Is Mark Ruffalo strong enough to affect international politics?

Hulk Smash Hope of Brazil's Green Candidate

Mac Margolis writes about Latin America for Bloomberg View. He was a reporter for Newsweek and is the author of “The Last New World: The Conquest of the Amazon Frontier.”
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Just a few days ago, Mark Ruffalo thought the world of Marina Silva. So much so that the Hollywood idol, who played the Hulk on the big screen and is chest deep in his next project, took a break to tape a heartfelt campaign spot in support of the upstart Brazilian environmentalist, who is running second in the presidential vote to be held Oct. 5. "I feel like Marina Silva is one of the most interesting and exciting politicians on the world stage today," he gushed, while in a Bruce Banner mood on Sept. 28.

Barely a day later, Ruffalo went green. The reason was Silva's flip-flop on same-sex marriage. "I cannot, in good conscience, support a candidate who takes a hard right approach to issues such as gay marriage and reproductive rights, even if that candidate is willing to do the right thing on environmental issues," he wrote on Tumblr, abruptly canceling his endorsement.

In late August, Silva's Brazilian Socialist Party ticket had gone on record favoring a constitutional amendment to legalize same-sex marriage. Two days later, that item was gone from Silva's 242-page government platform, and her handlers were spinning it as an editing error.

In fact, some of Silva's top supporters, conservative Protestant Evangelicals, were furious and threatened to bolt.

This was awkward. Silva had made her name as a "progressiva," a Brazilian social liberal championing the little guy, a green agenda and a rainbow of rebels from the Amazon rubber groves to the environment ministry in Brasilia. Those credentials made her a fresh face in Brazil's crusty politics and a natural choice for the disenfranchised, including gay men and lesbians.

But Silva also is a lifelong member of the Assembly of God, a conservative Pentecostal order that says marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman. Amen.

Mostly, though, Silva is a politician, who sits astride a six-party bloc in one of the most fractious political arenas in the Western Hemisphere. Her coalition is crawling with contrarians, never mind the outright rivals and rent-a-party allies she'll need to govern the country, should she be elected.

Silva did not throw the LGBT agenda under the bus. What she did was samba step to avoid a campaign crackup on the altar. While toeing the traditional church line on marriage, she stood by the Brazilian constitution, which recognizes same-sex civil unions and affords gay couples equal rights. That's exactly the position of the other two front-runners in the race, Workers Party incumbent Dilma Rousseff and Social Democratic challenger Aecio Neves.

So flip-flop for flip-flop, Ruffalo's was the harder performance to swallow. The marriage kerfuffle was already a month old when the actor was effervescing on YouTube about Silva as the great green hope. "She's deeply and humbly in line with my beliefs, in line with the beliefs of many of the spiritual faiths, around the world," he said, hand to his heart.

Maybe it's central casting, but almost every time a big-time actor or director latches onto a cause in the tropics, the story goes awry. Even as Venezuelan intellectuals were aching to escape the dysfunctional Bolivarian revolution, there came Oliver Stone, Sean Penn and Danny Glover, sharing rum and helicopter rides with the celebrity autocrat, Hugo Chavez.

Marina Silva is every bit the environmentalist Mark Ruffalo imagined her to be. She also knows that ranchers, farmers and developers kick in more than a quarter of national gross national product and are ignored at her peril, and has reshaped her message to deal with the messier reality of Brazilian politics. It's no Hollywood ending. Then again this isn't Brazil the movie.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Mac Margolis at mmargolis14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.net