~ AN EXAMINATION OF THE PUBLIC’S RESPONSE ~
News of Chris Evans and his dick pic slip stirred a media frenzy last weekend. I was late to the party, only learning about the incident two days ago, via Buzzfeed’s daily newsletter. It was titled, Chris Evans Had The Best Response After He Accidentally Posted A Very NSFW Picture On His Instagram Story.
What garnered my attention did not involve the fact that Evans—a white cis male—had mistakenly posted something inappropriate, my lens honed in on how he was given an opportunity to provide a “best response” to his mistake.
Would a woman, or non-binary person, in a similar situation be afforded this privilege?
After his slip-up, the media and fans met Evans with a barrage of support, and pals close to the star only “gently teased” him. When the Captain America actor broke his silence a few days later, he was able to use his awkward moment in the spotlight as an opportunity for political activism. He turned the incident back on his fans—“now that I have your attention”—imploring them to vote in the upcoming election.
Evans was part of the Marvel franchise, films enjoyed by children. However, as far as I know, no one from Marvel* asked for an apology from the actor (or commented at all) even though minors, who follow the actor, may have been exposed to his genitalia.
This is contrary to how Disney, who owns Marvel, has reacted to similar situations in the past. In 2007, Disney’s High School Musical star, Vanessa Hudgens, was made to apologise for leaked nude photos, posted online without her consent. Disney called the occurrence an obvious “lapse in judgement” and stated, “We hope she’s learned a valuable lesson.”
In 2014, Jennifer Lawrence also fell victim to a hacker. Thankfully, the press was more sympathetic this time around. However, some publications derided her for the semi-nude photoshoot she did for Vanity Fair, published shortly after the violation, calling her a hypocrite. This is a clear failure to understand the concept of consent. As Lawrence stated in the Vanity Fair article, “it’s my body and it should be my choice.”
More recently, Bella Thorne received criticism for taking back ownership of her own body—which was being used as a weapon against her—when she posted her nudes online after a hacker threatened to release them. Co-host of The View, Whoopi Goldberg victim-blamed Thorne on television, claiming she took those photos at her own risk.
Lastly, let’s not forget Janet Jackson’s nipple slip at the 2004 Super Bowl. Her wardrobe malfunction flooded the news worldwide, causing public outrage. As a direct result, Jackson’s career suffered. MTV banned the pop singer’s proceeding album which became her lowest-selling to date. And the Grammy awards did not extend Jackson an invite that year. Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake, equally responsible for the nip slip, not only attended the event but also performed. This speaks not only to the inequitable division of privilege and power between men and women but also between white women and women of colour.
In case you’re worried, I’m not here to chastise Evans. (In fact, I believe those who shared his image were violating his privacy. Consent matters—for everyone.) The point I’m trying to make has less to do with Evans and more about the reaction from others towards him. The support shown by fans, post-penis-pic, was heartwarming. No one cast shame or blame on Evans and his mistake even allowed him a platform to speak about something, unrelated to the incident, that mattered to him.
Please, can this reaction act as a benchmark for how we treat women and non-binary folk when their nudes are leaked without their consent, or similar? The reason I even bothered to tackle a celebrity story is because they act as a mirror for society. How the media and general public respond to celebrity, helps inform us about what values and beliefs people hold in a broader sense. I’m hoping such a positive and supportive response to Evans, reflects more on the time in which we live, rather than Evans’ privilege. But, just in case I’m being far too optimistic, let’s acknowledge the differences and try to close the gap.
*Although Evans doesn’t have a current contract with Marvel, the studio receives a mention in every article which discusses the dick pic. Also, James Gunn was reinstated as Guardians of the Galaxy 3 director after unsavoury tweets resurfaced from a decade earlier; so my guess is Evans would have been fine.