In the past few months, some deeply concerning allegations have come to light. Jonathan Majors was arrested on assault charges in relation to a 30-year-old woman, with further women later coming to the District Attorney with further allegations, according to Variety. Tenoch Huerta was accused of sexual assault by an ex-partner on social media. Both actors have vehemently denied these respective allegations. But the one thing more terrifying than the nature of what they’re being accused of is how social media is reacting to it.
In case you didn’t know, Majors and Huerta both happen to play high-profile Marvel villains. In theory, this means that they both play made-up characters in superhero movies. But in practice, according to Twitter, at least, this means that any real-life trauma, danger, or concerns for women’s safety should come secondary to preserving the sanctity of said Marvel movies.
When news of Majors’ arrest broke in March, ‘Kang’ started trending on Twitter because so many people were panicking about what this meant for the MCU character.
To put this into perspective, certain words and phrases need to be tweeted hundreds or even thousands of times in a small amount of time in order to ‘trend.’ What this means is that during a time when conversations about domestic violence were in the public domain, potentially triggering victims who had experienced the things alluded to in the allegations, any kind words, support, resources, and even just a fraction of empathy, were unequivocally drowned out with concerns about the MCU.
The same thing happened when allegations against Huerta were publicized, along with jokes about Marvel’s ability to cast ‘villains’ and thousands lamenting how they couldn’t ‘stan’ certain actors anymore.
Whatever happens with these specific allegations and how exactly they play out, the fact these responses were the norm indicates a much wider problem. Namely, that the integrity and casting consistency of a fictional character or cinematic universe are more pressing concerns than women potentially being hurt.
Because of the nature of these allegations, the sheer lack of empathy and respect shown doesn’t just affect the accusers, but anyone who has been on the receiving end of domestic violence and assault. Here’s why.
Firstly, jokes concerning Marvel’s ability to cast ‘villains’ are straight-up bizarre. Beyond being hugely inappropriate and unfunny, it implies a failure to separate fictional characters from real-life issues.
The failure to make that distinction is deeply disturbing, as it leads to the implication that these hugely serious issues that affect the lives of so many people are being viewed through a fantastical, fictionalized lens which once again sidelines any potential victims and squashes them into archetypes and two-dimensional characters.
And then there are people tweeting how upset they are that their heartthrob of the month is being accused of such actions. I understand what it’s like to have people you look up to ‘let you down’ in this sense — trust me, I used to listen to pop punk — but as natural as these feelings may be, the truth is that they simply aren’t as important as the feelings of those who have potentially or actually endured the actions your idol is being accused of.
There’s a time and a place to express these feelings as a fan — and doing it in a way that inserts yourself into a narrative that doesn’t concern you and overpowers the voices of those who have experienced violence or assault isn’t the way to do it.
Especially when you express those feelings in a way that makes it seem like, by speaking out, the accuser has somehow burst your little stan bubble or ruined your favorite Marvel movie.
No matter how you feel about these allegations, how can any victims of domestic violence or assault feel empowered to come out when high-profile accusers are framed as an inconvenience or roadblock?
But the weirdest thing of all is the way people keep going back to how these accusations will impact the future of the MCU. As I’ve mentioned before, putting a fictional universe above real people is really gross and insane, but it’s also downright puzzling in that it seems to be antithetical to the themes and values these movies are meant to empower.
How can you call yourself a fan of superhero movies — which exemplify fundamental values like justice — when you don’t want to see that kind of thing happen in the real world? It makes zero sense.
Whatever you think about the allegations, the facts are as follows: 97% of women have experienced harassment or abuse in some form. 1 in 4 women have been raped. 1 in 3 women have been on the receiving end of violence by their partner.
This means that it’s extremely likely that someone you know — or, at least someone who follows you online — has experienced something similar to the acts described in these allegations. How do you think they feel seeing trauma they experienced becoming, at best, a punchline or, for the most part, completely eschewed and dismissed in favor of preserving a multi-movie storyline?
In a world where less than 2% of rapes result in convictions and less than 24% of domestic abuse cases are recorded, these kinds of attitudes to high-profile allegations don’t exist in a vacuum. They have consequences. They’ll lead to more people suffering in silence. And worst of all, it will reinforce to victims that their lives simply don’t matter as much as the consumption of new movies and TV shows.
The most ironic and uncomfortable part of these kinds of responses is that we’re supposed to be living in a post-#MeToo era. We’re supposedly more enlightened in how we approach gendered violence in the entertainment industry. But if these recent cases are anything to go by, we’ve still got a lot to learn.
You can read the full statement by Majors’ attorney in response to his allegations here, and Huerta’s own statement in response to his allegations here. Both actors deny all accusations, and legal proceedings in relation to Majors’ charges remain ongoing.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, here are some UK and US-based resources:
- Rape Crisis England & Wales 24/7 Hotline – 0808 500 2222
- Rape Crisis Scotland 24/7 Hotline – 08088 01 03 02
- Survivors UK
- Refuge National Domestic Abuse Hotline – 0808 2000 247
- Yellow Door
- Women’s Aid
- Samaritans – 116 123
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – (800) 799 – 7233
- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) – National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1 (800) 656-4673
- Department of Defense (DOD) Safe Helpline for Sexual Assault – 1 (877) 995 – 5247