Source: Janet Levy
At the 78th Golden Globe Awards ceremony in 2020, host Ricky Gervais savagely roasted Hollywood’s woke hypocrisy. The British actor-comedian said this was the last time he would be hosting the show, so he would fire away with some nothing-to-lose sarcasm. He joked about Felicity Huffman — who got a 14-day jail term plus a fine and community service for bribing an SAT proctor to boost her daughter’s scores — designing the license plate of the limo that ferried him to the gala; about sex offenders Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein; and about Hollywood’s protracted, politicized acceptance speeches. The reactions of many in the audience — including actor Tom Hanks’s priceless display of restrained apoplexy and discomfiture — were later meme-ified across the internet.
But what was really important was that Gervais drove home points about Hollywood’s sham wokeness, a sickening obsession that threatens to deep-six entertainment. Apple, Amazon, Disney — he spared none: “Apple roared into the TV game with The Morning Show, a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China. Well, you say you’re woke but the companies you work for in China — unbelievable. Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?” And he punctured many an inflated ego, saying, “So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use your platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world.”
Indeed. Ruled by the messages of leftists and social justice warriors, whose beliefs have long informed the culture of political correctness, Hollywood — like the community of political insiders designated “the swamp” — is out of touch with the American public and with reality. The frequent injection of woke points of view into scripts makes them unrepresentative of the life experiences of the masses. But to protect jobs or careers and to avoid being canceled, writers and other entertainment professionals hide any conservative leanings and toe the ideological line. Hollywood’s political donations go almost exclusively to Democrats and Democrat-leaning political action committees and organizations.
Cocooned in a never-never land of virtue-signaling, Hollywood is now focused on political correctness at the expense of entertainment. Award shows are more and more about making political statements. (Gervais lanced this proclivity, saying he’d have read out an “In Memoriam” list of Hollywood personalities who had died, but it was mostly white people and so, not diverse enough!) Every film or TV show must now have a leading minority or LGBT character or meet a plethora of newly devised diversity requirements.
In September, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released Academy Aperture 2025, an initiative to promote “equitable representation on and off screen” to “better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience.” From 2024, an array of diversity requirements — for actors; storyline; internships; training opportunities; and the composition of creative, technical, marketing, publicity, and distribution teams — must be met before a film will be considered for the Best Picture award.
One reflection of how wokeness is hurting Hollywood was the diminished audience for the 92nd Academy Awards gala of 2020: the show was the least-watched Oscar presentation ever, with TV viewership dropping 20% from the previous year. But the bigger blow is to creativity. In a recent Vanity Fair interview, film director Todd Phillips, known for comedic works like Old School, Starsky & Hutch, and School for Scoundrels, said he consciously moved away from comedy to dark drama while making Joker. “Go, try to be funny nowadays,” he said. “There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore — I’ll tell you why[.]” He spoke about how funny guys couldn’t do their work for fear of offending someone or the other. As veteran comedian Mel Brooks put it, “we’ve become stupidly politically correct. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks.”
The wokeness police interfered with serious works, too. Singer-songwriter Sia’s upcoming film Music ran into trouble beginning with the release of its trailer. The woke brigade in the entertainment community and various organizations raised a furor about the “offensive” and “inaccurate” portrayal of a disability Sia had researched for three years. They asked why she hadn’t cast a disabled actor in the starring role and questioned the film’s portrayal of the use of physical restraints on autistic people. Initially, Sia had responded to the criticism in spades, saying her motives for making the film were “awesome,” but, under intense pressure, she finally announced the addition of a warning label at the beginning of the film.
Even Disney’s seemingly innocent fare has succumbed to this imbecilic mania for warning labels and disclaimers. Its streaming service, Disney Plus, has attached disclaimers to classics like Dumbo, Jungle Book, Aristocats, and Lady and the Tramp: “The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.”
Taking a cue from the Academy, the Emmy Awards are showing signs of waking to be woke. That many in the television production community are clamoring for “authentic representation” and the amplification of “voices that must be heard” and say representation of the disabled, neuro-diverse, and people from “marginalized” communities is critical seems beyond the pale. Mike Henry, a white actor, who for two decades voiced Family Guy‘s Cleveland Brown, a black character in the animated series, has stepped down from the role, convinced that only non-white person should play a non-white character. Fox instituted a policy in 2020: whites will no longer voice non-white characters.
When Friends, the smash-hit ten-season NBC sitcom, announced a reunion, Millennials who think it was racist, transphobic, and misogynistic were triggered. Media Entertainment Arts Worldwide (MEAWW) issued a statement that the special had “better have more racial diversity and LGBTQ representation.” Nickelodeon’s popular cartoon SpongeBob Squarepants is another casualty: several episodes are no longer available. The channel now deems them inappropriate for allegedly provoking “violence-inducing anti-Asian hate”; the Season 12 episode Kwarantined Krab has been declared “insensitive” to the current pandemic.
Wokeness is infecting theater and music, too. Last month, a Minneapolis theater company canceled its production of Cinderella because the cast was “too white” and hired a “diversity consultant” to help with “identity-conscious casting.” And the P.C. crowd has changed the lyrics to John Legend’s Christmas classic “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” saying the original promoted date rape. The new version boringly lists the right things a man should do and reminds women that “it’s your body and your choice” until, finally, the woman in the song decides: “but oh, I don’t wanna go.”
Choked by wokeness, popular culture is taking to a quota system of virtue-signaling that alienates its consumers; hurts the careers of talented actors and artists; and, above all, forfends the creativity that results in quality entertainment. Certainly, focusing on universal themes common to the human experience will unify more than the bizarre practice of creating minority characters and hiring minority actors to play them to meet quotas. After all, great world literature has done just that down the ages, not particularly caring for the proportional representation that political correctness has suddenly made fashionable. And isn’t it a preposterous and insulting idea that minority groups are entitled to roles not for their ability or talent, but because of their race, ethnicity, disability, or membership in some grievance group?
Hollywood ought to listen to its P.C.-weary consumers, stop sermonizing, and start entertaining again. It should cast off the pretentions of “wokeness” and embrace real creativity