Dear the people,
Award season for Hollywood kicked off last week, with a particularly memorable speech by British comedian Ricky Gervais. While his speech may not have endeared him to Hollywood elites, his words rang especially true for the American people who want to be able to enjoy their entertainment in peace: “[…]So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world.[..]”
While Gervais’ speech may be controversial among those who he mocked, the Left as a whole, and even some who straddle middle ground, no one can deny the fact that he represents a mindset many have. Americans want to retreat to their entertainment for escapism – not to have a lesson about their faults shoved down their throats….right? After all, it’s not like some of the most popular novels and films of the 20th century and indeed history itself, revered classics in their own right, promote a certain message.
History is littered with art that takes some form of a social commentary. Novels such as Animal Farm, War and Peace, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, have given the world different ways to think about racism, socialism, war, and more. Even though such material is considered to be well known and classic reading these days, it was certainly not considered to be suitable for audiences back in the day. The reasoning stands apart from contemporary political outrage however (but we’ll address that shortly).
Take Ray Bradbury’s masterful Fahrenheit 451, a novel that ironically has suffered the fate it depicts in many schools and libraries. As with 1984, Animal Farm, and other novels with such obvious political stances, Bradbury’s work was banned on two grounds, that of characters cussing (in ways that would be considered mild by today’s standards with uses of “God damn” and “hell” being incited) and encouraging citizens to question the government. While one could make a valid argument about certain content being offensive to younger audiences, the second reason for erasure is much more alarming. To ban a book because it is thought provoking and encourages discussion says much about those who would try to remove it from the public’s view.
Which brings us to the modern day world of cinema. What made these classic works of the past so good was the way they cleverly packaged their messages in a story that was worthy of carrying the burden of such deep ideologies and introduced these notable topics via characters who audiences could find relatable. Contrast this with some of the films that Hollywood has so desperately pushed within the last few years that have a “woke” narrative. In 2019 alone we got Captain Marvel, Charlie’s Angels, Terminator: Dark Fate, and more. These films performed in a range from successful to poorly, with much of the publicity pushing these films forward being based solely on the fact that the protagonists of these films were females, members of the LGBTQ community, persons of color, or all of the above. Criticism of such “politically woke” films may be rather fair and unbiased, but has instead turned private opinions into wars based solely on the basis of the critic’s gender and/or ethnicity. If you’re white, male, straight, cisgendered, or heaven forbid all of the above, your right to critique a film is suddenly null.
I’m not saying that invalid racist or sexist criticism of films/books/media doesn’t exist, but I am saying that it is a far cry from days past, where political material was banned because it encouraged free thought and questioning the government. Going to see a film, reading a book, partaking in any form of media is no longer simply about the content and the right to discuss it. While banning material may not be as commonplace these days, taking away the right to simply have an opinion is becoming more and more common. Ben Shapiro perhaps put it best when he said “[because] culture is usually the last vestige of unity…culture tends to be the easiest place of unity…the stuff that’s hard is philosophy, history, and all the stuff that under girds a successful civilization but when all those other things fall away and the last thing we can unify about is culture and then culture is polarized we end up in these culture wars where we’re fighting”.
The truth is political messaging isn’t the problem. We treasure classics like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Brave New World, Little Women, and more because they introduce ideas, whether more mild or not. They welcome discussion and thought. They present ideas through a story without asking you to necessarily come to a conclusion. Yes, there is a set message and yes you are meant to come away with a certain impression. But at least no one is forcing you to walk away agreeing or calling you a “bigot” if you fail to agree or disagree with the message contained within. I’ve stated it before, but I’ll state it again: people should agree to disagree. There is nothing wrong with a respectful understanding of the political view held by someone who opposes you and an agreement to not hold a piece of media in the same regard.
Here lies the main divide of the American people, the frustration with Hollywood, and the lack of interest in being talked down to via a piece of entertainment or its creators. Escapist entertainment may teach a lesson, but it should allow us to escape into somewhere where we’re not compelled to focus on the lesson. We should be allowed to walk away from something if it holds no interest for us and allowed to actively dislike something without having our character called into question.
It’s worth remembering this quote by Voltaire.
“If you want to know who is in charge, look at who you can’t critique.”Voltaire
P. S. For further commentary on this, I’d recommend THIS excellent video by PragerU featuring BREXIT’s Candace Owens.