This isn't the first time Chris Pratt has been at the centre of an Internet controversy. Way back in October 2020, Twitter overwhelmingly voted him The Worst Chris (in what was quite a funny and harmless Twitter poll).
There was quite a lot to unpack about the controversy, which we did! Now we're back at it again, this time exploring why the producers of the upcoming Super Mario movie had to defend casting Pratt in the title role (a sentence we never thought we'd have to type).
Pratt, who is best known for starring in a range of recognisable-IP franchises from Lego to Jurassic World to Guardians of the Galaxy, was perhaps unsurprisingly — and yet totally shockingly — cast as Mario in the upcoming movie adaptation.
The Internet was quick to jump on Pratt's casting, while enjoying Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, celebrating Jack Black as Bowser and pointing out the general absurdity of a Super Mario Bros movie. Pratt was also cast as Garfield, to which the Internet responded with similar ire.
my objection isn't really to chris pratt per se; my objection is that mario should be treated like the joker where a different prestige actor goes insane trying to get inside his twizted mind every 3 or 4 years
— lauren (@ActNormalOrElse) September 24, 2021
chris pratt is erasing every animated italian. first mario, now garfield, who's next?? has this man ever eaten a lasagna
— ambrr 🌬️❄️ (@mbrleigh) November 1, 2021
chris pratt playing mario is italiaphobia and i'm tired of acting like it isn't
— hasanabi (@hasanthehun) September 23, 2021
Someone who isn’t Italian is doing the voice of Mario pic.twitter.com/z8ZWlJuyou
— Patrick Monahan (@pattymo) September 23, 2021
Chris Pratt can't use Mario's regular voice because Jared Leto already used it for HOUSE OF GUCCI https://t.co/pu4wEHONN9
— Sam Adams (@SamuelAAdams) November 23, 2021
This all has lead Super Mario Bros producer Chris Meledandri to publically defend casting Pratt.
He assured the public that the movie wouldn't lean into the classic and stereotypical accent, while also hinting that it might be the source of jokes within the film itself (how meta). He added: "That's not the tenor of the performance throughout the film.
"All I can tell you is the voice that he's doing for us, and Mario, is phenomenal. I can't wait for people to hear it." He then added that actor Charlie Day, who voices Luigi, "actually comes from Italian heritage. Yeah, so that's our nod."
chris pratt is playing mario pic.twitter.com/KiWVoVkY5z
— Vincent Martella (@VinMan17) September 23, 2021
A layer that Meledandri seemed to either misunderstand or not be cognisant of was the fact that the consternation around Pratt's casting is less to do with a lack of Italian heritage and more to do with his general... Pratt-ness. (Sorry.)
As we pointed out previously, Pratt reportedly attends a church that promoted conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people (though he denied his church is involved in such practices and in 2011 the church itself disavowed conversion therapy). Pratt's apolitical media presence (compared to, say fellow Marvel star Chris Evans) has led many to assume he's at best a closet Republican, at worst a closet Trump supporter.
Reactions to Pratt's casting hinted that this was truly the issue at hand. Though all presented humorously, criticism of Pratt is valid — his proximity to what appears to be an, at best, conservative religious group (and at worst a bigoted one) has made him both an easy target but also someone worthy of challenging in a real way.
The second issue, which Meledandri sort of gets, is that Pratt isn't Italian. But there's more to it than that.
House of Gucci was recently put under the Twitter microscope for the terrible Italian accents that litter the film. But the film itself is so over the top, and each actor leans so heavily into its absurdity, the bad accents somehow work (even if the movie, as a whole, did not).
Mario's accent is a punchline and however offensive some may find it, it isn't the crux of the issue. As one Twitter user wryly pointed out: "Chris Pratt is a gentile and as such is not party to the 1947 treaty between Jews and Italians that allows us to play each other in movies. He does not come from a yelling-based culture."
The idea that because one actor comes from Italian heritage, and therefore casting Pratt is fine, seems a strange 'get out of jail free card' for a complex and, frankly, bizarre issue. It's hard to tell whether anyone cares that Pratt isn't Italian, but rather that he continues to get the unfettered support of an industry when it feels vaguely like we're all waiting for the metaphorical Gucci loafer to drop.
The Super Mario Bros. film is currently untitled but is planned for release on December 21, 2022.
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