Shia LaBeouf has done a lot of things that may or may not be excusable in polite society. For an actor in the 21st century, he’s weird and dangerous in an almost antiquated way, a particularly high-strung weirdo who is now more Dada art-show than movie star. It’s been a tangled journey. He’s made the transition from precocious Fred Savage-like child star, to incongruous Michael Bay muse, to meta plagiarist, to high-strung avant-garde human being. Now, he’s a minor folk hero of the Trump Imperium, resisting tyranny via a livestream, which even the Founders would have approved of, so long as they didn’t assume the internet was witchcraft.
His new project, HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US, an exhibit at the Museum of Moving Image, is intended as a four-year interactive protest (that it is four years and not eight proves only that LaBeouf is an optimist!) of the already odious presidency of Donald J. Trump. The livestream has featured both ordinary folks saying their piece into a camera and also my friend Jaden Smith.
Perhaps to a few naysayers and killjoys, a project like this might come off as grandstanding or another example of celebrities not staying in their lane. However, at least up to this early point, it’s been more about him lending his clout and very weird, sometimes uncomfortable charisma to something bigger than himself—besides, not enough rich people can be bothered to stand in the cold in solidarity with the hoi polloi. In other words, it’s easy to pay lip service to a noble cause from a position of privilege, but guys, this is Shia LaBeouf, and he’s already walking the walk so to speak, defending this space. And doing so physically of course, because alone among millennial movie stars, Shia has that death-wish poetry in his eyes; that sensitive-boy rage that can raise a temple or burn it down with equal ease. So, obviously if some punk-ass motherfucking Nazi pissboys want to troll his newest endeavor, then they should know the star of Michael Bay’s Transformers is not the random famous person to step to without expecting a counterpunch.
LaBeouf was arrested Wednesday for pushing a man who, after getting his moment on camera with Shia, said the very chill sentence, “Hitler did nothing wrong!” The full extent of this arrest-worthy altercation was not caught on video, but nonetheless, things got understandably heated and the NYPD dutifully dragged LaBeouf away. Is Shia LaBeouf, the guy who was for some reason in the newest and worst Indiana Jones movie, a hero? Probably not, but he did rise to the occasion in a way that many of us have failed to do. He didn’t let a Nazi (or hilarious troll!) off the hook. He struck back. That’s not heroism anymore—just the thing we have to do now, the thing we have to get used to in this repulsive new era of emboldened eugenicists and segregation-happy alt-right dweebs hiding behind their anime avatars and Pepe memes.
Whether your desire to say a thing like “Hitler did nothing wrong!” in public is motivated by your sincere belief that the Germanic peoples of the Fatherland are genetically and culturally superior and that the “mud races” must be cleansed, or if you just simply hate that there’s no White History Month, or even if you’re doing it as some hyper-ironic Sex Pistols swastika armband goofball-ism, you deserve to be shunned, called out, confronted, and if need be, punched in your pink face. Punching Nazis, and the merits of punching Nazis, is after all, in the news, thanks to the delightful video of “dapper Nazi” Richard Spencer getting decked during the inauguration. Was it a dastardly sucker punch that just brings us down to their level, or was it more a symbolic moment of national pride, like those marines hoisting the flag at Iwo Jima? We’re hotly debating this in the “gotta hear both sides” alleyways of online discourse. Perhaps this is, to some, a matter of carefully weighed nuance where one must consult the Code of Hammurabi or some old legal tome. But on the other hand, it’s not complicated, it’s simple: Our bold opinion is that punching Nazis is good.
READ MORE: Complex.com
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