I live in a little bit of a fantasy land. In this magical world, threatening your girlfriend with physical abuse is unacceptable under any circumstances – whether one is physically overpowering their partner or expressing relief that they did not have to resort to physical violence. Consent is respected 100 percent of the time. My closest friends are Amy Poehler and Kathleen Hanna. It’s a beautiful world filled with bad bitches and free pizza.
But sadly, reality differs greatly from fantasy. In our reality, pizza costs money, I do not personally know Amy Poehler or Kathleen Hanna (yet) and intimate partner violence is a huge issue. It’s a shitty place in a lot of ways. Even worse, sometimes my reality check comes at the hands of some asshole like Shia Labeouf. Even worse than that, sometimes this reality check involves Shia Labeouf and the threat of intimate partner violence. Even worse than that, I find it to be my obligation to write about the offending incident, which is much less fun than writing about my crush on Ronda Rousey and eating Chik-Fil-A while stoned.
But fuck it, let’s talk about Shia Labeouf.
He’s a well-documented, self-indulgent douchebag. That’s all well and good. We all make life choices, some of them are dumb, but it’s our right. If Shia Labeouf wants to live tweet his acid trip, that’s his prerogative. I can think it’s a masturbatory publicity stunt and choose to ignore it – that’s my prerogative.
But there’s a fine line between acceptable and unacceptable asshole behavior. Annoying publicity stunts that you decide constitute as art simply because nobody understands them falls in line with acceptable asshole behavior. Threatening your girlfriend with physical violence during a fight because she has possession of your backpack, however, qualifies as strictly unacceptable. Does this make sense to you? Congratulations! You have a moral conscience! While it may not seem like a difficult concept to grasp, Shia Labeouf’s recently recorded fight with his girlfriend Mia Goth proves that these basic ideas of respect and anger management are not universal.
“I don’t wanna touch you. I don’t wanna be aggressive. This is the kind of shit that makes a person abusive,” Labeouf yelled to his girlfriend as she approached him, holding his backpack. After Goth leaves, Labeouf can be heard on video saying, “If I’d have stayed there, I would have killed her.”
Reading the transcript of their fight is akin to being beaten with red flags. Labeouf takes every opportunity to intimidate Goth without the use of physical force, while clearly alluding to its looming presence. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that their relationship wreaks of dysfunction and possibly physical abuse. Everything he says puts the blame clearly on Goth’s shoulders. Every sentence could be followed by him saying, “… you’re forcing me.”
“I don’t wanna touch you, but you’re forcing me to.”
“I don’t wanna be aggressive, but you’re forcing me to.”
“This is the kind of shit that makes a person abusive, like you’re forcing me to be.”
It’s some deeply disturbing, victim-blaming bullshit. And what’s more disturbing is that we’ll stop caring by next Tuesday. Because, much like myself, we as a society live in a fantasy land. We live in a land where only really, truly dysfunctional couples end up in violent situations. We live in a fantasy land where, if nobody ends up with bruises and broken bones, then we assume they never will. We live in a fantasy land where we talk ourselves in circles until we can convince ourselves that, by whatever demented logic it takes, the victim played an equal part in her abuse. We live in a world where only drunken hicks wearing wife beaters can be wife beaters – but self-proclaimed artists are just eccentric and passionate. We live in a fantasy land where Mia Goth should have just given him his backpack. In our fantasy land, we shouldn’t even be talking about this because everyone’s relationship is their own business.
Look, I don’t want to talk about Shia Labeouf anymore than you guys do. But if we ever have any hope of becoming best friends with Amy Poehler and Kathleen Hanna in my fantasy land, we have to start acknowledging this shit for what it is. And that is not a one time outburst by an unstable artist that just happened to be caught on camera. It’s one man demonstrating the symptoms of a societal illness.
Don’t wait until another celebrity hurls threats at their significant other before you leave fantasy land.
Molly Regan is an improviser and writer in Baltimore. She likes chicken pot pie, Adam Scott’s butt and riot grrl.