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About a month ago, we here at Complex Pop Culture found ourselves deep in debate over an important question. Which male celebrity is doing the most to raise awareness about inequality and dismantle the crippling nature of our racist, patriarchal society? In other words: Who is the wokest bae?
We identified 32 men in Hollywood who are enacting change and bettering the world we live in—and looking totally bae while doing it. Now it's your turn to help us decide who should prevail above the rest. Voting for the Final Four is now open, until midnight ET today. Every day for the rest of the week, you'll weigh in on which bae is woker than the other. After the final round on Friday, the wokest bae will finally be crowned.
Obviously, this is all in good fun—wokeness is not a competition. Really, it's more like a call to action, especially in the times we live in. We're only a few days removed from the Republican National Convention, where Donald Trump and co. basically preached about the virtues of inequality while wearing #BlueLivesMatter T-shirts. Being woke isn't some fun hobby—it's a necessity. With that said, let's pick our favorite woke bae. Keep scrolling, do your duty, and vote.
1. Matt Mcgorry vs. 8. james franco
James Franco doesn't hold a wokeass candle to Matt McGorry, who is so woke that we're not convinced he's ever been sleep. McGorry has only really been woke for a year, but he's made up for lost time by going HAM on his newfound passion for equal rights. Franco, meanwhile, is selectively woke—he'll support female creatives in an industry that's still unfair to them, but he'll often appropriate cultures, pretending to be gay or a woman for the purpose of…performance art or something? We're not sure. Matt McGorry is unquestionably woke on all levels—when he's not on Orange Is the New Black, he spends his free time designing feminist T-shirts, freeing the nipple, reading The New Jim Crow shirtless, speaking out about police brutality—the list goes on and on. Sometimes McGorry is a little too try-hard, but you can't be mad at a dude who's got his social justice agenda in order.
Final: 1. Matt McGorry wins (62%)
4. kal penn vs. 5. Kevin Bacon
Honestly, it’s unclear if Kal Penn is woke or just wanted to work in government. And there are plenty of government officials who are decidedly un-woke—for example, Terry England, who really upset Kevin Bacon when he likened women to farm animals in 2012. In fact, Kevin was so upset, he made a MoveOn.Org petition like a newly liberal college sophomore. That’s when you know someone is truly woke—when they are willing to stand up/log on to MoveOn.Org and say, “Human women are definitively different from cows!”
Final: 4. Kal Penn wins (63%)
2. aziz ansari vs. 7. bradley cooper
Bradley Cooper is cool and all, and he should be applauded for backing up Jennifer Lawrence after her wage-gap essay. (Though one has to ask: Would Cooper have been as outspokenly supportive if the actress in question wasn't one of his frequent co-stars?). But Aziz Ansari's entire career has been built on wokeness. He's one of the guys who made it okay for men to be outwardly woke. Every man we know was obsessed with Ansari's grotesque alterego RAAAAAAAANDY, not realizing that it was a subtle parody on the horridness of the male ego. And since then, Ansari's only become more overt about his wokeness. He's been outspoken as a feminist, written an entire book about modern romance and the sexism that comes with it, told Donald Trump to fuck himself, and written an episode of television that depicts the strict differences between everyday life for men and women. Aziz should be in the Final Four of this thing, let's be honest.
Final: 2. Aziz Ansari wins (85%)
3. Idris elba vs. 6. Keanu Reeves
This is hard because it kind of feels like Keanu Reeves is drenched in the sum total of pain afflicting human existence, if only by virtue of all the tragedies he’s endured. It’s pretty cool that he is not literally Scrooge at this point, and sharing his Matrix salary with the crew was a truly transcendent act of kindness. Still, in terms of actual wokeness, Idris Elba is just doing so much more. He spoke to Parliament about diversity in media, and is so down with woke stuff like “starting dialogues.” This round goes to Idris, IMO, but we need to vote anyway to continue his proud tradition of insisting upon the “diversity of thought.” Damn.
Final: 3. Idris Elba wins (83%)
1. Mark Ruffalo vs. 8. Colin Firth
Man, this is a toughie: both Mark Ruffalo and Colin Firth are silver foxes and deeply woke. Ruffalo’s always out there campaigning for Bernie Sanders and saying how anti-fracking he is on all social media platforms. Firth cares deeply about the environment, and he’s involved in making sure his carbon footprint is reduced. Firth’s downside to his wokeness is that he hasn’t been as vocal about feminism or LGTBQ rights as Ruffalo, who, in a very babe-ly move, spoke at an abortion rights rally in 2013. But Firth cares deeply about indigenous people and was involved in a campaign to help stop the deportation of Congolese asylum seekers. His wokeness even translated into an academic paper about brain scans on politicians to see if there were differences depending on their political leanings. It’s a tough draw between these two iconic baes. Maybe the tiebreaker is that some of Ruffalo's wokeness has, unfortunately, veered over into conspiracy theory territory. Eek!
Final: 1. Mark Ruffalo wins (82%)
4. danny devito vs. 5. ezra miller
Danny Devito is lovable for the way he manages to keep his wokeness to himself. Dude’s not out here screaming “feminist ally” from the highest hill in Hollywood like others in our bracket, but an interview with the Guardian in 2012 revealed that he’s out here for gender equality. “Most men somewhere in their psyche are still dragging women around by their hair,” he said. Meanwhile, what’s most endearing about Ezra’s wokeness is the fact that he’s been on it for a minute now—even before Hollywood’s interest in the Internet’s empathetic boyfriend peaked sometime mid-2015. Back in 2013, Ezra Miller spoke at a rally for One Billion Rising, an organization that works to end violence against women. The kid dropped some serious knowledge on attendees when he said, “One in three women in the world will experience domestic violence or rape within the course of their lifetime...I grew up in a household of women and I feel that all revolutionary causes should start with addressing misogyny.” So, while Danny is definitely Zaddy, Ezra is woke bae AF.
Final: 5. Ezra Miller wins (61%)
2. Patrick Stewart vs. 7. Andy Samberg
Another tough one here. Patrick Stewart is against hitting women (one point) and has basically spent a chunk of his later career vaguely pretending to be gay with Ian McKellen—or at least being down with people thinking he is gay with Ian McKellen. Still, Andy Samberg wins this one for us because wokeness is part of his art. That Emmys speech about diversity was totally on point, of course, but almost the entirety of the Lonely Island’s body of work is based on confronting tropes of toxic masculinity (see: dicks in boxes).
Final: 7. Andy Samberg wins (57%)
3. joseph gordon-levitt vs. 6. eddie redmayne
So, Eddie Redmayne played an iconic trans woman in The Danish Girl. That’s cool. Except, it’s kind of also not, because, depending on where you’re sitting, he jacked that part from an actual trans woman. And he seemed like he was taking a little too much credit for starting a trans conversation. Are we even sure he’s totally woke yet? Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the other hand? WOW. He spent 2014 living and breathing as Male Feminist dot com. We wouldn’t be surprised if Matt McGorry has a poster of JGL hanging up in his childhood bedroom.
Final: 3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt wins (89%)
1. penn badgley vs. 8. chris pratt
On the surface, Penn vs. Chris seems like an obvious woke win for Penn, considering his early and very intense Occupy Wall Street involvement. But don’t count out Pratt. While he’s not out there teaching classes or hanging with activists, Pratt’s muddying the waters of what it means to be a masculine action star, simultaneously talking about hunting while showing off his French braiding skills on a talk show. But Penn is deeply outspoken about Black Lives Matter, and not just in the usual white-guilt way—he really appears to be trying to fix his own shortcomings. (He's also friends with Deray McKesson, which counts for something.) But Pratt is verrrryyy involved with charities for children and is currently raising money to build a teen center in his hometown (Lake Stevens, Washington), so he’s clearly using his platform to put money where his mouth is. And lately his mouth has been talking about how great ladies are and how we should objectify men more. Frankly, who doesn’t want that?
Final: 8. Chris Pratt wins (60%)
4. ian somerhalder vs. 5. demetri martin
Being a woman in comedy means dealing with a set of awful prejudices specific to that industry — most of all, the whole "women aren't as funny as dudes" bullshit. It's constantly proven to be untrue, but the barriers keep coming back up. Demetri Martin is the sensitive, non-threatening ally in the world of comic shitheads. It's super dope that he stands up for female comics (and gives credit to his wife for keeping him woke), but that's not always a very visible part of Martin's comedy, or something he speaks up about too often. Ian Somerhalder, on the other hand, has that young fanbase from playing a Vampire Diaries heartthrob, and uses his power for good to encourage young women and put patriarchy in its place. He even started a foundation for this very cause. Bonus: He's also super into the environment. Woke as hell!
Final: 4. Ian Somerhalder wins (61%)
2. daniel radcliffe vs. 7. tom hardy
This one's tough because both Daniel Radcliffe and Tom Hardy are woke in similar ways. Hardy, especially since starring in the women-empowering Mad Max: Fury Road, has become a huge advocate for better and more female roles in film. Daniel Radcliffe has a similar cause; how could he not be a feminist after all those years working alongside Emma Watson, the celebrity face of feminism? When asked about becoming an unlikely sex symbol, Radcliffe famously said that people didn't hesitate to turn his co-star Watson into one, because sexism. In the end, this close battle might go to Radcliffe, because when he openly "came out" as a feminist, he also spoke out against racism and homophobia. A million points for Gryffindor!
Final: 2. Daniel Radcliffe wins (57%)
3. ryan gosling vs. 6. david schwimmer
Gosling seems like the obvious choice in this matchup—after all, he's the guy who inadvertently became the face of empowering and encouraging women on a daily basis. Beyond that, he's also openly vied for having a woman in the Oval Office, and seems generally of the opinion that it wouldn't hurt men to take a couple seats. But not so fast! David Schwimmer, a.k.a. Bob Kardashian, a.k.a. the Beast That Needs Feeding, was woke way before it was en vogue. This is a guy who looked at the cast of Friends, then looked at the ethnic makeup of New York City and was like, "Uhh, this doesn't add up. Can we at least hire Aisha Tyler?" You gotta give props to wokeness in a pre-woke era. Schwimmer wins, just like how he's won everything else in 2016.
Final: 3. Ryan Gosling wins (72%)
1. jesse williams vs. 8. jon hamm
In a competition with almost anyone else, Jon Hamm would be dominating the “bae” factor, but Jesse Williams gives him some overwhelming competition. Hamm is not un-woke. He knows there has been progress since the Mad Men days, so that’s good. But, like, Jesse Williams is so goddamn woke, he made a documentary titled Stay Woke. He’s also used his platform to amplify the Black Lives Matter movement with immeasurable impact (that speech at the BET Awards—holy shit). The gleaming good looks are just a happy bonus.
Final: 1. Jesse Williams wins (83%)
4. channing tatum vs. 5. john cho
John Cho has done some pretty dope shit with his celebrity notoriety. One of the coolest? Bravely speaking out about Hollywood’s diversity problem, specifically as it pertains to Asian-American representation in popular culture. Cho addressed prejudice and Hollywood’s garbage stereotyping in a reddit AMA, writing, “I experienced racism, and in my professional life, I try to take roles (and have always tried to take roles) that don’t fall within the parameters of any Asian stereotype.”
But where to start with Channing Tatum? After details of the Stanford rape case hit the web — most poignantly with the victim’s letter to her attacker — plenty of buzzy celebs shared their support of her bravery. But Channing went the extra mile with his wokeness about rape, particularly on college campuses, when he said, “I think rape culture is a very real thing...I really think it’s a horrible idea to let someone off because of possibly what they’re gonna be capable of doing. Because if you start doing that where do you end? Where does that stop?” As an added bonus, he also gave us the most feminist film of 2015, i.e. American treasure Magic Mike XXL. Sorry Cho, but Channing Tatum is fully out here in these woke streets.
Final: 4. Channing Tatum wins (52%)
2. Justin Trudeau vs. 7. Samuel L. Jackson
Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, the world's most agreeable nation, has this in the bag. It wouldn't even matter who he was up against—that he's been cool about Syrian refugees, feminism, and LGBT rights is enough to launch him into the next round. And he's boys with President Barack Obama, an infallible judge of wokeness if we've ever seen one. Meanwhile, Jackson is admirably outspoken in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement and is surprisingly a fierce social media advocate, but he does have some dings on his record. Namely, how he remains so gung-ho about defending Quentin Tarantino.
Final: 2. Justin Trudeau wins (58%)
3. John Legend vs. 6. shiloh fernandez
Perhaps I overshot when I named Shiloh Fernandez a new “woke bae,” because frankly, this matchup isn’t even fair. Although Fernandez has been involved in spreading awareness about HIV since 2011, Legend might just be a woke bae LEGEND (I’m so sorry). He’s advocated for fairness in education and spoken out against mass incarceration with his Show Me charity, toured with Columbia professors to promote sustainable development, and used his platform to speak out about Black Lives Matter or even just to call out International Troll Piers Morgan. For his part, Fernandez has also been stepping up his social media game to big up Bernie Sanders, the environment and the tragedy in Orlando. But in the end, it's no contest. Personally, I’d love to see a mentor/mentee situation come out of this matchup.
Final: 3. John Legend wins (95%)
1. Matt McGorry vs. 4. Kal Penn
Honestly, thinking about even writing about these two feels exhausting—mostly because it’s gonna go exactly how we all think it’s gonna go, right? Even though Kal Penn has actually worked in THE WHITE HOUSE for Obama as the Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement in 2009 and held various roles for Obama post returning to acting, he’s automatically the underdog in this race. While he campaigned for Bernie Sanders and taught a class about Asian American representation in the media at University of Pennsylvania, he’s not posting crying selfies on Twitter or shirtless selfies while reading The New Jim Crow on Instagram. McGorry’s brand of wokeness is about being aggressively out there, which frankly, could also be his downfall.
Final: 4. Kal Penn wins (58%)
2. aziz ansari vs. 3. idris elba
Oh man, don’t make me choose! I said last round that Aziz should be shoe-in for the Final Four, but shit, this is a pretty tough second round matchup. On the one hand, you have Aziz, well-spoken and well-woke on everything from sexism to racism. On the other, there’s Idris Elba, the man who last week spoke so eloquently about the tragedy in Nice that I almost cried. The tiebreaker here may be that, for all of Master of None’s wokeness, the show’s love interest still ended up being a very traditional white girl. That may be enough for Idris to move Aziz out of the paint.
Final: 2. Aziz Ansari wins (58%)
1. mark ruffalo vs. 5. ezra miller
This is an interesting pairing, pitting two titans of the entertainment industry against each other: Mark Ruffalo, a.k.a. the Incredible Hulk of the Marvel CInematic Universe versus Ezra Miller, who recently wowed crowds with a snippet of his Flash in Justice League. It’s brute force going up against quick wit, and while Ezra wins points for his feminist views, Ruffalo felt the Bern, is trying to demolish fracking, AND is up on LGBTQ issues. Ruffalo might have this one in the bag.
Final: 1. Mark Ruffalo wins (80%)
7. andy samberg vs. 3. joseph gordon-levitt
This matchup brings up some interesting differences on both the woke and bae spectrums. Andy Samberg spoke out for diversity during his Emmy's hosting gig, but he's also constantly bucking toxic masculinity with his comedy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is more explicit about being a proud male feminist, making an effort to speak out rather than working the issues into his art. Also important: hotness level. So do you want someone polished, who could probably be on every cover of GQ for the rest of time without anyone really noticing? Or do you want someone who has a goofy nose and is hot in that secret way, where you think you're the only one who can tell? These are the questions we must dig deep into our hearts to answer.
Final: 3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt wins (71%)
8. chris pratt vs. 4. ian somerhalder
Look, I love Chris Pratt. He’s a really good dude, and he’s very handsome. And I'm all about democracy. But he should NOT have made it past round one. We’ve got a Cinderella Story on our hands, but it should probably end here. The guy never even joked about how his big movie, Jurassic World, featured a woman running around in heels for two hours! Ian Somerhalder’s whole “woker-for-pets-than-for-humans” isn’t much to sneeze at, but at least he seems pretty dedicated to destroying the patriarchy. And besides, we all know the winner of the other matchup in this division is going to wash whoever comes out of this one. (Unless, of course, Pratt-hive is driving this election.)
Final: 8. Chris Pratt wins (67%)
2. daniel radcliffe vs. 3. ryan gosling
Harry Potter for the win! It’s not that much of a surprise that Radcliffe washed Tom Hardy (sorry boo!) in his previous matchup. While both are equally woke about the sexism permeating Hollywood, Radcliffe had the edge by filming public service announcements for The Trevor Project and even being honored with their “Hero Award” in 2011. Truly, an easy win for Radcliffe. But, now he’s up against the OG Woke Bae (before it really hit the pop culture vernacular), Ryan Gosling. Gosling, as we all know, was the face of the viral Feminist Ryan Gosling, coupling feminist theories with Gosling’s very kissable face. He’s always stressed the importance of women like his mother and sister in his life and even said he considers himself “49% woman,” depending on the day, that is. This matchup truly is a Sophie’s Choice.
Final: 3. Ryan Gosling wins (59%)
1. jesse williams vs. 4. channing tatum
If you feel your cursor moving towards Channing Tatum’s name right now, you better motherfuckin’ stop. Just take a deep breath go to YouTube dot com, and watch Jesse Williams’ speech from this year’s BET Awards. Then go read Williams’ response to the racist hate he got after giving that speech, in which he called the backlash “cowardly intolerance.” Channing has done some good, and he seems to be getting more comfortable using his voice to speak out against things like rape culture. But Jesse Williams is at the forefront of a much-needed movement. And he has been for a long time.
Final: 1. Jesse Williams wins (82%)
2. justin trudeau vs. 3. john legend
John Legend is kind of a twofer, because his wokeness is teamed up with The Woke Goddess Chrissy Teigen, but he's more than just a few sassy-Piers-Morgan tweets. He started #FreeAmerica and used his Show Me campaign to end mass incarceration. He's outspoken about fairness in education and he's written about #BlackLivesMatter for Essence. He's also evenly matched with Trudeau in terms of attractiveness, but Trudeau just might be changing the world through the sheer force of his bae factor. As a politician, he's supposed to be woke, doing stuff like raising the Pride Flag or welcoming Syrian refugees, but he did not have to be bae. It is truly Trudeau's bae-ness that imbues his wokeness with such power, and that is something those determining the precious title of Wokest Bae should not ignore.
Final: 3. John Legend wins (67%)
4. Kal Penn vs. 2. Aziz Ansari
Holy shit. KAL PENN BEAT WOKE MCWOKERSON (government name: Matt McGorry). In a truly baffling turn of events, subtlety beat aggressiveness. But despite all his public service, hot professorship and adorable DNC live tweets, Kal Penn is now up against Aziz Ansari, who brought all his woke glory to his great Netflix show Master of None, a best-selling book about the awful nature of modern dating, and constantly woke op-eds. Aziz’s whole platform is about being woke. Unlike McGorry, he’s not super aggressive about it, but he’s much more out there in the streets than Penn is. Don’t count the guy out though—he might just be the dark horse in this competition.
Final: 2. Aziz Ansari wins (79%)
1. mark Ruffalo vs. 3. Joseph Gordon-levitt
This feels like a fight between woke baes of a generational divide. Ruffalo is like your hot woke dad type, shaking his fist about fracking and Bernie Sanders. But sometimes his wokeness gets a bit too extreme—he’s truthed that Zika is a human creation. And then you have JGL, who is a total feminist bro—he’s so outspoken about his commitment to feminism, so committed that he even used his popular HitRecord platform to make ~feminist art~. Think he couldn’t get more committed? He wrote and directed Don Jon, a film, he said, that examined the ways in which we sexually and romantically objectify one another. But there's something else we have to address: are Ruffalo’s graying locks due to his wokeness? Just wondering.
Final: 1. Mark Ruffalo wins (51%)
8. Chris Pratt vs. 3. Ryan Gosling
Girl, you need to look yourself in the mirror and come to terms with the truth. Girl, you're beautiful and powerful and free to speak your mind, but you've been voting aimlessly. Girl, Chris Pratt probably should've been bounced from this competition when he was facing His Holy Wokeness, Penn Badgley, back in the first round. I mean, girl, are we sure there isn't some conspiracy to throw this whole thing into chaos by voting Pratt to victory? Maybe we should be woke about that, girl. Girl maybe—nay, DEFINITELY—Ryan Gosling should move on to the Final Four.
Final: 3. Ryan Gosling wins (64%)
1. jesse williams vs. 3. john legend
It looks like the Wokest Bae will be coming out of The Bae Area. Two of the obvious top remaining baes, Jesse Williams and John Legend, were destined to meet at some point. No surprises here. Legend’s not only linked with a Woke Queen in Chrissy Teigen, but his Wokeness is legendary, including standing up for #BlackLivesMatter and his #ShowMe campaign; hell, he’s the guy who did the song “Glory” with Common for Selma. Jesse Williams might end up edging him out, though, primarily because his Wokeness is way more current. His speech at the BET Awards might be one of the wokest moments of 2016, both for its impact and the time in which it dropped. Plus, his documentary on the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Stay Woke, dropped on BET back in May. Legend might’ve been instrumental in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but Williams is the "right now" of the movement.
Final: 1. Jesse Williams wins (60%)
3. Ryan Gosling vs. 2. Aziz Ansari
First off, let's all give Ryan Gosling a round of applause for taking down Chris Pratt. That was super important. It looks as though Gosling is our sacrificial lamb though, slaying Pratt only to be meet the buzzsaw that is Aziz Ansari. I told you days ago that Ansari was destined for the Final Four, and I'm thrilled to see that everyone agrees. But now I'm thinking he might have a chance to take this whole thing. Instead of arguing for him more than we already have above, allow to leave you this, a quote from Ansari: "You're a feminist if you go to a Jay Z and Beyoncé concert and you're not like, 'Mmm, I feel like Beyoncé should be making 23 percent less money than Jay Z.'" Move this dude to the finals.
Final: 2. Aziz Ansari wins (83%)
1. Jesse Williams vs. 1. Mark Ruffalo
This is a final matchup that I’m not particularly surprised about. Ruffalo’s wokeness is in his bones—from the roles he chooses (Spotlight! In the Cut! The Kids Are Alright!) to the things that he supports. I mean, the man has a curated personal Tumblr that’s pretty much a scrapbook about climate change, Black Lives Matter, feminism, basically any and all issues he find important. He’s long-term woke—in it to win it. And that’s why Jesse Williams is his perfect opponent, because he’s of the same fabric. Williams has always been incredibly woke—using his platform to speak up for the Black Lives Matter movement, directing a doc incredibly titled Stay Woke and recently delivering a heart-wrenching speech at the BET Awards. Both these men have done great things to help many, many people, so this is a tough one. Then again, Williams hasn’t ever veered into conspiracy theory territory, while your boy Ruffalo is about a week away from holding up a "Harambe Did 9/11" sign.
Final: 1. Jesse Williams wins (71%)
1. jesse williams vs. 2. aziz ansari
Whew. This is a great final—good job, voters. Now, do as you've done all week: vote with your hearts, and decide who should win this thing. Really though, there are no losers in this one. (Jesse Williams should probably win though, tbh.)