Ezra Miller has been doing the rounds among Gay Twitter, with a hefty supply of interviews and red carpet appearances flooding our timelines as promotion of his latest venture, The Crimes of Grindelwald. We’ve had the Fifth Element black puffer dress with the strong black lip in Paris, the angelic Zoolander bird with scribble hands in London, and most recently, the Playboy shoot; femmed-up bunny in heels. (I obviously don’t know anything about fashion, I’m so sorry.)
Openly identifying as queer — “queer just means no, I don’t do that. I don’t identify as a man. I don’t identify as a woman” — and “comfortable with all the pronouns,” Miller has slowly cemented himself as queer icon ever since breakout roles in We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) and Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) The latter even saw him playing a gay character, Patrick — who knew Hollywood could do that! Having Miller take the world stage in all his gender-queer glory is something we should absolutely be celebrating.
Yet I couldn’t help but feel exhausted by his “whoa, OK!” omnipresence.
Unsure if my growing Ezra Miller fatigue was a result of some internalised queerphobia I hadn’t quite worked on yet, or whether I was just tired of seeing the same series of photos with every scroll (maybe my Leo ass was jealous of the attention), I took to Twitter for help (always healthy). A good friend offered an easy out: “He made a documentary about Mike Brown’s murder from the perspective of the officer who shot him.”
Would performative wokeness be the escape I needed!? I read on.
In 2015, Ezra Miller directed The Truth According to Darren Wilson. Wilson was the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. The killing followed a long and ongoing history of American police brutality and gun violence against Black men and women, and spurred the Ferguson unrest, a series of protests and uprisings which looked to instigate public discourse around police militarization, racial profiling and discrimination, and use-of-force law in Missouri.
The killing of Michael Brown further galvanized political action by the #BlackLivesMatter movement. “We understood Ferguson was not an aberration, but in fact, a clear point of reference for what was happening to Black communities everywhere,” the movement says in a herstory statement on their website. “When it was time for us to leave, inspired by our friends in Ferguson, organizers from 18 different cities went back home and developed Black Lives Matter chapters in their communities and towns.”
On March 4, 2015, the US Department of Justice reported, “no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety.” Wilson was not charged.
Reading these tweets — Ezra Miller creating art in an attempt to sympathize with the perpetrator of such awful violence — was profoundly disturbing. The essay accompanying the film didn’t help: “This is an issue beyond race; this is a question of our humanity and moral fabric … We could explore what happens to us when we take a human life, what happens to the collective psyche when we attempt to assign personal blame or justification alone … This film is not about picking a side, this is about recognition of the fear that we all possess and the need for us to chart a new course.”
Except that when we make art that centers the experience of the perpetrator — attempts to humanize them, investigates their psyche — what we’re ultimately doing is redistributing the responsibility for change onto the victims/survivors and their allies. We don’t need to get into their heads. We don’t need to understand why they did it. We already have the answers: systemic racism which dehumanizes and debases Black bodies and their lived experiences. Instead we need narratives that center the victim and survivors, ones that humanize their stories, bodies, experiences, and lives. This is why Three Billboards Over Ebbing, Missouri was an awful film.
Was our queer internet darling, Ezra Miller, #BlueLivesMatter? Was anything sacred in 2018? I asked myself these questions. Then I did something truly unheard of: I went to the source material, I watched The Truth According to Darren Wilson.
First, this is not a documentary, or even really a film. The four-minute short is a dramatization of the post acquittal ABC interview, depicting Wilson sitting in a chair — fidgeting, nervous — and speaking on the incident. Except the ending reveals a twist: “Mr. Wilson, we’re ready for you.” This was all just a private rehearsal in front of a mirror. In this final moment the audience is meant to click to the fact that Wilson is a liar and manipulator, “OK,” he smiles, heading towards the actual interview.
In short: no, Miller didn’t direct a documentary sympathizing with the cop who shot and killed Michael Brown. But he did create a piece of art that I don’t think is particularly helpful or tells us anything we don’t already know. It seems almost exploitive to use the killing of Michael Brown and reduce it as some kind of plot-twist, especially when pairing it with that truly messy “this is an issue beyond race” prose. Resources could’ve been invested better, definitely, but I don’t think The Crimes of Ezra Miller are evident enough for a 2018 cancellation.
It’s important we hold people accountable, particularly when they’re in the public and maybe even more so when they come to represent us. But in this ridiculous alternative facts, post-truth, fake news glitch-of-a-world it’s vital we consider the source material, click on the link, read to the bottom (thank you!) and make our own judgements. Because it’s eerily ironic just how quickly we looked to discredit Ezra Miller for creating The Truth According to Darren Wilson without actually relying on much of the truth at all.