Before he was Mark Wahlberg, he was Marky Mark—a rebellious MC with an eighth-grade education, rippling abs, and a lengthy rap sheet. And though members of contemporary pop groups like One Direction are considered "bad boys" if they get a shitty tattoo of a microphone, the 80s heartthrob earned his reputation by being a legitimately bad person.
In 1988, the native Bostonian was charged with attempted murder, convicted of assault, and spent 45 days in the slammer long before he starred in the Oscar-nominated movie The Fighter. On November 26, he asked the Massachusetts Board of Pardons to formally wipe the conviction from his record. "Since that time, I have dedicated myself to becoming a better person and citizen so that I can be a role model to my children and others," he wrote in the application.
It's true that Wahlberg grew up in a tough neighborhood where juvenile roughhousing was almost inevitable. And yes, he had a pretty shitty childhood—he was addicted to cocaine at the age of 13. But Wahlberg's youthful transgressions were violent and straight-up racist.
When he was 15, the future star was caught throwing rocks at black schoolchildren and yelling the N-word. The following year, he beat up two Vietnamese men at the same time—hitting one with a five-foot stick while calling him a "Vietnam fucking shit" and punching the other one in the face so hard that he went blind in one eye.
Now the 43-year-old actor is claiming he's a changed man and is seeking forgiveness for almost killing a perfect stranger. But it's hard to take Wahlberg's request for redemption seriously, considering he's made comments as an adult that are just as nasty as the things he said as a street kid. The only difference is that he has focused his grown-up hate on gays instead of different races.
Back in 1992, he appeared on the British talk show The Word. The other guest was reggae star Shabba Ranks. At one point, the host asks Ranks how he feels about fellow musician Buju Banton, who was getting castigated for his lyrics promoting violence toward gays and lesbians. In a career-ending response, Ranks replies that gays should be "crucified." Instead of denouncing the comments, Marky later joined him on stage for a song. "Shouts out to Shabba Ranks, speaks his mind, speaks his opinion," he blares into the mic. "All y'all can't deal with it—step the fuck off!"
The following year, Wahlberg allegedly started a fight with Madonna's entourage after calling one member a "homo" and punching another in the face. After that incident, he went on an apology tour and did a big interview in the Advocate. But he fucked up again in 2007, when he admitted that he didn't want a role in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain after reading the script and getting "creeped out."
Even if he graduated from nearly killing people, to merely punching them, to mere casual homophobia, Wahlberg remains an overgrown teenage boy. It's especially gauche—as Brian Moylan noted in an opinion piece for Time—for Wahlberg to ask the governor of Massachusetts for a favor at a time when people are marching across the nation because our criminal justice system treats black men so cruelly.
In his request for a pardon, Wahlberg's says he wants to work with at-risk youth and that his felony status prevents him from doing so. But even if his desire to help comes from the heart, it doesn't erase the fact that he almost killed a dude a couple of decades ago. Wahlberg desperately wants us to believe that he's outgrown the egregious behavior of his youth, but it takes a special kind of arrogance for him to think he deserves a clean slate.
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