TIME Media

Forgive Mark Wahlberg’s Cinematic Crimes, If You Like—But Not His Real Ones

AFI FEST 2014 Presented By Audi - "The Gambler" Premiere - Arrivals
Actor Mark Wahlberg arrives at the AFI FEST 2014 Presented By Audi - "The Gambler" Premiere at Dolby Theatre on November 10, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Gregg DeGuire—WireImage

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

The actor wants to be pardoned from a violent and hateful crime he committed as a teen

That Mark Wahlberg has a long and varied rap sheet may not surprise many. And I’m not talking about his cinematic crimes, like the latest Transformers movie and that M. Night Shyamalan movie he made with Zooey Deschanel. In 1988 Wahlberg served 45 days in jail when he was 16 for beating up two Vietnamese men (one with a five-foot-long wooden pole) who he called “gooks” and other racial slurs. He also had an injunction against him for chasing down fellow residents of Dorchester, Massachusetts, and calling them racial slurs while throwing rocks at them. In 1992, after he had morphed into rapper Marky Mark, he repeatedly kicked another man in the head. And there was also a 1996 arrest for driving a boat under the influence.

Wahlberg is looking for a pardon from his arrest for beating up those two men, for which he was charged with attempted murder and convicted of assault. No one should grant him one.

On November 26, Wahlberg filed a petition to have his conviction expunged from his record. If Governor Deval Patrick issues any pardons, he should not waste one on Mark Wahlberg. Patrick’s record of being stingy with clemency will only make it look like a rich white celebrity can get anything he wants, even if that includes having his past forgiven from any youthful indiscretions. But based on the racially motivated nature of Wahlberg’s crimes, they seem to be a lot worse than shoplifting, small amounts of drug possession, or the odd DUI (though he has one of those too) that can plague many people.

This comes at an especially bad time with the protests in Ferguson and New York City, where black Americans are expressing their anger at being treated unfairly by the cops. Then in walks Mark Wahlberg, with his huge wallet, showing everyone that if you are white and privileged in this country, you should get special treatment. Wahlberg may have the necessary funds to pay for all the lawyers to shepherd through his pardon (again, something many people can’t afford), but he needs to pay for a better publicist. Not only is this appeal bringing more attention to his past arrests, but also making him look more like a jerk than he really is.

Having a conviction on your record can keep many people from voting or securing a job, so why is the artist formerly known as Marky Mark so concerned? It’s not like he has any shortage of money. So why the need for a pardon? He lists a few reasons.

“My prior record can potentially be the basis to deny me a concessionaire’s license in California and elsewhere,” he writes. Well, that hasn’t stopped him from opening several restaurants, including Wahlbergers, which has it’s own A&E show. And should the court really be concerned that a very rich man is not able to get even richer in a certain field? No, it should not. Doesn’t Wahlberg and his considerable capital have every available outlet to expand his fortune? Yes, he does.

He has other reasons. “I have become close with many members of the local law enforcement community in Boston and Los Angeles, including as a member of the board of directors of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Youth Foundation, which is dedicated to helping at risk youth,” he writes. But his record keeps him from working with at-risk youth.

This seems like a legitimate concern, but that doesn’t mean it’s insurmountable. As Gwynn Gilford points out on Quartz, the issues that effect Wahlberg because of his conviction affect many recovered felons. Rather than making things easier for a mediocre film actor, there should instead be new policies that make it easier for all recovered felons.

Why isn’t Wahlberg out there speaking out for reform in those areas and trying to repeal the silly laws that keep convicts from working in food service, for instance? That’s the sort of policy work he could do quite easily with his public profile. Look at what Jenny McCarthy has done for vaccine nuts, and she’s not nearly as famous or as likeable. Just like Wahlberg can have any job he wants, he can also do any sort of outreach he wants for any number of other issues, conviction be damned.

But that isn’t the real reason that he wants a pardon. “The more complex answer is that receiving a pardon would be a formal recognition that I am not the same person that I was on the night of April 8, 1998,” he writes. “It would be formal recognition that someone like me can receive official public redemption if he devotes himself to personal improvement and a life of good works.”

Wahlberg seems to be on a bit of a redemption tour. In 2013, Wahlberg finally got his GED. He’s gotten some tattoos removed. But not everything is erased as easily, and not everything should be. I don’t doubt that Wahlberg is a much different person and regrets what he did, but the state isn’t the one that needs to tell him that. If he decides that he is a different person and has cleaned up his life, he should work that out in therapy and keep the prison board out of it. Seeking recognition from others isn’t a reason to do good things. Wanting the approval from the world at large is the kind of vanity you would only see from a celebrity. I’m sure the men he beat up, one who was left partially blind, wish that they could file some paperwork and never have been senselessly beaten on the street, but they can’t. Why should their attacker be able to do it? Because he executive produced Entourage?

Finally, and incorrectly, Wahlberg makes his plea for forgiveness seem altruistic. “My hope is that, if I receive a pardon, troubled youths will see this as an inspiration and motivation that they too can turn their lives around and be formally accepted back into society,” he writes. No, Mark, they won’t. They will see that if they get rich enough or famous enough, it won’t matter what they did as kids, they’ll be able to make it go away like a bad Etch-a-Sketch doodle. They will see his fame as the mitigating factor, not his redemption or considerable charity work. It will just give everyone another reason to want to be famous.

Also, shouldn’t he want to go in there and change these kids’ lives before they commit a felony? Shouldn’t he be speaking at schools saying, “Kids, before you commit a crime, remember that if you are convicted you won’t be able to work in a restaurant or help a charity. If you commit a crime, even if you become as rich and famous as I am, your life will still be incredibly messed up. So, kids, don’t commit crime, because that can never be erased”?

That is the message that Wahlberg should be putting out in the universe if he really wants to help kids. Now all he’s saying is that he’s above the law and, contrary to what he would like everyone to believe, that helps no one but himself.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Why You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself for Hate Watching ‘Peter Pan Live!’

Peter Pan Live! - Season 2014
From left to right: Allison Williams as Peter Pan, Christopher Walken as Captain Hook, Christian Borle as Smee. Virginia Sherwood—NBC

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

Caving to lousy preconceived notions before even tuning in is the worst sort of cynicism that Internet culture has to offer

On Tuesday night, I noticed a tweet from a writer friend in my timeline. “I’m watching Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce and…I don’t hate it…AMA.” The joke, other than the “ask me anything” trope, was that he was watching Bravo’s first scripted show in the anticipation of hating it and, it turns out, found it to actually not be that bad.

This is the problem with hate watching, the Internet’s new favorite past time. Anyone with basic cable and a Twitter account knows the drill, where you watch something – especially a movie event, a live program, or an awards show – just so you can joke along with all your friends about how awful it is. It’s so popular that even Allison Williams, the star of NBC’s Peter Pan Live!, which airs Thursday night, knows that plenty of people are tuning in just to make cruel cracks about her performance.

“Watch it the way you watch everything, watch it critically, do whatever you want,” she tells Vanity Fair. “But even if it’s just secretly, go along for the ride.”

Williams picks out the major problem with hate watching pretty quickly, that people will be tuning in under the assumption that it’s going to be bad and they’re going to make fun of it no matter what. That’s kind of sad. Sure, The Sound of Music Live!, Peter Pan’s predecessor in hate watching, had some technical troubles and wasn’t the best thing in the world. But Peter Pan Live! deserves to be judged based on its own merits – or lack thereof.

Part of the reason why anyone tunes into a live broadcast on television is to see if people mess up. It’s like watching Saturday Night Live to see if the actors break character, NASCAR to see the crashes, or a Mariah Carey Christmas concert performance for her voice cracking. That’s only natural and, if it happens, I think it’s fine for there to be dozens of GIFs of the gaffe all over Tumblr within seconds. But as for the overall quality of a program, shouldn’t we wait to actually see if it’s going to be awful before making up our minds? As Williams says, can’t we go along for the ride?

Going into a show you’ve never seen before with 140-character bursts of vitriol in your soul is the worst kind of prejudice. No matter how good Peter Pan is, no matter how many high notes Allison Williams hits, no matter how many soft shoes Christopher Walken does as Captain Hook, people are going to laugh and jeer. That is the worst sort of critical failure. It’s like adoring every single one of Beyoncé’s songs because The Beygency might get you. There are good and bad things about every performance, song, and wig (yes, Allison Williams, I’m looking at yours) but caving to lousy preconceived notions before even tuning in is the worst sort of cynicism that Internet culture has to offer. There’s no defense from that. No matter how good the show might be, people have already tried, convicted, and sentenced it.

Peter Pan Live!, of course, is meant to be an event and consumed with social media. That’s the only way networks can figure out how to get a surge in viewers these days, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to get #Tinkerbell trending in order to save her life at the beginning of the broadcast. It’s like the 21st century version of clapping to show you believe. Programmers are relying more and more on the “second screen experience” to get ratings, but that doesn’t mean our tweets have to be bad-natured.

As Pollyanna-ish as NBC is, the networks are as much to blame for this rise in hate watching as the fans. Some people have expressed that they think Peter Pan Live! is intended to be hate watched, and they’re not entirely wrong. While it seems like this musical is sincere in its intention to amuse the masses, there are certainly plenty of other TV movies that are made with the intention of being torn down.

SyFy has seen tremendous success with their burgeoning Sharknado franchise, whose popularity is built on people’s outlandish reactions to its foibles on social media. Sharknado is winkingly awful though, wallowing in its campy plotting and riding the wave of social media scoffing all the way to the bank.

Lifetime isn’t as postmodern about using this tactic. Their intentionally awful but not winking biopics about things like Saved by the Bell, Aaliyah, and Brittany Murphy lure you in with the promise of something good but, based on the Lifetime brand, audiences are predisposed to it being absolutely wretched. (Since we’ve already brought up bad wigs, can we talk about the one in the Brittany Murphy movie?)

Hate watching is now an actual strategy that some channels use, so when something like Peter Pan Live! comes along, we can’t help but feel like it’s the same bait. It is not. Even those shows meant to be ridiculed should be critically considered by the audience based on their achievements. Sharknado 2, while not going to change the course of cinema, was at least enjoyable in its own tongue-and-cheek way. Does that make it good? Maybe it does. (But it probably doesn’t.)

I’m not saying we can’t hate watch things. Nothing gives me more pleasure than going on a 20-minute tear about how absolutely horrendous The Newsroom is. But that is information based on watching several episodes of the show over several seasons. It is not, like so many people’s feelings about Peter Pan Live!, an initial impression based on nothing.

We don’t have to like everything. Heck, we don’t even have to like most things. But I think it’s the responsible and intelligent thing to at least keep an open mind and wait for some actual evidence before making up our minds. And, hey, if Allison Williams can’t hit those high notes – then #HaveAtIt.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Media

Thank You, Duggars, Your Homophobia Is Really a Public Service

Duggar family - Woodbridge, VA
Reality telvision celebrities, Jim Bob Duggar, center, and his wife, Michelle Duggar make a stop on their "Values Bus Tour" outside Heritage Baptist Church on Wednesday October 16, 2013 in Woodbridge, VA. The Washington Post—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

When gay marriage is passing in state after state, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is on the bandwagon

You would think that, decades after Anita Bryant went on a crusade to rid gay people from public life, we’d be sick of hearing D-listers call us names and voice their hatred against us in public. The latest to really take a stand against gays is Michelle Duggar, the human baby factory who is the matriarch on the reality show “19 Kids and Counting.” This may sound strange, but I would actually like to thank her for her recent behavior.

The Duggars stirred up controversy when they recently asked for people to post pictures of married couples kissing on their Facebook page and then deleted a picture of a gay married couple kissing. (Hello? Who do you think is keeping TLC in business?) When the news of this leaked, activists directed people to sign a Change.org petition to “end LGBTQ fear mongering by the Duggars” and calls for the show to be canceled because of their behavior. It now has well over 120,000 signatures.

For what it’s worth, this isn’t Michelle’s only recent offense. She also recorded a robocall asking that the people of Fayetteville, Arkansas, vote to repeal a law that stops discrimination based on gender identity. Basically she wants people to be able to discriminate against transgender men and women.

Now some people think that we need to silence the Duggars and those like them. I think we should let them keep going. Nothing defeats complacency like knowing exactly where gay people stand with millions of Americans. Now, it’s not a shock that the overly religious Duggars don’t like gay people. That’s sort of like saying that Paula Deen likes butter. But, when gay marriage is passing in state after state, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is on the bandwagon. There are still large groups of Americans out there who want to rob us of our rights, and if we don’t stay vigilant, we’ll never win the war.

Right now we’re having a bit of success in dealing with pop culture homophobes. In May, HGTV decided to cancel a show they were planning to air featuring David and Jason Benham when it was discovered that they had made some nasty comments about gay people very publicly.

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty made some very homophobic comments to GQ this January, and was mouthing off once again this May about how gay sex is unnatural. He was suspended from A&E briefly for his behavior and the ratings for the show tanked after his disclosure.

That’s why we need these people to keep talking. There’s no doubt in my mind that there is hatred in the hearts of many people for LGBTQ men and women in this country, but if that hatred just stays in their hearts they’ll be working against us without our knowledge. The louder they become, the easier it is to target them. And when we can target them, well, we’ve seen that we can do things to shut them up. If only we could give them all a pie in the face like Anita Bryant got.

Having loudmouth opponents also serves as an effective recruiting tool for allies to gay civil rights causes. Like it or not, reality stars like the Duggars and especially the Robertsons–whose most recent season finale still clocked almost 4 million viewers–have a huge stage. When they make these sorts of remarks there is always a media firestorm and each time that happens, I would like to think that there is at least one fan out there who thinks, “God, what an idiot.” Hopefully that opens up some minds and shows those out there who may not be very hospitable to the “gay lifestyle” that bigotry is distasteful no matter how it manifests itself.

We don’t get to teach these lessons, show our strength or fight these battles if these people are silent. We need people like Michelle Duggar to be loud in order to get the hard work of activism done. So no matter how much it sucks, we have to just take it on the chin every time one of these yahoos has the bright idea to spout off. Trust me, it’s for the greater good. Every time a reality star says something ignorant about the LGBT community, a gay angel gets her wings.

Oscar Wilde, one of the world’s most public and tragic gay men, said “True friends stab you in the front.” There is no doubt in my mind that there are plenty of misinformed people in America carrying daggers against gay people, including those who have a public forum to discuss those views. Why would we want them hiding that hatred in the shadows when, out in the open, it can be diffused, acted on and used as a teaching tool to get more people on our side. We should all thank Michelle Duggar. She thinks that she’s stabbing gay Americans in the front, but what she’s really doing is bloodying herself.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Etiquette

‘Man Spreaders,’ There’s No Excuse for Not Closing Your Legs on the Subway

Couple sitting on urban subway
Steve Prezant—Getty Images

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

All you jerks with wide stances are breaking the social contract that we need to abide by in New York City

There are lots of things that men do that are crazy, like insist on trying to impress people by regurgitating lines from Adam Sandler movies and investing scores of time in that imaginary monstrosity that is fantasy football. But there is no worse, man-centric behavior than manspreading on the subway. Seriously guys, it has got to stop.

You know what I’m talking about: the dudes who sit on the subway and expand their legs to bar anyone from sitting anywhere near them. It’s like they have an imaginary sumo wrestler sitting on the floor in front of them (or an imaginary cat, as this meme would lead us to believe). The problem has gotten so bad that the MTA, the agency in charge of New York City’s subways, is starting a campaign to curb the phenomenon. But, really, do we need subway posters next to those cute little Poetry in Motion poems and Dr. Zizmor ads to tell the bros not to do this? No, we should not. We should already be showing everyone some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha says.

As a human male who possesses a penis, I can say that there is no possible way that your package is that big that you need to sit with your legs spread like the Grand Canyon. And if you have a package so large – as in an actual parcel – that is making you sit like this, you probably should do yourself and the world a favor and spring for a cab.

Also I know that your unit is not throwing off that much heat, even in the blistering days of the summer when the subway feels and smells like someone set the Gowanus Canal on fire. As an owner of a set, I know that testicles do not get that sweaty and even if they did, sitting as such would not create an adequate cross breeze to cool them down. If you are having such intense grundle fires, then you probably should consult a doctor and you should not be rubbing your junk all over public transportation. Or maybe just go commando.

That is the crux of the situation. The problem with leg spreaders is that they are breaking the social contract that we need to abide by survive in New York City. It is the same contract that says you stand on the right and walk on the left on an escalator and that you never shout at a celebrity when you see one on the street (this isn’t LA!). There is just not enough room for everyone in this city and, in order to accommodate everyone, we need to take up only our allotted bit of space.

The thing about the subway is that the seats and benches are divided to tell you just how much room you have. That little indent should not only fit your butt, but also your legs. If they are spread past that indentation, your stance is wider than Larry Craig’s in an airport restroom. If you’re on a car with those blue benches, which are meant to fit precisely six people and there are not six people on the bench, you are also spread too wide. Everyone paid $2.50 and they get only one seat. The same goes for backpacks on the seat, setting your bicycle or stroller in front of a whole row of benches, or passing out on an entire row on the F train on the way home from an East Village bar at 2 a.m. Sure, if the train is a little bit empty, you can be at ease, soldier, but never to the degree that it would intimidate someone else who might want to sit next to you in the event the train gets more crowded.

This is the most visual manifestation of patriarchal privilege and that is why it is especially angering. It says to everyone, “I find this comfortable and I am a man so my comfort comes before all else in this entire universe and especially you.” That’s why people hate this. It’s because men are saying that they don’t care about anyone else, and that is awful. They think that it is somehow manly, by claiming their territory. That is not manly. A real man is courteous and thinks of others and only takes as much as he is allowed. That’s what we need to tell our sons.

Whenever I see a leg spreader, I intentionally sit right next to him and spar for my bit of room. I want to let him know that it is not okay to stake claims to things that don’t belong to him in the first place. It’s like picking the tulips that grow in Central Park and putting them in a vase on your table.

Contrary to our reputation for being easy to anger, New Yorkers get by only by being nice to our fellow man. It’s the only way that we can survive crammed onto this tiny island at the center of the universe. The only place where this doesn’t happen is with men on the subway trying to prove something to the rest of the world (also in line at Trader Joe’s).

All you jerks with wide stances need to get over it. You are not losing anything by sitting with your legs together. It’s not that much worse. If you don’t like it, you can buy a bike and just ride everywhere. And if you really don’t like it, then you can move. Or better yet, you can stand. There are some of us who would also like a seat and we know how to use it.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Media

Kim Kardashian’s Butt Is an Empty Promise

Kim Kardashian Paper Magazine
Jean-Paul Goude—Paper

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

The celebutante's exaggerated behind on the cover of a magazine offers no truth or insight. It only makes us think about how it looks like a glazed Krispy Kreme donut

Last night Paper magazine released two of their latest covers, one featuring Kim Kardashian and the other one featuring an even more famous celebrity: Kim Kardashian’s butt. They were emblazoned with the words “Break the Internet,” and they certainly did. The images instantly shot to the highest currency in today’s media: they were trending. But that’s pretty much all they were. There is nothing behind that butt other than it being a really nice butt. That is the end–pun intended–of it.

This is not the first time that we have seen Kim Kardashian’s posterior. And it is not the first time that we have seen Kim Kardashian naked on the cover of a magazine. Strangely enough, she suggested back in 2010, the last time she was naked on a cover, that she wouldn’t pose nude again. She already broke that promise once this year, baring it all for British GQ. We had to know that it wouldn’t be true in hind sight (get it?).

The funny thing about Kim’s latest butt-shot is that all it is intended to do is create a frenzy, much like her famous “belfie” (which is a butt selfie for those of you at home who have better things to pay attention to). There is no reason Kim Kardashian wants to show off her ass or #BreakTheInternet other than because she can, she is expected to, and we fall for the trap every damn time.

It’s really provocation for provocation’s sake, the cheapest kind of stunt. Miley Cyrus, pop music’s current firebrand, was naked on the cover of Rolling Stone licking her shoulder. She revealed less physically, but more intellectually. It was that tongue hanging out, a pose she has repeated again and again while twerking. These moves, and, of course her memorable VMA performance with Robin Thicke, made us all think about cultural appropriation, female sexuality, third wave feminism, and what is appropriate behavior for a celebrity with such a large fan base of young women. Kim Kardashian’s butt on Paper magazine only makes us think about how it looks like a glazed Krispy Kreme donut.

Speaking of pop music provocation, this is nothing that Madonna didn’t do better, first, or smarter several decades ago. Everything from writhing around in her wedding dress on the first ever VMAs to her book Sex was pushing the envelope, but it was always with a purpose. It was about freeing herself from the shackles of the Catholic Church and conventional morality and showing the world that women can own their sexuality without being exploited.

And these aren’t the only women. Joan Rivers (RIP) was telling jokes that often raised controversy to show that if we can laugh at the Holocaust or 9/11, we can ease the pain we still feel about it. Sarah Silverman, another brilliant comic whose mouth frequently gets her in trouble, uses her jokes about racism, sexism, and homophobia to show the world how absurd all of those things really are when you examine them closely.

These are all people that think about what effect their actions are going to cause and see some sort of greater good by causing controversy. Kim Kardashian shows off her butt because she knows that people are going to freak out about it. Maybe it’s because Miley grew up forced into a sort of bright-eyed decorum by the suits at Disney that she knows how to rebel against something. Madonna had the Church and Rivers and Silverman have the male-centric world of standup comedy. They all have a barrier that they’re butting (ha!) up against and trying to tear down. What sort of obstacles did Kim, a pretty, rich girl from Beverly Hills, ever have to fight against?

Seriously, though, this is the only social currency she has in the world. I’m not going to break out that old saw that Kim Kardashian has no talent, but she has no occupation like Miley, Madonna, Joan, or Sarah. She has no outlet to express herself and keep herself relevant other than a highly scripted reality show with sinking ratings and her image. Remember, she is a celebrity whose initial fame, after being Paris Hilton’s closet organizer, was predicated on her having a sex tape. Kim Kardashian can only peddle in her body, and her ass is the most valuable part of that body.

Still, we follow it because that is what she does. It’s perfect that she’s married to Kanye West, whose hyperbole are so outrageous that we now just roll our eyes at them. It’s just Kanye being Kanye, much like Kim applying a liberal coat of oil to her derriere and slapping it on a magazine cover is just Kim being Kim. These two are all just provocation and bluster, repeated images that seem to offer us some sort of truth or insight but are really just self serving.

Kim Kardashian’s butt is the biological equivalent of click-bait. We can’t help but pay attention to it, but we’re always upset by the lack of substance. We want there to be something more, some reason or context, some great explanation that tells us what it is like to live in this very day and age, but there is not. Kim Kardashian’s ass is nothing but an empty promise.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications.

Read next: Kim Kardashian’s Butt Might Just Break the Internet Today

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Humor

Move Over, Movember, You’re Standing on My Mustache

A young man with a mustache wearing a striped t-shirt
Halfdark—Getty Images

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

It's a silly stunt to get attention. But for us proud, year-round mustache-wearers, mustaches should be taken at face value

Correction appended November 5, 2014

The days immediately following Halloween should be wonderful. With the costumes packed up, the leaves littering the ground, and the chill growing, November features the slow days of the fall that roll into the mad dash of the holiday season. There are pumpkin spice lattes, cashmere throws and, if you’re lucky, a fire in the fireplace to make you nice and cozy. November is a dream – unless you have a mustache.

Movember is a charitable event where men grow mustaches for the month of November to raise awareness and hopefully money for male cancers (like prostate cancer). It is like the Ice Bucket Challenge for the face, except not nearly as many celebrities do it (and certainly not Anna Wintour). Movember is also a scourge—well, at least for those of us who are proud Mustached Americans the whole year round.

It started already. Today an acquaintance I see regularly said to me, “Oh, look at your mustache for Movember.” While I appreciate people thinking that I’m altruistic enough to raise money for cancer, that is not the case. I have worked long and hard to grow and maintain my furry friend and it certainly did not pop up over the last five days. That’s sort of like visiting a vineyard in Burgundy and saying, “Oh, it’s so cute of you to have planted these grapes last week!” or asking every woman wearing pink in October if it’s for Breast Cancer Awareness month. (Also, what does it say about my friend – or me – that he doesn’t notice one of the more prominent details of my face 11 months out of the year.)

Like I said, raising money for cancer is great, but there is something about Movember that just feeds into the worst aspects of how mustaches are regarded. These days, when you can buy pacifiers that make babies look like they’re sporting lip sweaters or just about everything from notepads to dish soap in the shape of an old-timey handlebar mustache, the facial hair choice for millions is relegated to a joke. The same is true of Movember. It’s a silly stunt to get attention. A beard wouldn’t suffice because they are now so mainstream and connected with virility as to prove indistinguishable, but mustaches, on the other hand, are a punch line. Movember says, “Look at me, I have a mustache. Aren’t I wacky!”

Those of us who wear mustaches hear those jokes too often. “I love your porn ‘stashe,” a randy chap on Grindr will quip to me. Thanks to Burt Reynolds and John Holmes, the mustache will always be equated with pornography and bear skin rugs. There are worse connotations, but this one seems to align itself with a nasty stereotype that mustaches belong to perverts and pedophiles.

I’m often catcalled on the street for sporting a hirsute upper lip. Some people just shout out, “Mustache!” and point. Others, usually of the drunker variety on weekend nights in the bar-invested blocks of Manhattan, say things like, “Nice Hitler mustache, man.” First of all, there have been countless world leaders from Teddy Roosevelt to Martin Luther King who have sported mustaches, but the one everyone goes back to is Adolph Hitler. And my mustache is what is known as a chevron, similar to Tom Selleck’s, not a narrow toothbrush mustache like Charlie Chaplin’s and, ugh, Hitler’s. All mustaches do not look alike.

But that’s what we equate mustaches with: guys who wear trench coats and expose themselves in public and those responsible for genocide. That doesn’t take into account the many great people who have sported them, including so many of your friends, neighbors, relatives and gym teachers (why were gym teachers always mustachioed?). Sure, John Wilkes Booth had a mustache, but so did Albert Einstein! Why don’t we get credit for him?

And in Movember, all of these issues come to the fore, where so many guys think they are cute and clever for 30 days while they get a little fuzziness around the philtrum. They just make everyone think that all mustaches are ironic, that we don’t wear them to look good or express ourselves, but to try to look cool by looking bad (and maybe to push more jars of our hipster artisanal aioli spread at the Brooklyn Flea).

A mustache is a viable option to wear everyday, like sturdy underwear or galoshes, but even handsomer. I don’t have a mustache because I want to be ironic. My mustache is very serious and should be taken at face (ha!) value. I don’t have a mustache because I secretly want a beard (though the rest of my beard is as sparse as a Christmas tree farm on New Year’s Day).

I have a mustache because it looks good on my face and I like having it. I don’t shout disparaging remarks about your eyeglasses or bangs, or fake having them for a month as some jest (as well-intentioned as it may be). Yes, for the Mustached American, Movember is the cruelest month. Maybe all you Johnny-come-latelies can just make a donation and leave your lips bare. Save yourselves and the rest of us the humiliation. Let’s leave the serious business of having a mustache to the professionals.

Correction: The original version of this post stated that Movember is also known as “No Shave November.” It has been corrected.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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Leave Renée Zellweger’s Face Alone!

2014 ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards - Arrivals
Renée Zellweger arrives at the 2014 ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on October 20, 2014 in Beverly Hills, Ca. Steve Granitz—WireImage/Getty Images

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

There is a very real reason why the actress would want a whole new face: we were all incredibly mean to her old one

Last night Renée Zellweger did something totally normal for a celebrity of her magnitude: she went to a red-carpet event. But something different happened when the photos from her trip in front of the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards step and repeat hit the wires. Everyone freaked the hell out. “Is that you, Renée Zellweger?” CNN asked. “What has Renée Zellweger done to her face?” the Daily Mail cried. “Stop what you are doing: Renée Zellweger has a whole new face,” Metro implored, past the stage of mourning where we ask questions and moving toward acceptance.

Yes, it’s clear that Zellweger has had some work done. Welcome to Hollywood. I would like to introduce you to Meg Ryan’s lips, Nicole Kidman’s forehead, and everything that is currently going on with Bruce Jenner. The reaction to Zellweger’s big reveal seems more than a little bit unjust.

Most outlets are taking the tack of asking readers if her new look is good or bad, and there are some people that will fall on either side of the debate. However, the subtext to this question is always, “Holy hell, what did this lady do to her face and how is she going to fix it?!” If it was a text from your best friend, it would have about 100 times more exclamation points and probably the emoji of the girl crossing her arms in front of her body. Everyone is very concerned that Zellweger doesn’t look like herself anymore. Her signature squint is gone, her lips seem a little more full and less pursed, and her cheeks just aren’t quite as puffy as they used to be.

It’s always dicey for an actress to mess with her looks. When her face is unrecognizable, it distracts from her work as an actress. (And any lack of mobility in the face can certainly make it harder for her to ply her craft.) Why would Zellweger want to look like someone else when she makes money partly from her appearance? That seems to be a bad decision. Just ask Jennifer Grey about her nose or Kate Gosselin about her new haircut. (Actually, please don’t ask Kate Gosselin anything; it’s better that we just keep on ignoring her for the time being.)

But there is a very real reason Zellweger would want a whole new face: we were all incredibly mean to her old one. Here is a post likening her to Mr. Magoo and making multiple stabs at her appearance. Here is a mock-up for Renée Zellweger’s Extreme Sour Lemon Candy, making fun of her pout and squint. Here is her Urban Dictionary entry calling her a “cure for a case of the boners.” Here is Dlisted saying she looks “like she’s staring directly into the sun after swallowing a cup of Sour Patch Kids dust” right before retiring her nickname Squinty Zellweger forever. Here is me taking a really lame cheap shot at her back in 2009. Oh, I have been mean to the Zellweger myself, and I should be ashamed.

Now, you wonder why Zellweger would want to do such extreme things to her face? Maybe it’s a reaction to the extreme things that were constantly said about her old one. If people always made fun of a giant mole on my neck, I would have that removed too. If I was bullied for being overweight, I might think about going on an extreme diet just to shut the haters up. Maybe Zellweger did the same thing, and now that she fixed the squint and pout that have created a million “Looks like she’s having an allergic reaction to shrimp” jokes, everyone is being just as mean.

The celebrity media is fascinated with bodies. Headlines are constantly made out of “baby bumps” and “bikini bodies,” as if these don’t belong to real people but instead are lumps of flesh for our inspection, like breeding animals at the state farm. (The women certainly get it worse, but we’re increasingly critical of men without Gosling-esque abdominal muscles too. )

I sincerely hope that the media’s fascination with Zellweger’s appearance didn’t lead to her undergoing such extensive surgery. As we’ve seen, her detractors aren’t going to let up. There is no appeasing the beast. The only solution is to disappear from public view entirely. Harsh scrutiny is the price anyone has to pay to pursue a very public career, and we shrug our shoulders and say they should know that. But is that clause in the unspoken celebrity contract really non-negotiable?

Maybe we should just leave Renée Zellweger’s face alone altogether. It’s her body, and she can do whatever she wants to it. If she wants to get “I am Bridget Jones” tattooed across her forehead, then she should feel free to go ahead and do it. Sure, her changes might cost her some jobs, but that is a decision that she made and she can deal with it.

Now that her new face has been revealed, we’ll all get used to it, just like we have with Cher’s, Madonna’s, Kenny Rogers’ and the countless iterations of Dolly Parton’s and Joan Rivers’ (RIP). Pointing, gawking and screaming about it says more about our media, our vanity and the type of society that would lead a star to completely rearrange the most personal part of her body than it ever will about Renée Zellweger.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications.

Read next: Renée Zellweger: ‘I’m Glad Folks Think I Look Different’

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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Why Ben Affleck Still Can’t Win

52nd New York Film Festival Opening Night Gala Presentation And World Premiere Of "Gone Girl"
Actor/director Ben Affleck attends the 52nd New York Film Festival Opening Night Gala Presentation and World Premiere Of "Gone Girl" at Alice Tully Hall on September 26, 2014 in New York City. Jim Spellman—WireImage

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

If we haven’t forgiven Affleck in the almost 15 years since Bennifer, is it ever going to happen?

Everyone’s so worried about spoilers surrounding the big twist in Gone Girl, but there is one twist that David Fincher might not have planned for with his latest blockbuster: how much everyone hates Ben Affleck. It’s even keeping some people from seeing the movie. Yes, with a $38 million opening weekend, plenty of people will continue to see the movie, but many will do so in spite of Affleck, not because of him. I bet no one saw that twist coming!

There are plenty of people with specific reasons to hate Ben Affleck that are superficial and easily dismissed. There are people who don’t like his liberal politics (especially in light of his recent kerfuffle with Bill Maher). Then there is the legion of comic fans who are upset that he’s going to play Batman.

However, there are other people with more vague grievances that are harder to dispute, like his perceived shortcomings as an actor. “I’ve hated Ben Affleck since I saw Good Will Hunting, which is really terrible. And I don’t think he’s ever been good in anything,” says Sam Stecklow, a 19-year-old student from Chicago. Well, at least that’s a little more concrete than people who just hate his chin.

Another common theme of Affleck animosity seems to be his attitude or some sort of implied douchiness. “There are a multitude of reasons why I hate Ben Affleck,” says Alexandra Snyder, a 25-year-old community-relations manager from Washington, D.C. “First is his naturally douchey demeanor … He is so goddamn pretentious … He is like an ugly frat guy.”

It’s funny, because people hate Anne Hathaway because they say she has false humility, but they hate Ben Affleck because he has no humility whatsoever.

But I think all this hatred goes all the way back to 2001, during his Bennifer days. (It was more than a decade ago—don’t you feel old?) He and Jennifer Lopez were canoodling on the cover of every tabloid and giving each other outrageous gifts. Not only did that enter us into the age of the ubiquitous relationship portmanteau, but it also ushered in the current state of the celebrity-gossip-industrial complex, which has included everything from Britney Spears with her shaved head to countless pictures of Kaley Cuoco and her pink chandelier wedding cake.

Affleck and Lopez’s relationship, which was covered more than climate change and Ebola combined, came at a time when Affleck was vying for leading-man status in the wake of his 1998 Oscar win for Good Will Hunting, which he co-starred in and co-wrote with his BFF Matt Damon. His bid for Hollywood A list didn’t go over so well. Affleck fizzled in Reindeer Games, which was followed by the high-profile bombs Pearl Harbor, Changing Lanes, The Sum of All Fears and Paycheck. Then there was his much-hyped and much-hated turns with Lopez, in Jersey Girl and Gigli. Ugh, Gigli. It’s still an easy punch line after all these years.

This combination of attention and failure is what caused so many to sour on Affleck permanently. We were seeing him on the cover of Us Weekly looking like the biggest star in Hollywood, but we all knew that no one wanted to see him in a movie. It was like he was being needlessly foisted on us no matter where we looked, and every time we saw him, he looked rich and smug and horrible. It was almost impossible to escape the feeling that he was being needlessly foisted upon us by Hollywood, a product whose supply far outpaced its demand, a syndrome known in some quarters as the Colin Farrell Paradox.

“He made some horrible film choices while trying to convince the audience he was the One: the actor, writer, action star, humanitarian playboy the world was waiting for,” says Kay Wigs, 31, a government employee who lives in Washington, D.C. “He wasn’t the One. He’s that Dude. That dude you always think would be fun to invite to a party but quickly realize, Nope. Not only did he break into the good booze without asking, he stole your iPod and drove your mom’s car into a lake.”

It didn’t help that Matt Damon, Affleck’s constant foil, seemed to take the opposite track. His bet on franchise success, the Bourne movies, was a runaway critical and commercial smash, and even his smaller movies were praised and well seen. He also decided to shun the spotlight and marry a woman no one had heard of instead of getting engaged to the world’s biggest pop star.

But Affleck didn’t marry Jenny from the Block; he ended up marrying another Jennifer, and Ms. Garner is just as famous as the last one. The thing about Affleck is that people don’t see that he’s changed. He still married someone who can easily secure the cover of People. He is making better movies now, but mostly as a director. He appears to regard himself so highly that he thinks he should be the one helming the film.

His switch to the director’s chair has given his haters even more ammunition, since he apparently can find only one actor good enough to cast in the lead role in his films: himself. His movie Argo won Best Picture at the Oscars but has the dubious distinction of being only the fourth movie to win that award without its director being nominated and the first since Driving Miss Daisy in 1990. His career seemed to be back on track, but he still couldn’t get any love from the Academy. Because people don’t think Affleck has changed or been humbled at all, they will never forgive him for his past.

Even with all the praise he’s getting for Gone Girl, many of Affleck’s detractors say he does so well in the role because the not-as-good-as-he-thinks character he plays is really just Affleck in disguise. After all, Fincher even cops to casting the actor after seeing countless photos of his insincere lopsided grin. Actors never get credit for playing a role that is close to who they really are. Just look at Courtney Love’s underappreciated turn as a destructive druggie in The People vs. Larry Flynt.

If we haven’t forgiven Affleck in the almost 15 years since Bennifer, is it ever going to happen? It’s doubtful, but there could be an erosion over time. If he keeps making enough good movies, eventually people might start to hate him less, or see the hate as futile and let it go, moving on to a new target. It wouldn’t hurt, though, if he pulled a Woody Allen and started getting some other leading men in front of his camera. Or maybe he could borrow some of Angelina Jolie’s juju and dedicate himself to humanitarian efforts for a bit. After all, she pulled off the great magic trick of making the public forget that she is a former bisexual who wore Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck and made out with her brother on the red carpet at the Oscars. (Fun fact: that sibling kiss happened in 2000, the year before Bennifer was born, so complete image turnaround was possible in that time span if Affleck had dedicated himself to it.)

Maybe his turnaround could start with Gone Girl. Kay, one of the Affleck afflicted who talked to me for this story, says the movie changed her mind about him. “He was spot-on—indifferent, uncomfortable to watch, yet funny,” she says. “Maybe he is the One. Oh God, maybe we are all wrong about Ryan Reynolds too. Ryan Reynolds, future Oscar winner for The Benazir Bhutto Story.”

Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine and a few other safe-for-work publications.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


Brad and Angelina Getting Married Is a Slap in the Face to Gay Americans

Global Summit To End Sexual Violence In Conflict
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie attend the Global Summit to end Sexual Violence in Conflict at ExCel on June 13, 2014 in London, England. Danny Martindale—FilmMagic

I’m sorry, Brangelina, but real fighters for civil rights don’t buckle under pressure when it gets hard

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt got married last weekend at their magical fairy castle in France. Mazel tov! I would hate to deny anyone their happiness and tell them they can’t get married when they’re in love. Oh wait, except that is exactly what the federal government tells countless gay couples every day by refusing to recognize their rights to get married. Angie and Brad spoke out in support of gay marriage many times and even vowed they wouldn’t say their marriage vows until everyone could. Guess what, Mr. and Mrs. Pitt, not everyone can get married, so how good is your promise?

Back in a 2006 Esquire article, Brad said that he and Angie “will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.” I can’t tell you how much this meant to gays and lesbians all over the country. They were two of the first celebrities to draw attention to the fight for marriage equality and did it before marriage was legal in states like New York, Connecticut, Iowa, California and a growing number every year. This brought international attention to the cause and showed that they were principled people who were willing to put their beliefs before their convenience.

Now they got married in France and it just all seems like a ruse. Maybe they just meant that they would get married somewhere, like France, where marriage is legal for all couples and has been since 2013? It’s like their trans-Atlantic knot tying is some sort of logistical and semantic alley-oop around the vow that they already took to the gay community. “Oh, well, if we do it in France maybe the gays won’t notice.” Sadly, when it comes to same-sex marriage, what happens in France stays in France. In fact, if I went to France and married a Frenchman (let’s call him Pierre), it wouldn’t even be recognized in a majority of states in this great nation of ours. That shows you how good getting married in France is. (Remember when we were changing “French” to “freedom?” Not when it comes to same-sex marriage!)

Still it seems like what Brad and Angie said the first time around doesn’t matter to them at all. It’s as if they didn’t want to get married in 2006 and said, “What if we say it’s because gay people can’t get married? Then people will stop bothering us about getting hitched and we’ll look so noble.” Now that they’ve had their ceremony and the wedding cake is in the freezer, it looks like their declaration was mercenary rather than thoughtful. In 2012, shortly before their engagement became national news, Pitt told The Hollywood Reporter, “We made this declaration some time ago that we weren’t going to do it till everyone can. But I don’t think we’ll be able to hold out.” They even knew they were breaking their word but didn’t seem to care anymore.

I’m sorry, Brangelina, but real fighters for civil rights don’t buckle under pressure when it gets hard. The couple says that their legal union means a lot to the children and that’s why they did it. What about teaching their children about standing up for what you believe in, even when it’s tough and unpopular? What if one of their children grows up to be gay and still can’t get legally hitched? What about all the gay and lesbian couples out there they inspired? What about all the straight mothers and fathers and siblings they enlisted to fight for marriage equality with their once-selfless act? What about the other celebs like Charlize Theron and Kristen Bell who have taken a similar pledge? Well, they don’t have to stick by their word either anymore. In 2013, a year after Brad and Angelina announced their engagement, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard got hitched too. Now that the biggest celebrities in the Hollywood firmament aren’t keeping their pledge, looks like no one else has to either.

I’m sure their choice to walk down the aisle was a difficult decision that required plenty of discussion, but, to the masses not able to penetrate their very closed doors, it appears as though the couple suddenly thought, “Hey, what they heck, let’s get married.” Well, there are still millions of people who don’t even have that option. What are they supposed to do? Are their rights not worth fighting for anymore? Apparently not. Gay Americans won’t have full equality until we can get married on a whim too, like a drunk Britney Spears in Las Vegas.

Maybe they thought that we’ve come far enough in our fight for marriage equality that they don’t need to be spokespeople anymore. After all, gay marriage is legal in 19 states in the country and the constitutional bans on same-sex marriage have been struck down in Utah, Michigan, Arkansas, Wisconsin,and Indiana. Heck, the Supreme Court even said the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. It’s only a matter of time before Neil Patrick Harris and his partner will have the same status as Angelina and Brad from the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. And when that day comes, we’ll remember who stood with us not just when it was convenient or trendy, but for the entire fight to secure full marriage rights for all Americans.

Now, I recognize that with these two we’re talking about a couple of literal good-doers. Brangelina has always put their money where their beautiful mouths are, even donating $100,000 to fight Proposition 8, the California law that blocked gay marriage in the state. If they’re going to break their pledge and get married, the least they can do is make a sizable donation to the cause. What do you get the couple that literally has everything, including a chateau in France where they can get married anytime they feel like? Better yet, take the $529 million that the tabloids are sure to offer for exclusive wedding pictures and donate that to help fight for gay marriage. Leading by example is what gay and lesbian Americans really need, but since they’ve failed at that, we’ll at least take their money.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications. His boyfriend does not want to get married…yet.

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