It has been a less than stellar year for celebrities. Will Smith slapped the piss out of Chris Rock for comparing his wife to a beloved action hero. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard publicly relived every detail of a relationship so toxic that it made nuclear waste look like sparkling water.
Still, no one has surpassed the exploits of Ezra Miller. A star of such films as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Fantastic Beasts and the forthcoming The Flash, Miller shows every sign of transitioning to documentaries — and true crime in particular.
Miller’s alleged criminal rampage has been one of the most bizarre subplots of 2022. An androgynous eccentric with the features of a bird of prey, Miller was filmed choking a female fan in 2020. In March this year, he was arrested for assaulting a man and woman at a karaoke bar in Hawai’i. A few weeks afterwards, he was arrested in Hawai’i again having allegedly struck a woman in the forehead with a chair.
Darker allegations surfaced in the following months. The parents of an eighteen-year-old girl obtained a protective order against Miller which accused him of “physically and emotionally abusing” and grooming the young woman. The girl denies that she has been abused but her parents claim that Miller has been subjecting her to “cult-like and psychologically manipulative, controlling behavior” for years.
Meanwhile, a twelve-year-old in Massachusetts was granted a different protective order after Miller allegedly threatened them. The actor is claimed to have flown into a rage after the child’s mother — and I’m not making this up — questioned the depth of Miller’s knowledge about Rastafari culture. Such an offense! Miller reportedly apologized but is alleged to have made unwanted physical contact with the child.
Now, Miller, who considers himself nonbinary and prefers to be referred to by “they/them” pronouns, is apparently holed up on his farm in Vermont with a mother, her three children, a lot of guns and a lot of marijuana. According to sources who have spoken to Rolling Stone, “unattended guns [are] strewn around the home.” The mother told the magazine that Miller’s ranch has been “a healing haven” and that her kids “are able to relax more into their healing because of the safety and nurturing Ezra has been providing for them” (which sounds very natural and not at all cult-like).
It is difficult to know the scale of Miller’s misdeeds. It is worth saying that a protective order is not a conviction and, thus, it has yet to be established whether or not he has behaved improperly with kids. Still, judges don’t hand them out like free brochures — and a trio of allegations is eyebrow-raising. Either parents across the United States are perversely invested in discrediting the actor or he has been up to something dark. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, Hawai’i is recovering from the tornado of lipstick-smeared violence that Miller perpetrated. His arrests were the culmination of a series of strange, disturbing events which had prompted ten separate complaints against him, with minor but suggestive accusations including “filming people at a gas station and refusing to leave the sidewalk area of a restaurant.”
We have to ask ourselves if Hollywood enables anti-social attitudes and behavior. It is obvious that Miller stews with combined aggression and self-righteousness. To his mind, he is a paragon of social justice and you are in big trouble if you disagree.
I don’t know Miller, of course, but I suspect the principles exist to rationalize the misbehavior. Politics, in many cases, ennoble narcissism and rage. In January this year, Miller filmed a message addressed to what he called “the Beulaville chapter of the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan.” “Look,” he said,
if y’all want to die, I suggest just killing yourselves with your own guns, OK? Otherwise, keep doing exactly what you’re doing right now — and you know what I am talking about — and then, you know, we’ll do it for you if that’s what you want.
Of course, no one’s hearts bleed for the Klan. But it is not clear which chapter Miller was referring to or what exactly it was “doing.” Was there genuine cause for outrage here or was Miller simply in the mood for a spot of the old ultraviolence?
Further clues regarding Miller’s fragile mental state can be located in an old Hollywood Reporter interview. Around the time of the #MeToo movement, Miller spoke of the “creepy reptile manager” who had introduced him to the business and a “#MeToo moment, which he has never shared, with an unnamed director and producer” when he was a boy. Did he make this up? Perhaps. But perhaps not. Often, traumatized people go on to inflict trauma on others.
Of course, it would be unfair to implicate a whole industry in the misbehavior of one man. Still, it is impossible not to see Miller as a vivid embodiment of Hollywood pathologies we can observe elsewhere. Here, we find rage born out of narcissistic self-entitlement. Here, we find a savior complex born out of unearned self-importance. Here, we find emotional incontinence masquerading as spiritual profundity.
We must hope that Miller finds the help he needs, or, if his actions have been as bad as some have been alleging, the fate he deserves. His behavior is at best unstable and instability tends to grow more rather than less dramatic.
But we must also hope that 2022 will foster a more humble attitude among the rich and famous, who, for all their talents, rarely offer glistening examples of virtue and enlightenment. (Of course, neither do writers, but that’s another story.)