Liberal critics are desperate for an excuse to cancel Chris Pratt. First it was his supposedly ‘homophobic church’, now it’s cultural appropriation.
Chris Pratt can’t escape the ire of the woke mob. The man can’t even praise God without being attacked for his Christian beliefs. And now, the ‘Jurassic World’ actor has come under fire for the sin of ‘cultural appropriation’ by voicing Mario in the upcoming ‘Super Mario Bros.’ animated movie.
Some critics are slamming Pratt and the studio by raising ‘concerns’ over Italian representation. But is the anger directed towards Pratt based solely on cultural appropriation, or is it being used as another excuse to hate on the ‘problematic’ actor?
“When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate, maybe not entirely,” Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri said in an interview with Deadline. “People love to voice opinions, as they should. I’m not sure this is the smartest defense, but as a person who has Italian-American heritage, I feel I can make that decision without worrying about offending Italians or Italian-Americans. I think we’re going to be just fine.”
The film, which is being developed by Meledandri in cooperation with famed Nintendo video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, is promising to be an entertaining adaptation of the popular video game.
As highlighted by a Kotaku article on the controversy, the film picked up “bemusement and criticism” from fans of the original video games for casting Chris Pratt.
Pratt, who has headlined several big budget blockbuster films over the past few years, was given the role instead of the character’s original voice actor, Charles Martinet.
It’s easy to see why a big Hollywood studio would prefer to cast someone with brand recognition, like Pratt, instead of Martinet, who – while talented – isn’t going to fill nearly as many seats in the movie theater.
Any concerns over Pratt ‘culturally appropriating’ an Italian-American plumber melt away when you realize that Martinet, who has been in the role for decades, isn’t Italian-American either, and came up with his stereotypical accent of a Brooklyn-born Italian everyman while auditioning for the job.
Though he originally intended to give Mario a gruff voice, like something you’d see in ‘The Sopranos’, what popped into his head was a “Mamma mia, nice ol’ Italian guy,” the actor said in an interview with the BBC.
Apart from the fact that the character of Mario isn’t real or based on someone real, one must ask why exactly Chris Pratt is being attacked for cultural appropriation and not Miyamoto, the Japanese game designer. After all, Miyamoto was the one who created Mario and eventually shaped him into a caricature Italian-American. When initially created, Mario was neither an Italian, nor even named Mario – he was named later, after a real estate developer who rented a warehouse to Nintendo.
It’s plain to see that cultural appropriation only matters when it can be used as a cudgel by the woke mob. Were they truly concerned about scuffing fiction, their heckles would be raised over the casting of black actors portraying historically European characters like Anne Boleyn or Jarl Haakon in ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ (who also became a ‘strong black woman’ in the Netflix series – a stereotype in and of itself).
Efforts to cancel white people over cultural appropriation go well beyond film casting, and extend to cuisine, fashion, and music – and it’s typically aimed at canceling people already found ‘problematic’ in the first place.
That much is obvious from the Kotaku article, which implies that the cultural appropriation accusations are beside the point. The point, according to Kotaku, is that, “you know, Chris Pratt sucks” as an actor.
Except that’s not really the point either. Woke critics have been trying to find a way to cancel Pratt ever since his Christian faith came to the fore a few years ago. The Kotaku article makes the issue plain to see by casually mentioning that Pratt attended a “homophobic church.” That accusation was first lobbed at him by transgender actor Elliot Page in 2019, thus setting off the progressive culture police on Twitter and in the liberal media.
Pratt has since clarified that he doesn’t even go to the specific church in question. Repeated attacks on Pratt’s faith prompted ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ director James Gunn to leap to his defense to shut down the accusation.
“He isn’t. I know the church he currently goes to. Do you? (The answer is you don’t, but you heard from someone who heard from someone who heard from someone where he goes to church, so decided, ‘yeah, okay, I’ll believe this terrible thing I heard online about this celebrity!’)”
That isn’t stopping the woke critics from keeping the rage flowing. With the ‘homophobic church’ angle obviously not working, and the ‘cultural appropriation’ angle not having a leg to stand on, they are pivoting towards his talent as an actor.
Describing him as just the “latest in a long line of middling actors to secure blockbuster after blockbuster simply by virtue of being unassuming,” the Kotaku article piles in on how Pratt serves as the “perfect bland protagonist” to plug into every summer film.
But that, too, is a self-defeating argument when it comes to Mario, who fits the description of ‘perfect bland protagonist’ to the tee. Beyond his stereotypical accent, Mario offers little in the way of characterization. A plumber with a heart of gold who sets off on a magical adventure to save the princess, Mario is a foil for players to jump into the games without needing to delve into any sort of backstory. In all of the games, Mario barely has a word of meaningful dialogue. He wasn’t even always a plumber – in the early games, he changed professions to fit the rudimentary backstory. His hobbies range from karting to golf – all to leverage the most-recognizable video game character of all time in order to get the player involved in a new activity (and sell a new game).
There’s no Star Wars narrative crawl to get you up to speed with the events of the latest Super Mario. All you need to know is that Bowser’s kidnapped Princess Peach again and you’re off to look for her. The games’ beauty is in their simplicity – and the movie, which looks to be about as mindless as Meledandri’s ‘Minions’, looks to be the same – a simple, entertaining couple of hours that won’t give you too much to think about. And that’s okay.