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Variety’s Brent Lang asks why Oscar movies are struggling at the box office, specifically related to She Said, but you could add Bros or any other movie that disappointed. Jeff Wells said simply, Go Woke Go Broke?
Christian Toto had written way back on November 7th with a piece called, Panic Time? Oscar-Bait Movies Keep Tanking at Box Office. He also added his voice to the commentary on She Said specifically to comment on how journalism changed in 2016, and he’s right. Journalism changed completely, just like Hollywood did. The New York Times joined “the resistance” and lost its objectivity. The film She Said tells the story as Hollywood always does, as though there is only one perspective on any of it. They just assume all of America agrees, or should because their word is the right one.
She Said, like Bros, would have done better and been seen by more people if it had been left to, say, HBO or Netflix. But asking people to shell out $20 or $40 right now in an inflation spiral is asking a lot. We all lived through the Me Too movement, lived through Weinstein, felt the trauma of it and now we’re in the PTSD part of the story. Only a small group of people would pay to relive it. So that’s endemic to the movie, no matter how good it is. And it is good. I hope people go see it because it’s one of the best films of the year.
The box office reaction to She Said or any other Oscar movie is less about the movie itself and more about what people THINK the movie is going to be about. Hollywood and the Oscars have a branding problem and their films are going to suffer as a result. The Oscars are trying to pull themselves out of it and maybe they will.
But only some of it is branding. Some of it is what we just lived through.
COVID wiped away the target audience for “Oscar movies.” As in politics, the marriage between Twitter and the media creates a mirage. You think if Twitter is excited about something that means audiences will be too. Sometimes they are.
Hollywood could survive the rise of superhero movies and adults turning away from the box office, which we’ve watched go down for the past decade. It can’t survive now that its only audience left, its core, is choosing to stay home out of habit from lockdown days, out of fear of getting COVID, and the convenience of having a better, safer, easier experience at home.
That’s one reason why these films aren’t doing well. But there is another reason and we have to talk about the elephant in the room.
Hollywood’s branding problem now has people saying, “Fool me once, shame on you” – fool me twice, shame on me. That means they buy a ticket, they invest their time in a movie and they Woked.
What getting “Woked” means is that you pick up a book or you sit down to watch a movie, and out of nowhere — bam — you’re hit with something you can plainly see is forced ideology.
(Yes, the word “woke” has been appropriated by the white community, and yes, it is used as a catch-all. It’s just that it’s a word everyone understands by now, so it’s easier to use. If you start arguing about it you’re stuck in the mud, and you’ll never get out of the mud to make your point. But — noted. Moving on.)
The “woke” doctrine has invaded art the way studio heads back in the 1940s, and 1950s worried Communism would. If Joseph McCarthy came back and saw what Hollywood had become, he would conclude the commies finally won. What you’re seeing is indoctrination disguised as art. But it isn’t just the “woke” stuff alienating audiences. It’s partly that. It’s exhausting, not entertaining. Movies are meant to be an escape. They’re meant to give you more than they take from you.
That’s the truth of it, though. Activists HAVE infiltrated Hollywood the same way many Marxist-leaning people did back in the 1930s and 1940s. They wanted to change how people think the same way they want to change how people think now. They’re infusing all content with propaganda.
Most people don’t like being told what to think, least of all by the wealthy in Hollywood. Why should they care what people who live in gated communities think about anything? Those people have all of their basic needs met so all they want now is a higher purpose. You know, like the Catholics before the Reformation.
Oscar movies aren’t bombing because they’re “woke,” and many of them aren’t. The Banshees of Inisherin isn’t. It’s that people have been “Woked” too many times, so they think — I’ll catch it on streaming. The last remaining group, to repeat, is likely staying home due to ongoing COVID fear. That isn’t everyone, but it’s enough to make a dent in the box office.
I just got Woked watching a movie recently that was kind of good overall. But its ultimate message was meant to make me, the viewer, feel bad about myself and my world because that is what they want you to feel. They want you to feel guilty and bad because they, the filmmakers, are noble and holy and are on the other side of it.
I know lots of white people like this — I used to — who go around carping about “systemic racism” and “white privilege” as white people. That puts them on the other side and makes them seem “good” and “woke.” It gives them a sense of higher purpose.
But the end result of this is always the same story. It’s like Christian Rock. No matter how good it is at the end of the day, it is always going to be about just that one thing. This movie I was watching, like almost every movie or advertising you see, was reminding me yet again of the hierarchy of race. White people are bad; everyone else is good.
How can you ever expect actors of color – Black, Hispanic – to have any sort of chance to tell great stories if they’re trapped in the cocoon of white guilt and must always be portrayed as noble saints compared to the white heathens? Meanwhile, White people get all of the good parts because they are allowed to be imperfect, flawed, and corrupt. And ONLY THEM.
I think personally that it betrays your sense of superiority ultimately, as does equity in Hollywood and the Oscars. They’re saying women and people of color can never be as good as white males, so they have to be “helped” to win. But that robs them of their worth in the end because all it does is reward the whites who are giving it to them in the first place. See how good we are? See how “woke” we are?
Most people are sick of it, though hardly anyone will write about it because they will be slammed online.
There are great movies being made now. It’s just that the branding problem will keep people away for a time until Hollywood can build trust again with its audience. Movies are just too expensive for people to take a chance and get burned.
This video essay, by the way, starts with how surprised he is that this movie was so good. And I agree. People are shocked to find a good movie anymore because they’re so used to movies sucking really bad.
And here is my buddy Chris Gore talking about the elephant in the room:
Hollywood and the Oscars have a branding problem. They’ve now conditioned people to think when they sit down to watch one of their movies, they’re always going to get the same thing every time. It is going to take some time, and a whole lot of giant hairy balls, to dig themselves out of it. Readers of this site know that I have been trying to sound the alarm for a while now, though I’ve mostly given up.
Leave it to the market to decide, and you will have much better movies at the box office that people actually want to see. But when the actors themselves, the stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Julia Roberts become loud activists, it makes it more difficult for audiences to see them as anything else. That too is causing Hollywood some problems.
So what they can do? How can they fix it? Well, for starters, they can face the reality of what America actually is: mostly white, mostly heterosexual, and mostly moderate. Tell stories honestly and organically. Find the best writers and directors even if they are — gasp — white guys. Do what you do best. That doesn’t mean only making movies by and for white people – but it might mean that you shouldn’t always be trying to tell the same story, that straight white people are bad and should be wiped off the map.
BJ Novak is one of the few people in Hollywood I have seen with a macro view of the country. It’s too bad that Vengeance will be seen as yet another indie Hollywood movie, but if you watch it, you will see the kind of storytelling we used to celebrate. He tells the truth without having to ram through false truths to make himself look good. In fact, he does exactly the opposite. He deliberately tries to teach himself — or his character — a lesson.