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‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ Comes To Hollywood?

The film business reckons with the financial truth of Sam Goldwyn's quip: 'If you want to send a message, use Western Union.'
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Hollywood is an ideologically motivated moral community. There are actually people who believe that money and money alone drives Hollywood's decisions. These are always people who wish to deny or downplay the role of ideology in deciding what gets made and who gets ahead in the film and TV business.

Hollywood has long been liberal, but with the advent of wokeness, it has gone crazy. The New York Times wrote a piece the other day in which the author discussed how audiences don't care about woke movies, and what that's doing to the town's sense of mission. Excerpts:

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This article is based on interviews with more than two dozen industry leaders — including top studio executives, agents, activists, marketers and producers — who spoke on condition of anonymity to candidly discuss the current state of the entertainment business. They varied in age, race, ethnicity and gender.

“For three years, we hired nothing but women and people of color,” said a senior film executive, who like many leaders in the industry is a white male. He added that he did not think some of them were able to do the jobs they got.

In hushed conversations over lunch at Toscana Brentwood and cocktails at the San Vicente Bungalows, some powerful producers and agents have started to question the commercial viability of inclusion-minded films and shows.

They point to terrible ticket sales for films like “Bros,” the first gay rom-com from a major studio, and “Easter Sunday,” a comedy positioned as a watershed moment for Filipino representation. “Ms. Marvel,” a critically adored Disney+ series about a teenage Muslim superhero, was lightly viewed, according to Nielsen’s measurements.

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The moment is nonetheless unnerving, said Sarah Ann Masse, an actress who appears in “She Said” — which is based on a book by The New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey — and who serves on two sexual harassment prevention committees for SAG-AFTRA, the omnipotent actors union. In 2017, Ms. Masse accused Mr. Weinstein of sexually assaulting her in 2008. He has denied wrongdoing.

“I’m not naïve enough to think that a system that is unequal and oftentimes oppressive — yes, still, very much so — is going to change overnight,” Ms. Masse said. “At the same time, I find it incredibly frustrating. People at the top of the food chain, in particular, seem to have gotten distracted by new concerns.”

"Unnerving"? "Oppressive"? These are some of the wealthiest and most pampered people in the world!

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In August, Warner Bros. Discovery shelved “Batgirl,” a nearly finished movie starring a Latina actress, featuring a transgender actress in a supporting role, written by a woman, produced by women and directed by two Muslim men. Warner Bros. Discovery never publicly explained its decision, but signaled that it found “Batgirl” to be creatively lacking.

Dan Lin, a producer whose credits include “Aladdin” (2019) and “The Lego Movie,” was among those who inferred something else.

“It’s no longer about optics,” Mr. Lin said. “A recession is coming, budgets are tightening and I’m really worried that diversity is going to be the first thing that goes.”

Let me explain something to you, Dan Lin: most ordinary people are not going to pay real money to go see a movie that sucks, no matter what the color, sex, religion, or sexual orientation of the filmmakers. It's only liberal elites who, unfortunately, run institutions like studios, media outlets, and colleges who believe that "diversity," as they define it, has anything to do with quality. They are always shocked when their theories fail, but often seem to think the answer is therefore to work harder to be more diverse.

Think about it: If a professional basketball team decided to be more "diverse" by hiring and playing more Asians and Jews, and benching black men, do you think that team would thrive? No, it would lose games, because nobody wants to see mediocre professional basketball, and it would lose ticket sales. So why do people have the idea that this plonkingly crude idea of diversity is somehow going to work in Hollywood?

Answer: they need to believe it, because they are either ideological fanatics, guilty white liberals, or both. Look, you could open a movie about theologically-inclined middle-aged Southern white guys who like to cook and travel, but if I had heard bad buzz on it, I'm not going to give my $14 to see it just because it's about people like me. I happily paid my money to see the Top Gun movie this past summer, even though it's not about people like me at all; I paid because I had heard good things about it, and I found it highly entertaining. Then again, for these ideologues in Hollywood, "Top Gun: Maverick" was a movie about white males. That's the least interesting thing about the movie! No normal person goes to "Top Gun: Maverick" and comes out thinking, "Gosh, white men were so great in that movie!"

I mean, look at the recent box-office bomb "Bros," the gay male romantic comedy. It featured explicit homoeroticism -- gay kisses, etc. Which is fine, if you're into that sort of thing, but it didn't seem to occur to anybody in Hollywood that most of America goes to romantic comedies on dates, and that most heterosexual men don't relish the thought of spending 90 minutes with their dates watching dudes play grab-ass. There's a scene in the film's trailer in which children taunt the gay male protagonist with the possibility that he might be a "bottom" (receiver of anal sex). Who wants to hear that crap? This is not rocket science (but then again, rocket science has been woke-ified because mathematical correctness is white supremacy, so maybe Hollywood is incapable of understanding).

The Times writer, Brooks Barnes, seems anguished by this turn of affairs. He writes:

There is no longer across-the-board banishment for men who have been accused of misconduct. 

Wait, what? He believes that the mere accusation of misconduct should be enough to ruin a man's career? If men have been accused of misconduct, but the accusation was not sustained in court, I would say that not banishing them is basic fairness.

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At the same time, some movies and shows that overtly showcase diversity and inclusion have either struggled in the marketplace or failed to get off the runway. The takeaway, at least to some agents and studio executives: We tried — these “woke” projects don’t work.

Of course, most of what Hollywood makes struggles to get noticed, and almost never for a single reason; nobody looks at poor ticket sales for a Brad Pitt movie and concludes that no one wants to see older white men onscreen. But entertainment is a reactive business — chase whatever worked over the weekend — and there is a risk that “go woke, go broke” jokes could calcify into conventional Hollywood wisdom.

Man, the cope is strong with this guy. Nobody looks at a Brad Pitt movie failing at the box office as a sign that old white man movies don't work because people have common sense. A movie with a cast that meets the Hollywood Left's idea of diversity that was also any damn good would do well at the box office. Honestly, I don't understand why this is not obvious to these people. They cannot let go of their idea that art is supposed to be inherently political and moralistic. When Evangelical filmmakers produce movies that are driven more by message than artistic qualities, Hollywood people have no trouble understanding why they don't do well at the box office. But they are completely blind to how this works when it involves their own religion, which is Wokeness.

In recent months, however, Hollywood’s business culture has started to regress in subtle ways.

See, there's the tell. If your idea of progress is hurting your business, you had better regress. If you drive your car into the ditch, the first thing you should do is put it in reverse and go back to where you were.

The problem is not that there are not enough movies for people like me, or like you, or like him and her and them. The problem is that there are not enough quality movies, period. We will never have good movies as long as studios are picking and choosing products based on any factors other than quality. Like Sam Goldwyn supposedly said to the Hollywood ideologues of his day, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union."

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JON FRAZIER
JON FRAZIER
Was "Bros" in any sense "woke"? I haven't seen it and have no plans to-- it's possible it showcases that particularly obnoxious leftwing attitude of intolerance that is the sine qua non of wokeness. But the online description doesn't sound like it-- it's not about some gay rights crusade as far as I can tell. Maybe it's just a crappy movie: inept plotting, poor acting, that sort of thing. Brokeback Mountain did OK a while back so I don't think movies with gay guys as the lead characters are necessarily doomed.
Meanwhile there are too many movies focused on a teenage or very young adult audience, hence the ascendancy of superhero blockbusters and the like. But that's not news, it's been that way for years.
schedule 3 months ago
    Peter Kurilecz
    Peter Kurilecz
    "Brokeback Mountain did OK a while back "
    because it was totally gay like Bros is. there is more to Brokeback mountain, but once I heard about the gay part I said nope not going to see it
    schedule 3 months ago