No matter which side War for the Planet of the Apes convinces you to root for (the apes — what are you, heartless?), the movie arrived in theaters Friday beset by a bizarre micro-controversy. It’s nothing to do with the plot, which is about what you could expect from the trailers: An army guy played by Woody Harrelson kills the family of OG ape Caesar, so Caesar sets off on an Ape-pocalypse Now–style journey to exact revenge. But then, the titular war happens, and — wait a second, is that a monkey in DeRay’s blue vest?
On his journey, Caesar meets another monkey named Bad Ape, voiced by Steve Zahn. A runaway from the zoo, Bad Ape doesn’t understand many of the other apes’ sign language, and he isn’t thrilled about the prospect of running into battle. Crucially for the internet, he also wears a blue vest that seemed to resemble the trademark outerwear of social-justice advocate DeRay Mckesson.
Bad Ape is the movie’s comic relief, not the resistance’s leader, but still, on the surface it doesn’t look great. However, this vest-wearing ape isn’t an example of radicalized depictions of black people as monkeys; he’s a throwback to costumes from the original franchise from the ’60s, in which apes routinely wore vests. After calling out the movie for the similarity, Mckesson himself acknowledged that the vest was a coincidence, and that it’s unlikely the Apes movie was making fun of him. He deleted a tweet accusing the movie of racism, and clarified:
After Mckesson deleted his tweet calling out the movie, Whoopi Goldberg chimed in:
There you have it: War for the Planet of the Apes just features an ape wearing a blue vest, not DeRay’s blue vest. Feel free to enjoy your ape-human war guilt-free.