously anti LGBTQ so maybe address that too?” Page tweeted, alongside a Hollywood Reporter article about Pratt’s appearance.
Oh. K. Um. But his church is infamously anti lgbtq so maybe address that too? https://t.co/meg8m69FeF
— Ellen Page (@EllenPage) February 8, 2019
Later, Page followed up with another tweet, writing: “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. Being anti LGBTQ is wrong, there aren’t two sides. The damage it causes is severe. Full stop. Sending love to all.”
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. Being anti LGBTQ is wrong, there aren’t two sides. The damage it causes is severe. Full stop. Sending love to all
— Ellen Page (@EllenPage) February 9, 2019
A week later, Pratt responded, taking to his Instagram story to refute Page’s claims (without naming her directly), writing: “Nothing could be further from the truth. I go to a church that opens their doors to absolutely everyone.” Pratt also said that his church community offered love and support through his divorce from ex-wife Anna Faris, something Pratt said he had “seen them do for others on countless occasions regardless of sexual orientation, race or gender.”
Chris Pratt just posted this on his instagram story addressing his church. pic.twitter.com/eiEg4ICnXi
— uncle jen saw ffh (@tardypartypeter) February 11, 2019
And while that’s a nice idea in theory, it may not actually be super true, because the church’s beliefs are pretty questionable when it comes to the LGBTQ community—especially for an organization that claims to accept all. Chad Veach, the founder and pastor, has been hella cagey when it comes to answering questions about topics like abortion and the LGBTQ community. In March 2018 he told The New York Times he was “a Bible guy,” when asked about abortion rights. And in 2017, Veach was the executive producer for a film about people “who have struggled with ‘sexual brokenness,'” which included “same-sex attraction,” according to Refinery29.
The church is also heavily associated with fellow megachurch Hillsong, whose leader Brian Houston declared in an August 2015 blog post:”We do not affirm a gay lifestyle.”
The Biblical Diet
Look, we’re not here to chastise people for their faith. Whether you’re religious, non-religious, in-between, someone who attends church every week or maybe just sees God as a once-and-a-while relationship—that’s completely your prerogative. But there’s being religious and then there’s taking it to most—and unhealthy—extremes, and encouraging others to do the same.
In January, Pratt announced to his Instagram followers that he was taking part in “The Daniel Fast,” which involves 21 days of prayer and fasting to draw them closer to God. The fast is inspired by the biblical Daniel, who went 21 days eating only vegetables and water. According to a Daniel Fast website, the fast is “similar to a vegan diet with additional restrictions.” So, it’s a lot. And it’s also not healthy.
According to Ohio-based dietician Liz Weinandy, who spoke with Men’s Health in January, the diet is lacking “all kinds of nutrients,” and could lead to dangerous deficiencies—especially due to the fast’s lengthy timeline.
We’re prone to calling out women like the KarJenner’s and Cardi B for hawking unhealthy and problematic crash diets (and rightfully so), so why not Pratt as well?
His comments on not being “seen” in Hollywood
In a May 2017 interview with Men’s Journal, Pratt told the magazine he felt like an outsider in Hollywood; in part because he didn’t see stories like his on-screen. “I don’t see personal stories that necessarily resonate with me, because they’re not my stories,” Pratt said. “I think there’s room for me to tell mine, and probably an audience that would be hungry for them. The voice of the average, blue-collar American isn’t necessarily represented in Hollywood.”
Here’s a quick list of just some films depicting the blue-collar, white American experience: Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw Ridge, American Sniper, Silver Linings Playbook, An American Woman, North Country, The Fighter, The Town, Joy and pretty much anything Jennifer Lawrence is in.
Not sure, seems like quite a few.
Not only are Pratt’s comments pretty shortsighted, considering that a lack of real diversity and representation on-screen is still a huge issue—especially for marginalized communities who still face whitewashing in cinema or backlash for colour-blind casting. But, as Nylon writer Kristin Iversen pointed out in an April 2017 article, in talking about his search for an “average, blue-collar American,” Pratt is “centering himself—a white man—as being an ‘average American.'”
Which speaks volumes.
So yeah, we’re *officially* scratching Pratt off our list of all things Chris. And, may we suggest a replacement?
The un-problematic, women-loving heartthrob Chris Messina, FYI.
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