Jesse Plemons Is a Bully Who We Have Allowed to Fail Upward

How have we let this happen? How have we, as a nation, allowed Jesse Plemons, a.k.a. Meth Damon, to fail upward like this?

There were warning signs. All it took was his second film appearance, as Tommy Harbor (younger brother of star QB Lance Harbor) in Varsity Blues

What do we call this? Bullying. Pure and simple. And the only thing bullying produces is more interpersonal violence: 

Fool me once, shame on you. But fool me twice? 

The red flags were all around us. This bullying behavior by Plemons’ character Ox in Like Mike is textbook. The aggression. The lack of empathy toward a height-challenged Lil’ Bow Wow. Look at how he thrives on the insecurities of others (to hide his own insecurity at being an orphan, perhaps?) while misusing his power over other foster children. 

America appeared to be on to this shitbird after Like Mike. Plemons spent the remainder of the early 2000s schlepping it from CSI to Grey’s to NCIS. But somewhere along the way we lost our focus, and we allowed this bully to continue to fail upward. Worse, we let him continue to think that his antisocial behavior was okay. 

Like most bullies, Landry Clarke’s pals on Friday Night Lights might not have thought there was anything wrong with him. But just tell that to the man he MURDERED. How does a kid go from a stable, football-loving home in Texas (Varsity Blues), to an orphanage in Los Angeles (Like Mike), to committing involuntary manslaughter back in Texas (FNL)? BECAUSE WE ALLOWED HIS WORST CHARACTERISTICS TO DEVELOP WITHOUT CHECKING HIS UNWANTED, AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR, THAT’S WHY.

And don’t for a minute think that Landry’s killing (not the last murder Plemons would commit on screen, either) was a once-off, spur-of-the-moment type of thing. No, Plemons would continue to commit ever-more heinous acts of violence against those less powerful than he:

Like most bullies, Plemons’ Todd in Breaking Bad flirts with white supremacy. Based on his meth-slave relationship with Jesse Pinkman, it’s clear that he also struggles with letting his friends be independent from himself. 

The bullying would continue. Take Plemons’ appearance in Black Mirror, in the episode “USS Callister,” for example. Plemons’ intimidation and coercion has progressed into middle age, where he takes out his frustrations and resentments on sentient digital clones of his coworkers. Unsatisfied with bullying on a terrestrial stage, Plemons now appears to have taken his abuse to galaxies unknown. 

And the behavior persists to this day. It was only last year, in fact, that Plemons portrayed Chuckie O’Brien—the man who may have been responsible for Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance—in Martin Scorsese’s lauded TV mini-series The Irishman.

What can possibly be next for this heinous bully? What new heights will we allow him to climb? Will Jesse Plemons next portray Regina George in a gender-reversed recasting of Mean Girls? Will he transport back in time to join Cobra Kai? 

Whatever he attempts next, it’s time for the American moviegoing public to just say no. Plemons’ bullying has to end. It must end.

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