As debate continues to rage over the appropriate level of Oscars’ wokeness, a new controversy has emerged: was “Captain America” star Chris Evans’ chivalrous gesture toward actress Regina King at the Academy Awards ceremony an example of fake ally-ship, or is he one of the few “decent white men” in America?
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Sunday night, as King fumbled slightly with her dress en route to the podium where she’d become the eighth black woman in Hollywood history to receive a Best Supporting Actress award, Evans offered his arm to assist the “If Beale Street Could Talk” star up the steps.
— Radheyan Simonpillai (@JustSayRad) February 25, 2019
This was apparently a move of some significance. Some news outlets and social media commenters heaped praise on the “Fantastic Four” actor. “Chris Evans Helps Regina King to the Stage at 2019 Oscars, Proves Chivalry Isn’t Dead,” read People’s headline. “I love how Chris Evans is always helping people up awards show stairs like the Captain America he really is! First Betty White at People’s Choice Awards and now Regina King!” raved one Twitter commenter.
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But not all onlookers looked so benignly on Evans’ intentions. Some questioned whether the actor, who judging by his Twitter activity is solidly left-leaning and anti-President Donald Trump, was in fact playing out a problematic “white savior” trope and taking shine away from a moment that rightfully belonged to a marginalized black woman.
Woke or not, Chris Evans has a bad case of White Savior Syndrome
— Carter (@iCarty101) October 4, 2018
A discussion about Evans’ wokeness, male feminism, and whiteness followed, as viral outlet Buzzfeed enthusiastically catalogued. “White people making Regina King’s moment about Chris Evans. NO NO! #Oscars,” wrote a Twitter user. “This country is so in need of a decent white man that we’ll blow up with joy over the smallest thing #Oscars,” wrote another.
Chris Evans helped Regina up the stairs and now he’s the Male feminist of the year? pic.twitter.com/vU1CYnr6kj
— YT: Fourens (@Fourens_) February 25, 2019
Perhaps inevitably, a think piece on the topic emerged. “The virility [sic] of this moment speaks to the obsession our culture has with praising any act of human decency from a white man as some sort of valiant deed,” Keyaira Kelly, in a piece for Madame Noire entitled “The Internet’s Praise of Chris Evans for Helping Regina King Up the Stairs Is a Lesson in White Male Mediocrity,” wrote, “Here King was, walking into the shining culmination of her career in the footsteps of her ancestors, yet a simple kindness by a rich wealthy actor suddenly outshined the light of history. The overwhelming response to Evan’s normal actions is evidence that our standards of respect are so starved that we are hungry for any nobility we can grab.”
“While Black America took to the internet to celebrate the long-fought wins of some of our own on Hollywood biggest stage, mainstream Oscar fans, always thirsty for another opportunity to celebrate the white savior trope, found their white knight on the heels of Regina’s win,” she added.
Kelly exhorted readers not to “lower our expectations” by being too laudatory of “basic” gestures, like Evans’ gentlemanly act of kindness.
The incident highlights what many conservatives criticize as the tangled web of identity politics – where every action is scrutinized through an intersectional-identity prism that is at times confusing, counterintuitive, counterproductive, and, arguably, often nonsensical.
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