Nearly two years ago, a short documentary called Jim Carrey: I Needed Color revealed the performer as a thoughtful, disciplined, legitimately decent painter. “Did you know Jim Carrey is actually a pretty good painter?” became a thing one might say at a 2017 party when the initial volley of small talk was exhausted.
It wasn’t long, however, before Carrey started using his secondary skill set as a medium for political expression. The actor’s pointedly topical paintings were cute at first (maybe?), with depictions of Trump exaggerated into ghoulish grotesquery, and then they weren’t. The frequency of these paintings, and the subsequent media coverage they received, diluted any potential impact they might have had. By May of 2019, these paintings have become about as subversive and welcome as a #resistance dad who stylizes the president’s name “tRump.”
Considering the reaction Carrey’s latest painting has inspired, perhaps the Ben Garrison of liberals will reconsider his approach to political cartooning in the future.
As reported by The Wrap, Carrey’s take on the recent wave of abortion bills passing in Southern states has been embraced by anti-abortion activists.
I think If you’re going to terminate a pregnancy, it should be done sometime before the fetus becomes Governor of Alabama. pic.twitter.com/6QgsY2rMz7
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) May 18, 2019
Like all of Carrey’s other illustrative work, the intentions are clear and they’re about as subtle as his take on The Riddler. The painting depicts Alabama Governor Kay Ivey as a baby being vacuumed out of a womb. It’s gross! It’s also very much Not Helping. Sure, lots of pro-choice Americans probably wish some form of ill on Ivey after she introduced some of the most barbaric abortion laws in the nation’s history. But portraying that ill as the fate of any fetus a woman chooses to abort is rather unfortunate framing. Carrey’s conception of abortion as something he would wish upon his foes only helps make the case anti-choice advocates have been making for decades.
Anti-abortion hardliners knew Carrey had inadvertently left them an opening and pounced, with power braintrust of Ben Shapiro, Jack Posobiec, and Joey Salads all drumlining Carrey’s choice to portray abortion as murder.
It was the second time in recent weeks that a prominent progressive’s response to recent attempts to chip away at Roe v Wade have backfired. On May 11, celebrity activist Alyssa Milano proposed a #SexStrike as a form of payback against Georgia’s “heartbeat bill.” Obviously, Milano means well. Doing a modern Lysistrata may sound like a way to use feminist agency to make a media-ready statement, but only if you don’t think about it for longer than three seconds. A sex strike in response to an abortion ban a) makes the reductive point that sex is only something that men want and women provide, b) rewards evangelicals with the chastity they purport to crave, and c) assumes that a substantial portion of the nation’s pro-choice women are sleeping with anti-choice men, which, probably not.
As many headlines as the #SexStrike fetched, admittedly achieving the goal of spreading awareness of the “heartbeat bill,” Milano also ignited a progressive backlash on Twitter in the process.
Whether they’re alienating many who are on the same side or giving ammunition to their opponents, progressive celebrities would do well to be as careful when choosing their words and images as the evil geniuses who initially framed their position as “pro-life” in the first place.