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The latest celebrity cause: Defending the honor of Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt arrives for the PaleyFest presentation of NBC's “Parks and Recreation” at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood in March 2019. (Chris Delmas/AFP/Getty Images)

Wondering how Chris Pratt became the subject of a worldwide Twitter controversy and why Hollywood stars are suddenly tweeting about how he’s a really great guy? It all started with a game on the Internet.

This past weekend, TV producer and writer Amy Berg tweeted a time-honored question that you will often find on social media, but with a twist — instead of choosing the best Hollywood Chris, who is the worst Hollywood Chris?

“One has to go,” she captioned a photo of actors Chris Evans, Chris Pine, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pratt.

Overwhelmingly, people pointed to Pratt, the “Parks and Recreation” star turned Marvel superhero. Twitter users brought up Pratt’s association with the evangelical Hillsong Church, whose founder has made anti-LGBT statements. Plus the fact that Pratt follows several conservative commentators, politicians and organizations on social media — yet has remained silent on his views leading up to the presidential election — has led many to assume he is a supporter of President Trump.

Eventually, this caught the attention of E! News, which published a piece about “The Battle of the Hollywood Chrises” and promoted the story on Instagram. That was the last straw for Pratt’s wife, lifestyle blogger and TV personality Katherine Schwarzenegger.

There's Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt and Chris Pine. Who can keep them all straight? (Video: Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)

“Is this really what we need? There’s so much going on in the world and people struggling in so many ways. Being mean is so yesterday,” Schwarzenegger wrote in a comment on E! News’s Instagram post on Monday. “There’s enough room to love all these guys. Love is what we all need not meanness and bullying. Let’s try that.”

Over the next 24 hours, this topic really hit a nerve: By Tuesday, Pratt’s Marvel Cinematic Universe co-stars were leaping to his defense with passionate statements about how Pratt — who plays Star-Lord in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies — is actually a really good person.

“You all, @prattprattpratt is as solid a man there is. I know him personally, and instead of casting aspersions, look at how he lives his life. He is just not overtly political as a rule,” tweeted Mark Ruffalo, who stars as the Hulk in the Avengers franchise with Pratt. Ruffalo, a well-known Trump critic, is very political on social media. “This is a distraction. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize, friends. We are so close now.”

Robert Downey Jr., also known as Iron Man, agreed with Ruffalo’s assessment. “The ‘sinless’ are casting stones at my #brother, Chris Pratt … A real #Christian who lives by #principle, has never demonstrated anything but #positivity and #gratitude … AND he just married into a family that makes space for civil discourse and (just plain fact) INSISTS on service as the highest value,” he wrote on Instagram.

The defenses continued, from “Guardians” co-star Zoe Saldana, writer and director James Gunn and fellow Disney actor Josh Gad, along with his “Parks and Recreation” co-star Jim O’Heir.

Yet this just added to the backlash on social media Tuesday night, especially as people pointed out that Marvel stars including Brie Larson, Tessa Thompson, Zendaya and Saldana herself have faced sexist and racist comments for their roles in the franchise, yet there has not been a similar effort by castmates to jump to their defense.

As all of this unfolded, many on Twitter were confused as they tried to figure out where all this Pratt criticism was coming from. Although this particular controversy may have started with a Hollywood Chris Twitter poll, an Internet backlash has been brewing against the actor.

Last February, actress Ellen Page responded to a tweet about Pratt’s appearance on “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” in which he discussed his spirituality: “Oh. K. Um. But his church is infamously anti lgbtq so maybe address that too?” she wrote. Over the past three years, after his divorce from actress Anna Faris and marriage to Schwarzenegger, Pratt has become increasingly outspoken about his Christianity, including giving a religion-focused speech at the 2018 MTV Movie and TV Awards.

“If you are a famous actor and you belong to an organization that hates a certain group of people, don’t be surprised if someone simply wonders why it’s not addressed,” Page added. “Being anti LGBTQ is wrong, there aren’t two sides. The damage it causes is severe. Full stop. Sending love to all.”

Pratt is a member of the Zoe Church in Los Angeles, which is associated with Hillsong, a popular megachurch for celebrities. The Hillsong founder wrote a blog post in 2015 that stated, “Hillsong Church welcomes ALL people but does not affirm all lifestyles. Put clearly, we do not affirm a gay lifestyle,” while Zoe Church’s pastor executive produced a film that reportedly categorizes “same-sex attraction” as “sexual brokenness.”

Why Hollywood megachurches like Hillsong hide their true teachings

After Page’s tweet went viral, Pratt defended himself in an Instagram story: “It has recently been suggested that I belong to a church which ‘hates a certain group of people’ and is ‘infamously anti-LGBTQ.’ Nothing could be further from the truth,” he wrote, and added he had seen the church love and support people “regardless of sexual orientation, race or gender.”

Earlier this month, Pratt also rubbed people the wrong way with a tone-deaf Instagram post that mocked Hollywood stars who urged people to vote. “With all that’s going on in the world it is more important than ever that you vote. Just ask any celebrity. They will tell you. Every day. Several times a day. To vote. But me? I will tell you EXACTLY who to vote for,” he wrote — and then plugged his latest movie, “Onward,” for the People’s Choice Awards. “The upcoming 2020 People’s Choice Awards is the most consequential vote in the history of mankind times a million infinity. Vote for #Onward for family movie of the year. Or else. You WILL die. No hyperbole.”

This did not strike fans as hilarious right before a highly contentious election. People combed Pratt’s social media for clues about his political views and discovered he follows conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.), right-wing organization Turning Point USA and Fox News’s Bret Baier, among others. He was also absent from an Avengers cast fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, as well as a “Parks and Recreation” Democratic fundraising event in September.

While Pratt has not said who he’s voting for (his wife is definitively anti-Trump), it’s a familiar celebrity phenomenon: If you don’t say anything and appear to have any conservative leanings, people will come to their own conclusions.

In 2017, Pratt told Men’s Fitness that he didn’t relate to either side of the political spectrum: “You’re either the red state or the blue state, the left or the right. Not everything is politics. And maybe that’s something I’d want to help bridge, because I don’t feel represented by either side,” he said. “I don’t feel we have to be at war with each other like we are, and it’s just getting worse.”

(This post has been updated.)

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