Wokeness In Film Isn’t The Problem

A sentiment is brewing online about what’s wrong with the film industry:

They went woke, and now they’re broke.

There seems to be growing traction around this idea that the industry went “all-in” promoting diversity. Audiences were repelled, and now the studios are scrambling because they lost profits. This implies essentially that everything was great until they started showcasing more “wokeness,” i.e., Black, brown, female, and/or queer-centered stories among others.

This week, I’d like to dispel some of this myth. And get us all back on the same page with a simple fact:


Here’s a simple definition of the term:

Aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)

This once call to action for more investigation and reflection has now become an insult. A new rallying cry that America is not the problem. It’s the people criticizing it. And that somehow Hollywood became “entranced” by their actions on social media and ruined their own business by doing so.

For a brief period, there were more films and TV shows that featured diverse casts and themes. But this wasn’t because Hollywood was simply trying to pander to an audience (which they were).

It was because they were running up the tab filling their thirst for a streaming platform.

Money was cheap for the longest time. And all the big companies were trying to compete with Netflix. Everybody and their uncle wanted their own streaming platform to get the audiences back. The problem with launching a streaming platform is that you need originals to lure the audience.

Now the impression that we get is that these companies made the mistake of trying to create media that was bent towards social justice. But the reality is they were creating:


We have been in an IP overload for over a decade. It’s a copycat industry, and everyone was (and still is) searching for anything and everything that has a built-in audience. Much like the current state of AI, companies are trying to vacuum up as much pre-existing IP that’s out there and deliver it in as many ways as possible.

This, combined with peak streaming, leads to a market where more is financed than feasibly possible. Sometimes an original voice breaks through. But more often than not, it’s a new take on old material. Audiences did get tired of it. But the fatigue isn’t from seeing the same story given to us repeatedly.

This has now been seized by the right and used as part of a new twist on the Southern Strategy:

Seeing those others on the screen and learning uncomfortable historical truths is the real danger to society. We need to get rid of all of it.

This comes down to a centuries-old issue we refuse to face:


That heading makes many people uncomfortable. And that’s because that is how we are conditioned to identify. But the problem is:

We’re all caught in a trap.

White, Black, Asian – these are all mechanisms of social control to keep the poor from revolting against the few who owned all the land (and still do). Anyone who looks European and gives up that identity for White immediately gets put on a higher pedestal. And it’s a threat to the social status quo to take it down.

This backlash against wokeness is just another in a long line of threats against White, male, traditional (i.e., Christian) values. It’s been “under attack” since its inception in the colonial era. And gave us one of the very first blockbusters.

Working on this documentary about Ukraine reminded me of what I encountered time and again living in Europe. Where we see race, they see culture. Sometimes as a method of superiority. But mostly, as a curious means of connection.

And this country will never begin to reach its full potential until we get to that place.


One of the final criticisms of films being “too woke” is this:

I want to be entertained and not be given a message.

Here’s the actual truth:

I don’t want to hear THAT message from THOSE people.

Films and art, in general, are messages. They’re manuals and instructions on navigating life. Whether you like the delivery of the message or the contents themselves is subjective. But you can never separate the two from each other.

Hollywood never went “woke” and ruined their industry. They bought into streaming and ruined it. Trying to capture (let’s be honest, mostly pander to) a diverse audience was just a ploy to try and stockpile “content” for a Ponzi scheme. One that’s backfired, and now crews are suffering.

Seeing media by and about people who might think, look, or experience the world differently from the perceived norm isn’t a threat. It’s a boon to society as a whole. It helps us all see each other a little better. And maybe it can actually open our eyes to what’s actually the problem. That all of our resources are continuously being stolen from all of us by tyrants.

Maybe this time, we won’t let ourselves be divided so easily over simple differences.


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