Why Is Chet Hanks Like This?

The son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson recently went viral this weekend for trying to make "white boy summer" a thing

March 29, 2021 12:54 pm
Chet Hanks attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
Chet Hanks attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.

Over the weekend, Chet Hanks — the son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson — found himself getting dragged on social media after an ill-advised Instagram post in which he declared that we’re on the verge of a “white boy summer.”

“I just got this feeling man … that this summer is, it’s about to be a white boy summer,” the 30-year-old said while recording himself in his car. “Take it how you want. I’m not talking about Trump, NASCAR type white. I’m talking about, you know, me, [R&B singer] Jon B, [rapper and singer] Jack Harlow type white boy summer. Let me know if you guys can vibe with that and get ready, ’cause I am.”

It turns out many can’t, in fact, vibe with that. Reactions online ranged from vague amusement at the fact that this goof is actually the spawn of Tom Hanks to reminders that, thanks to hundreds of years of racism and sexism, every summer is a white-boy summer.

Despite his comment in his original video that he’s not talking about “Trump, NASCAR type” white boys, Hanks — who also occasionally goes by his rap name, Chet Haze — felt the need to post a follow-up video in which he clarifies that white-boy summer is for everyone, and that it’s not about “having any ill will, prejudice towards anybody from a different background, race, walk of life than you.”

But “white boy summer” is just the latest controversy for the self-described “black sheep” of the Hanks family. In 2015, he spoke out in a since-deleted Instagram video about why he believed it was okay for him and other white rappers to use the N-word. (Hanks, a recovering addict, later blamed his problematic thoughts on the N-word on his heavy drug use at the time.) Lately, he’s made a strange habit of speaking in a Jamaican patois, putting on the faux accent at the Golden Globes and as recently as two days ago in his Instagram Stories as he laid out the rules and regulations for white-boy summer.

Hanks has insisted in the past that speaking in the patois is no different than if he were to speak in a British accent as a gag, but of course, that’s not the case. There’s an obvious level of appropriation at play here — with the accent and, to a larger extent, with Hanks’s whole persona. There’s nothing wrong, in theory, with a white guy loving hip-hop or trying to rap, but it’s important that he does it in a way that’s both authentic and respectful.

And if this is your first exposure to the internet antics of Hanks, all of this might have you wondering, “What is this guy’s deal?”

In addition to his rap career, which began while he was in college at Northwestern with “White and Purple,” a cover of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” with the lyrics rewritten to rep his school colors, he has followed in his dad’s footsteps as an actor. His most notable roles include appearances on Shameless, Empire and Your Honor, and he recently shared a scene with his father in the movie Greyhound.

But why? Why is he like this? What do he and Tom Hanks talk about at Thanksgiving? How did America’s dad, whose biggest vice appears to be vintage typewriters, manage to raise such a cringe-y guy who, when he’s not consistently putting his foot in his mouth, spends most of his days on social media bragging about how much he can lift?

There’s no real answer — at least not one we can figure out without an insider’s perspective on the Hanks family dynamics. And so, unfortunately, Chet Hanks remains a mystery for us to continue pondering well into this (regular, non-white boy) summer.

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