Hollywood was founded by, and for generations run by, pure showmen who
were fanatically devoted to giving the audience what it wanted. Today
Hollywood’s message is, “Let us entertain you! But first, a brief lecture
on what’s wrong with you, the audience …”
Artists and entertainment corporations have always been desperate to be
taken seriously, hence their need to manufacture respectability via awards
given out by high-falutin’, august-sounding institutions such as the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Sciences? You guys are
creating pretty pictures, not curing cancer.)
The Oscars originally went to box office giants — glossy romantic dramas
and swaggering historical epics. Then the movie industry divided into
“awards pictures” and “audience pictures.” In the past few years, even the
audience pictures have started to fill up with reminders about racism,
feminism, immigration, etc. These are important matters, but people go to
the movies primarily for escape.
One reason “Top Gun: Maverick” is such a huge success — the biggest movie
of Tom Cruise’s career and probably the biggest movie of this year — is
that it simply ignores all quarrelsome real-world issues. “TG:M” seeks
merely to entertain, not to persuade you that the people who made it are
Meanwhile, Disney’s much-touted “Lightyear” came out and did surprisingly
poorly after a lot of week-of-release talk about the lesbian relationship
in the film. The same-sex marriage is a small part of the story and no one
should be bothered by the existence of gay people, even in a kids’ movie,
but the shocking underperformance must have Disney wondering whether
people stayed away because they thought (even if mistakenly) that
“Lightyear” was a message movie.
Disney’s decision to spend a couple of minutes of screen time reminding us
that it’s a gay-friendly company may well have cost it millions in ticket
sales for what was supposed to be its annual Pixar mega-blockbuster.
Disney has to consider the idea that there might be many Pixar fans who
have no problem with gay marriage who nevertheless would prefer the matter
be left out of kids’ movies. Disney also chose a side in the Florida
dispute about teaching sexual orientation to little kids, and it may have
damaged one of the world’s most valuable brands.
James Patterson — the quintessence of a popular writer who doesn’t care
about sending a message — was swamped with criticism when he suggested
white male writers in Hollywood are victims of “just another form of
racism.” That sounds dumb on the surface, but every producer in Hollywood
is loudly proclaiming his commitment to inclusivity, which is another way
of saying he is desperate to hire people other than non-handicapped
straight white males. TV networks are proudly announcing new requirements
that (at, for instance, CBS) at least 50% of staff writers be members of
minority groups. Once hired, such staffers often push for stories about
pressing social problems.
Result? A British TV survey found that 62% of viewers think political
correctness has gone too far.
“I’m in a lot of meetings now, where people tell me, ‘This will never get
on because it’s not woke enough,’” observes Egyptian-born British comedy
writer-producer Ash Atalla. Polling shows TV producers are much more
interested in foregrounding issues such as transgender rights than the
British public (which is notably more PC than we Americans are). In the
US, a poll focusing on the entertainment industry found that 65% agree
that corporate wokeness has gone too far.
It’s amusing that members of the entertainment industry often refer to it
as “the industry,” as though they have forgotten the most important word.
With the collapse in Netflix’s stock price, Disney’s box office headache
and the revival of “Top Gun,” Hollywood execs must be wondering whether
their progressive politics have amounted to a kind of self-imposed woke
Kyle Smith is critic-at-large for National Review.