Jonah Hill’s ex was right to put him on blast. The queer community should take note

Jonah Hill, a white man with long bleached hair, wearing a light blue suit reveaing his tattooed chest

The Jonah Hill controversy has sparked important conversations about emotional abuse – a phenomenon with which the queer community must reckon.

Raise a hand if you’ve had therapy-speak and social-justice jargon weaponised against you by somebody so gifted, so deft, at the art of manipulation, you actually believed them for a while.

When you first met, they were Mr Nice Guy, Mx Sensitive, or Ms Morality. And I bet that’s still the brand they’re going with – projecting it as their social-media persona and racking up likes on faux-confessional posts in which they lay bare their tender vulnerability for all to adore.

You are not alone. I’ve been there, and countless other queers have too. That dissonance between what you know someone has done and who they present themselves to be, can feel maddening. In a large part that’s because the mismatch makes you wonder if it’s all in your head. 

Rightly or wrongly, I empathise with Sarah Brady’s choice to put Superbad star Jonah Hill on blast by releasing screenshots of several damning texts he allegedly sent her during their relationship. In them, Hill reportedly asked Brady to remove photos from Instagram that showed her “a*s in a thong”, and suggesting that her “inappropriate friendships with men” crossed his boundaries. She’s described the texts as “emotionally abusive”; he is yet to respond.

Emotional abuse can make you question your perception of reality, undermine your own experiences, and, as a result, make you default to someone else’s controlling narrative.

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If, as Brady claims, Hill was emotionally abusive, she’s broken out of the story he spun and is telling her own. It may be messy, but I have to stan.

‘For Sarah Brady, Jonah Hill’s whole do-gooder therapy-shtick must have felt particularly galling’

Reportedly, the couple split in early 2022, and by the winter Jonah Hill had released a film on Netflix called Stutz. Described as a “tender documentary about his therapist”, it features a series of conversations between the actor and psychiatrist Dr Phil Stutz. 

As someone keenly interested in psychology, I gave it a go but eventually turned over. Something seemed off, or as my people say: mi spirit never tek to it

Jonah Hill and Sarah Brady, a white man and woman, wearing matching light blue suits
Jonah Hill and Sarah Brady. (Getty)

Intuition? Perhaps. A slightly less woo hypothesis is that subconsciously I was recognising similarities between Hill’s performative emotional openness, and that which I’d experienced from others who’d later revealed the snarling wolf beneath sheep’s clothing.

For Brady, Hill’s whole do-gooder therapy-shtick must have felt particularly galling. The queer version might be seeing the girl who bullied you out of your queer house share wax lyrical about “radical care”, or watching a self-proclaimed activist demand an end to structural violence, while perpetuating intimate partner violence.

It’s sad to think that many of you will immediately recognise someone you knew, or currently know, in this list of queer manipulator archetypes. Without in any way suggesting that the cis-hets are doing any better, my queer and trans siblings, we have a problem…

“Hurt people, hurt people,” the saying goes. A bunch of marginalised, traumatised queers trying to get along together will always be messy. And while this contextualises some of the manipulative and unhealthy antics we see, it doesn’t excuse them.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on how we as a community reckon with emotional abuse or foster healthier and more accountable behaviours. Others more studied than me have taken that on. But I can share my story, and some things I’ve learned to keep myself safe moving forwards.

When I fell under the spell of someone skilled in the dark arts of therapy-speak, it shook my sense of self to the core – taking over my life like a looming, dark shadow, clouding my ability to trust myself or my perception of reality, and sending me into spiralling panic attacks for years. Even after that person was gone. 

It’s difficult to write so candidly, knowing that they may read this – read this and feel some kind of sweet, perverse victory in having so destabilised me. But, to me, the victory is in knowing I can’t be controlled any more. It took a lot of therapy to undo the web of lies and breathe freely again, but the good thing is, once you know what bulls**t smells like, it’s easier to sniff it out in future. 

So, here’s some tea I wish someone had told me, tea that might have helped me wise up sooner.

Some people like to play mind games with others – and they can be very good at it. If things aren’t adding up, listen to your gut. Don’t just brush over patterns of inconsistency or contradiction. When very loaded, therapeutic words such as “boundaries” get thrown around, it’s OK to ask whether such terminology is being used accurately and relevantly.

Finally, in the words of poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou: “When people show you who they are, believe them… the first time.”