Updated 4/01/2023 at 8:00 a.m. ET
By now, you’ve probably heard that Jonathan Majors was arrested over the weekend. The Marvel actor was charged with assault and harassment in New York on Saturday in what law enforcement officials are calling a “domestic dispute.”
Majors’ meteoric rise in Hollywood has won him both detractors and fans, and both groups will likely be coming out in full force over the next few days—although it’s hard to tell on which side).
Any story involving a well-known celebrity and allegations of abuse is going to get complicated, so in an effort to help you cut through the noise, here’s what’s worth paying attention to in the Jonathan Majors scandal.
What Is Majors Being Accused Of?
So far, we haven’t heard from Majors’ alleged victim, and it’s entirely possible we never will. But it’s worth talking about the underlying allegations.
According to reporting from the Los Angeles Times, the NYPD responded to a call from a Manhattan apartment at 11:14 a.m. (Some outlets are reporting that Majors was the one to call the police). Once they arrived on the scene, police say a 30-year-old woman told them she’d been assaulted. She was then taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries to her head and neck.
Majors was reportedly released on Saturday night on an order of protection (a restraining order). According to Variety, police listed “strangulation, assault and harassment as potential charges.” However, he was ultimately charged with “two counts of assault in the third degree, attempted assault in the third degree, aggravated harassment in the second degree, and harassment in the second degree.”
The fact that she reported the alleged incident at all is worth noting. Although domestic violence is pervasive, nearly half of all survivors never report their abuse to law enforcement (for a whole host of reasons that are only amplified in a case involving a celebrity).
Why Strangulation Is So Dangerous
There is still a lot we don’t know about the incident and it could be a while before we get more information. Majors isn’t scheduled to return to court until May 8th, but if it’s true that he strangled her, it’s a serious cause for concern.
Strangulation is one of the most lethal and unpredictable forms of domestic violence. It only takes minutes for strangulation to potentially lead to death. And strangulation victims have been known to pass away weeks after being strangled due to brain damage.
It is also a major predictor of whether domestic abuse will become lethal. According to the domestic violence hotline, “If your partner has strangled you in the past, your risk of being killed by them is ten times higher.”
What Is Jonathan Majors’ Team Saying?
It didn’t take his team long to hit back against the allegations. On Sunday, Priya Chaudhry, a lawyer representing Majors, told the LA Times that the woman had recanted her story in two written statements. His attorney also claimed that video evidence of the alleged incident inside a taxi and the driver’s statement would exonerate him. (So far, his team has not released the video or made the statements public.)
“Jonathan Majors is completely innocent and is probably the victim of an altercation with a woman he knows. We are quickly gathering and presenting evidence to the district attorney with the expectation that all charges will be dropped imminently,” said Chaudhry in a statement to the paper.
Chaudhry also told news outlets that Majors was the one to make the phone call over concerns about the woman’s mental health. (Some outlets have also reported this claim, referencing police sources.)
On Thursday, Majors’ team released text messages to TMZ they claim are from the alleged victim. Although his team clearly released the texts to prove Majors’ innocence, for many, they had the opposite effect.
In the text messages, allegedly from the unnamed woman in the police reports, she seems concerned about protecting Majors from legal trouble. “They assured me that you won’t be charged,” she (allegedly) writes. “They said they had to arrest you as a protocol when they saw the injuries on me, and they knew we had a fight.”
She also adds; “it was my fault for trying to grab your phone. I only just got out of the Hospital. Just call me when you’re out.”
The messages go on to seemingly confirm that Majors was the one to call 911 after she collapsed and passed out. The messages also state that she told the police “this was not an attack and they do not have my blessing on any charges being placed,” adding that she was not strangled.
At this point we still have not directly heard from the un-named woman in the police reports. But unlike what the Majors team may have hoped, this does not appear to be conclusive evidence that nothing occurred.
The Backlash Against Jonathan Majors So Far
Unlike the film studios backing Majors, the United States Army has responded to the allegations. The Army’s marketing team said that they were “deeply concerned by the allegations.”
They announced that they were pulling all advertisements featuring Majors. However, they added that he was still innocent until proven guilty.
Majors is coming off two acclaimed roles as Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Damian Anderson in Creed III. And his fate with Marvel studios is still very much up in the air.
Majors Has Faced Previous (Dumb) Criticism
This isn’t the first time Majors has found himself embroiled in controversy. Although, the reasons for the two firestorms could not be more different.
In February, Majors did a shoot with Ebony magazine where he dressed in pink and was photographed plucking rose petals. The toxic side of the internet blew up, claiming the shoot was “emasculating” and proof of the “continued denigration of the black man.”
Majors, however, didn’t back down. In an interview addressing the comments, he discussed his definition of masculinity, including “strength and vulnerability.”
Ironically, as The Root Staff Writer Stephanie Holland points out, many of the same people now defending Majors against his alleged assault were attacking his masculinity:
“Since the internet is a hellscape with very little respect for women, it didn’t take long for a lot of men to show their true colors. The same men who were just questioning Majors’ masculinity and using homophobic slurs against him are now his biggest fans and offering him full-throated support. So when he was just an actor who was comfortable expressing himself in a non-traditionally masculine way, you guys hated him. But allegedly assaulting a woman proves his manhood, so now he’s good?”
What About The Rumors Floating on Social Media?
As dumb as the criticism of Majors has been in the past on social media, it is worth paying some attention to what people are saying now. After the news of Majors’ arrest was announced on Saturday, people began to post their own stories about his alleged past bad behavior.
“I’m just gonna say this about Jonathan Majors and be done with it: folks at Yale and the broader NYC community have known about him for years,” wrote Broadway director Tim Nicolai. “He’s a sociopath and abuser, and that is how virtually everyone speaks about him. It’s a shame it took this long for him to be reported.”
The tweet was later deleted. But this wasn’t the first time people had hinted about Majors’ past. Filmmaker A.B. Allen tweeted out in February that:
“There’s a particular actor, relatively new on the scene, who Twitter has violently fallen head over heels for who, in actuality, is a vicious, cruel, abusive human being, both professionally and in his personal life, and every new viral thirst tweet about him drives me insane.”
On Saturday, he admitted that the tweet was about Majors. At this point, the allegations from Allen and Nicolai aren’t corroborated. And both of them have deleted their tweets referencing Majors.
We May Never Have a Legally Definitive Answer To The Allegations
One crucial thing to remember is that we may never have definitive proof one way or the other. Survivors of domestic violence have very good reasons not to want to cooperate with law enforcement or share their stories publicly.
When you add that Majors is rich and powerful, it’s not hard to imagine this case ending in a plea or a settlement. (Although an accuser cannot independently drop domestic violence charges in New York State.)
The public may never get a “satisfying” answer to what happened on Saturday night, which means we should brace ourselves for some genuinely awful takes over the next few weeks.