Are the men of Hollywood okay? Because, from where I’m sitting, an increasing number of them seem incapable of basic propriety when it comes to texting. As though somehow their phone screen represents a different realm entirely, where they can say things that they wouldn’t in real life, and certainly not in public.
Jonah Hill is the latest high profile man to have texts said to be sent from him exposed: the Superbad actor’s ex-girlfriend, model and surfer Sarah Brady, revealed alleged exchanges, in which he purported to lay down boundaries for their ‘romantic partnership’, but looked very much like attempts to control her.
The messages were apparently sent during their 2021 relationship and included demands from Hill, 39, that Brady, 26, should a) not model b) hang out with surfers or 3) post pictures of herself in swimwear in the name of honouring his ‘boundaries’.
However, Brady (plus legions of social media commentators and mental health experts who have since weighed in on the drama), says Hill has essentially co-opted therapy speak cynically in order to manipulate and control. “Healthy boundaries are meant to promote mutual respect, autonomy, and wellbeing for all individuals involved, and not be used as a tool for control or simply getting your own way,” says Smriti Joshi, Lead Psychologist at AI-enabled mental health app Wysa.
At one point, for instance, Hill appears to mock Brady’s career choice, “Go model! It’s a fulfilling life you’ll love it. Real depth and substance and sustainability for relationships”. And in another, he responds to her letting him know she’s removed images of her in swimsuits from her social media, with the ominous “it’s a start”.
Brady, who labelled Hill a ‘misogynist’ and a ‘narcissist’, has received criticism for sharing the messages with the entire world, especially as his current partner gave birth to their first baby just last month. But when exactly is the optimum time to call out emotionally abusive or inappropriate behaviour?
James Franco, 45, found himself in hot water after he started DM’ing a 17-year-old girl on Instagram in 2018. He met Lucy Clode, from Scotland, as she was leaving his Broadway performance in Of Mice and Men, she recorded a video of them together before tagging him in it. Franco messaged her questions such as “You’re single?” “What’s the hotel?” “Should I rent a room?”, which went viral after she posted them online.
Franco later claimed to have been “a gentleman” but admitted that the entire episode was indicative of how “tricky” social media is and that he had shown “bad judgement”.
Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, 44, issued a grovelling apology to his wife and children after 23-year-old model Sumner Stroh last year claimed she had a year-long affair with the rocker and posted a series of messages he sent her during that time to TikTok. These ranged from telling her he “may need to see the booty” to asking her her how she’d feel about him naming his third child - that he was expecting with wife Victoria’s Secret Model Behati Prinsloo at the time - Sumner.
Levine denied the relationship went beyond online flirting, despite one of his messages saying “You are 50 times hotter in person”.
After Stroh’s big reveal other women came forward cofirming that Levine’s “poor judgement” was not a one off thing and that his sexting game left a lot to be desired. “Watching your ass jiggle on that table will permanently scar me,” he text one woman. “I’d do anything for it. I’d buy it a steak dinner and whisper sweet nothings into it.” Sorry, what?
Worse, still, are the stars who employ violent imagery in their texts - like those Johnny Depp, 60, sent about Amber Heard to fellow actor Paul Bettany and revealed during the Pirates of the Caribbean star’s libel case against The Sun in 2020.
“Let’s burn Amber!” wrote Depp. Bettany responded suggesting they do a “drowning test” to see if Heard was a witch.
Depp was enthusiastic to the tune of three exclamation marks in his reply: “Let’s drown her before we burn her!!! I will f*** her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she’s dead.”
All this feels very much in the wheelhouse of Call Me By Your Name actor Armie Hammer, 36, who sent texts containing rape and cannibalism fanatasies to multiple women, who then shared them publicly in 2021. One read: “I want to bite you... Brand you, tattoo you, mark you, shave your head and keep your hair with me, cut a piece of your skin off and make you cook it for me.”
He was then accused of rape by a former girlfriend. The allegations combined with the detail in the texts were so horrifying they cost Hammer his career - his agency WME dropped him - and led to a police investigation into sexual assault (he was ultimately not charged).
Quite aside from many rich and famous men (with much to lose) simply not getting the memo that things you write down and send to people will always run the risk of being leaked, the more pressing issue is a total disregard for both basic text etiquette and, you know, the law. Hopefully, some day soon, these men will recieve their own message. Understand that texts involving threats, mortifying sexual advances using clumsy metaphors, gas lighting, guilt tripping, or sexual abuse, will never be OK.