Art is not about activism; drama is not about deconstruction; stories are not sociology; plots are not about propaganda or "power dynamics"; arcs are not "analysis"; ideas are not ideology; teleology is not "theory"; juxtaposition is not about "justice"; characters are not low-resolution caricatures; nature is not about "narratives"; writing is not whining. All of these things are perversions and pale counterfeits.
Critical Theory is to art what films critics are to the box office. It takes a lifetime to make something, but minutes to soil it. When the analyst paints the watercolour, it's ugly.
The Virus Of Sociology Arrives in Tinseltown
If you've been feeling like you're living in a surreal Matrix World, you're not alone. Art helps us understand what is true, and how to cope with it. When it becomes corrupted, it distorts our balance and perspective. The beautiful girl or boy you met is reflected in the beauty of the song you're listening to; the zeal for your dreams is reflected in the magnificence of the orchestral quarter of the second Movement or the enormity of the chapel's architecture. The darkness of your loss can only be felt in the timbre of the spectrum's lowest frequencies.
To the theorist, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is merely a matter of tribal politics and suicidality overlaid onto social "dynamics". To the human, it is a night of perfect love escaping all evils under the sky.
To the activist, Cinderella is a "narrative" of unequal social gender roles enforcing patriarchal strata. To the romantic, it is the triumph of love over social boundaries.
To obsess over the meta-analysis of art is to miss its substance and essence. To pretend the meta-study of art is art is simply fraud. And we live in a world of imposter frauds who want the acclaim associated with creating art despite lacking the merit or talent for it.
Life is not about who wields "power". If you wake up thinking about "power", the chances are you rate highly on the sociopath scale. Art is about what transcends ideas of human agency such as power.
Art is not "equal" or "equitable". Propaganda sells you the answer; art asks you the question. Some people are naturally gifted in it, some are not. A proportion of people are tone deaf; some are singers.
What is to blame, yet again, for the corruption of the institution of film? Guess what - sociology. Cheap, talentless "writers" with liberal arts sociology majors are cheating their way up by penning activist essays masquerading as screenplays. They seem to think their films should be an "analysis", and can't understand the difference between narrative and drama, or story and sociology.
They have been stoked into believing they have been converted on campus into a religious "critical consciousness" and the "enlightened" vision of seeing the world as a trained, radical Marxist. They are here to re-educate us all and rewrite history as it should have been. It's fashionable.
Let's dig down. Sorry - "lean in".
What Is Critical Theory?
Put simply, the dominant idea in the crock subject of sociology and its bastard children, like "Gender Studies". Until several years ago, it was a fringe, nutty academic idea which lived within a similarly fringe, nutty corner of the campus as Postmodern theory. Since universities have pumped out worthless degrees for crappy graduates to hack through for their resumes, it's become ubiquitous.
In the style of Hegel's alchemy "dialectic" (thesis + antithesis = synthesis), and in the way Marx's materialism hoped to be the antithesis of capitalism, Critical Theory aimed to be the "antithesis" of normal scientific Theory.
It was created by German sociologist Max Horkheimer in the book Traditional and Critical Theory, at the Institute of Social Research (i.e. the "Frankfurt School"). His premise was "traditional" theorists failed to take into account the influence of power, domination, and the status quo.
A Critical Theory is intrinsically a recipe for political activism. It must look at society in historical context, and incorporate criticism from all the social sciences. It has to be:
- Explanatory: it must complain vociferously about a social problem, or just make one up;
- Practical: it must offer an answer or plan for activists to undermine and subvert the "power structure";
- Normative: it must offer the same criticism as other critical theories, i.e. Marxist.
That all sounds lovely, but what it meant in reality was politicising everything as a Marxist class struggle and destroying legitimacy by criticizing things to death.
"In the early years of its existence, Horkheimer described the institute’s program as “interdisciplinary materialism,” thereby indicating its goal of integrating Marxist-oriented philosophy of history with the social sciences, especially economics, history, sociology, social psychology, and psychoanalysis. The resulting “critical theory” would elucidate the various forms of social control through which state-managed capitalism tended to defuse class conflict and integrate the working classes into the reigning economic system." (Britannica)
It's intellectualism for dumb people who want to sound clever.
This ability to see things other than politics in a corrupted Marxist way is known as a Hegel-style enlightened "critical consciousness". Or as we know it now, being "woke" to social oppression.
This meta-bullshit is "taught" at universities everywhere for $$$$$ to gullible liberal arts students who weren't able to get into the subject they wanted to. Horkheimer moved to Los Angeles in 1941 after his institute collapsed financially, and Marcuse rotted away at USC.
This preposterous cancer lives on thanks to the Annenberg Institute's "research" it pushes on studios, formulated by Stacy Smith.
Identifying Nutjobs By Their Magic Language
Key buzzwords from Crock Theory are found everywhere now. As soon as you hear them, you know you've spotted an indoctrinee who is entirely incapable of thinking for themselves. They have their own special language which they believe makes them sound incredibly clever, because it's abstract, incomprehensible, and ethereal. Like angels speaking shibboleths and glossolalia.
This pretentious jargon is a dead giveaway.
Each term is an increased abstraction of a simple concept, which is typically some kind of euphemism or dog whistle.
Something fictional we made up.
Playing stupid games with the meanings of words to show they don't mean anything, in order to show everything is just words.
Idea vs counter-idea = truth.
People discussing things.
How we know things.
De facto dominance of something. Like the media.
How something is explained or interpreted.
Cross-referencing to another subject.
Taken on board into Freud's fictional "unconscious".
Suffering more than one type of discrimination.
Vengeful Communist revolution against the capitalist "oppression" of the 1%.
A perspective or opinion. An ideology.
A biased or manipulative subjective opinion. Lying.
The normal or typical way things are.
Performing for the crowd. Being pretentious.
People, their politics, and how they treat each other to get and stay ahead.
Literally anything. Imaginary, invisible, unfalsifiable, err, anything, which stop the revolution.
The snobby attitude of class enemies who have more, which they can't see.
Annoying, upsetting, irritating, resentment-inducing.
Literally anything. A room, playpen, witches' coven, parking lot.
A bad attitude espoused by class enemies. See "hegemony".
Literally anything. Imaginary, invisible, unfalsifiable, err, fictional ways things work.
Nasty or abusive.
The general principle at work here is to use "big" words to indicate your intellectual status, rather than communicating clearly with simple ones. If you can't describe what you are thinking about, just add "systemic" in there. If you're talking about everyday life, use "normativity" to your "narrative".
The Sokal hoax and Sokal Squared hoax go so far into the absurd with this Faculty Lounge Language, it's hard to believe.
Typically, the authors are entirely obsessed with how "power" apparently "operates" in society. They believe our "reality" (whatever that means) is entirely personal and subjective, and is "created" (constructed) through the words we give to things. They want to change people's perception through "subverting" our sense of collective meaning using different words. They are an enlightened religious priesthood who have a "critical theory consciousness" about the society and the world.
Nobody thinks this way except psychopaths.
It's alarmingly stupid. And it's a humanist cult religion.
An example of this is claiming children have a sex "assigned at birth" on a certificate. They don't. Their sexual differentiation is fused in their genetics at the moment of conception as XX or XY, and visually observed by medical professionals by the development of primary sexual organs around the twelfth week of pregnancy.
Male and female may be "words", but they exist in almost all cultures as terms for something in reality.
Language describes objective reality, and truth corresponds to it. Subverting something means to corrupt it. Perception obscures truth, but that doesn't mean it stops existing.
To give you an idea of just how obscurantist these charlatans are, here's Horkheimer:
"The inversion of external compulsion into the compulsion of conscience ... produces the machine-like assiduity and pliable allegiance required by the new rationality."
What the fuck are you talking about?
Adorno, of course is even worse:
“Art respects the masses, by confronting them as that which they could be, rather than conforming to them in their degraded state.”
Almost all these theorists write block-prose which is entirely incomprehensible. Stupid and gullible people make a link between what they can't understand and supah-supah-clevaar. It's not "clever" to be unable to communicate complex ideas in a simple way.
The arts are of course festering with graduates who have studied Critical Theory sub-disciplines and are totally convinced of their own "critical consciousness". In race, we have Critical Race Theory and Cultural/Colonial Theory, in women we have Feminism and Gender Studies, and for the loons who can't work out what they are, in Queer Theory.
This "critical consciousness" meta-bullshit makes up far too much of stories in screenplays today.
Rolling Stone: The Peril of Hiring One-Dimensional Sociology Graduates
Critical Theory only teaches you to think one way: like a Marxist. There is a Bourgeoisie comprising a privileged 1%, and an under-represented Proletariat of the 99%.
This problem is exemplified in the useless pages of Rolling Stone: https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/news/top-1-percent-streaming-1055005/
"In fact, streaming hasn’t just upheld the gap between music’s haves and have-nots; it’s widened it."
You have to be educated into this kind of stupidity. "Haves" and "Have-Nots"?
None of this ends with the press. It forms the worldview of acting unions, awards panels, writers' rooms, and audition rooms.
In actual science, we call this the natural phenomena of the Pareto Distribution. It's found everywhere - even the size of meteorites. Marx described it fifty years before it was formalised, but the message still hasn't got through: this isn't about corruption, it's a form of natural distribution.
Maths and statistics are hard to understand. They require cognition. A level of cognition starting where people who aren't capable of anything beyond sociology reach their intellectual ceiling.
Art vs "Art Studies"
The most simplistic way to discern whether you have been infected with the disease of Critical Theory is whether you bankrupted yourself into repaying loans for a crock university degree centred on the "meta" analysis of what you actually wanted to do, i.e. you were educated into being an art critic, as opposed to an artist.
Critical Theory operates like a viral pathogen and has a simple modus operandi:
- Pick a weak, undefended subject you have no aptitude for. For example, Ballet.
- Write an idiotic, poorly-informed, jargon-laden journal paper about the subject, and the important people surrounding it, as if it were on the political ballot. Look at it as a Marxist would, dividing it any way you can into the 1% vs the 99%. Claim the subject is what it is because of the "power dynamics" and "social inequality" made it that way.
- Establish a new "inter-disciplinary" university degree by suffixing "Studies" to the subject, and charge students $100k/year to teach them the highly "intellectual" reasons why their failure to succeed in it is a matter of sociology.
- Bonus points: invent new jargon describing the ideas in your "theory".
The sociology of Ballet becomes "Ballet Studies"; the sociology of Mathematics becomes "Mathematics Studies", and the sociology of Literature becomes "Literary Studies". None are the practice of the discipline itself, but the people associated with it.
For those who lack the discipline or aptitude to excel in any of these, their "study" or meta-"analysis" of them is a counterfeit for their participation or achievement within them.
Put simply, if you can't do it, learn about doing it.
We see this endless pattern all across the academic world, and every one of them is a neo-humanities derivation of sociology:
- Critical Pedagogy (teaching)
- Media Studies (not media, the people in media and their politics)
- Film Studies (not film making, the people in film and their politics)
- Music Studies (not composing, the composers and their politics)
- General Studies (God knows)
- Interdisciplinary Studies
- Ethnic Studies
- Civilization Studies
- Colonial Studies
- Gender Studies (not biology, how society talks about biology)
- Religious Studies (not theology, the human practice of religion)
- Cultural Studies
- Intercultural Studies
- Drama Studies
- Mathematics Studies (not algebra, the idea of maths)
- Communications Studies
- Defence Studies (not military strategy, the aggression of it)
- International Studies
- Professional Studies
- Legal Studies (not the law, how the Law favours certain people and groups)
- Liberal Studies
- Occupational Studies
- Management Studies
- Administrative Studies
- Applied Studies
- Integrated Studies
- Tourism Studies
"Drama Studies" is not drama, but about drama; "Music Studies" is not creating music, but about music; "Legal Studies" is not law, but about law.
All of them have nothing to do with the practice of the actual subject, and exactly the same answer to everything: it's the so-called "power dynamics" of society which have brought the current situation to be. A small elite dominates, and a prescription of equity must be brought to bear. It's the same solution hoping searching for the same problem, regardless of the explanation.
But Critical Theory is sadly more than that. Once the inevitable self-fulfilled prophecy has been arrived at, it demands a prescription to fix the situation it has created. A remedy for the inequity it has burdened us with. The remedy is always the same: revolutionary Marxism.
In reality: the Pareto Distribution occurs, so it is evidence of patriarchal corruption and must be re-balanced with Marxist revolution.
There's nothing wrong with analyzing things. The problem comes when the meta study of the subject supplants the subject itself as its counterfeit, and/or when it is used a Trojan Horse to inject politicisation for the purpose of destroying it.
Story As Sociology
Let's say it again, loudly. Art asks the audience a question and invites them to come up with their answer; politicisation promotes an answer. Stories are not a vehicle for sociology activism.
What is story?
The definitions are varying:
"a description, either true or imagined, of a connected series of events." (Cambridge)
"An account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment." (Oxford)
"an account of incidents or events." (Webster)
"An account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious," (Free Dictionary)
Story is the art of imparting moral education; sociology is the cheap, boring, disreputable act of analyzing the story, or how it was created, for the sake of it.
It's illustrated perfectly, ironically enough, through a story:
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson decide to go on a camping trip. After dinner and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night, and go to sleep.
Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.
"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
Watson replied, "I see millions of stars."
"What does that tell you?"
Watson pondered for a minute.
"Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow."
"What does it tell you, Holmes?"
Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke: "Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent."
A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end - once, but, so. Someone climbs a tree, has rocks thrown at him, but gets down from the tree.
- Once upon a time this thing happened...
- But this happened and it all changed...
- However, because of that, this happened, and we learnt....
Instead of learning from the story and its message, sociology attempts to focus on the story itself, who wrote it, and why.
- Once there was a girl, who met a guy....
- But he hurt her....
- So his attempt to earn forgiveness ended in them reconciling and creating something new together.
The point of the story is about the pain thoughtlessness can cause and the benefits of forgiveness.
Sociology asks who the girl and boy were, and what message their position in the story is "designed" to posit.
If we go Campbellian:
- Once there was someone who didn't realise they were someone significant....
- But evil forced them to fight and sacrifice...
- So, they achieved their true potential by overcoming it.
The point of the story is about how the choice between good and evil is fulcrum of human self-actualization.
A sociological "studies" interpretation misses the magic of the storytelling process for the structural anathema. Instead of asking "what did we learn?", the question becomes "who wrote this, and why?" on top of "whom does it benefit?"
Can there be any stupider, more banal questions to ask? Who gives a shit?
- Once there was a servant to a King, who wanted to be King...
- His wife persuaded him to murder the King...
- They got what they wanted, but the cost was torment and insanity.
The point of the story is corruption and ambition has a terrible price.
What exactly is the point of a "critical" view of monarchy or "master/slave dialectic" here? What use is it?
- Once there was a poor, beautiful girl who was overlooked but tried against the odds to attend a ball...
- But good forces intervened to help a Prince fall in love with her when all the odds conspired against her....
- Fate found a way to bring them together, despite bad fortune.
The "sociology" interpretation of this scenario would entail the girl chasing a "motivation" or "goal", on top of the "forces" and "dynamics" of the society which inculcate the conclusion. It's total, utter horseshit.
The entire point is fortune favours the virtuous, love breaks through boundaries, and class is no barrier to romance. Class is meaningless, as is social strata. The depth of the story is endless: from the perils of meekness, to the malignancy of envy, all the way to determinism vs luck, through to optimism and justice.
Those who can't write a story, talk about writing stories. It's simply the most pathetic cope imaginable. Those who can't create a Cinderella have found a way to game the literary ladder by basing their plot on an abasement of the story's content and context. The story is no longer the story, but a bastardised counterfeit of what they meta-analyze the story to be about.
Because Critical Theory is only about one thing, the plot of Cinderella is transposed (corrupted), inverted, and plagiarised into a meta version of itself. It becomes a useless parody with an "independent" young woman whom the Prince has to court. It's infandous.
You can play this stupid game with almost any book or film, all day long.
Any story can be inverted into a "meta" or "study" of itself, for applying revisionism:
- "Top Gun" becomes the story of an anti-Vietnam pilot who "emancipates" himself from the US Air Force after renouncing US imperial aggression;
- "The Godfather" becomes a young man who dismantles the "patriarchy" of a Sicilian Mafia family and cucks to his wife;
- "Fight Club" becomes the internal journey of a man discovering how schizophrenia is inevitable result of our "internalisation" of one-dimensional consumerism (hello Marcuse!);
- "The Lion King" becomes the story of a female lion cub who stands up tyrannical males and creates a matriarchy of peace and harmony;
- "Gladiator" becomes the tale of a single mother who finds fulfillment in revolution against the corrupt Roman system of oppression ;
- "Alien" becomes a story of capitalist greed experimenting on other worlds for profit and a role modelling of xenomorphic female "empowerment";
All of these tales, in their original incarnation, feature common elements:
- A battle between good and evil;
- Overcoming suffering and impossible odds;
- Personal transformation through moral agency and choice;
They exemplify one single motive: development through moral choice. They dramatise others' struggle through difficulty and the consequences of decisions they make, good or bad; right or wrong. They show us in advance what happens, before we are faced with something similar in our own lives. They morally educate us.
We make moral choices which affect who we are, what we want, how we live, the trajectory of our lives, the others around us, and the direction of history.
In their corrupted sociology "meta" form, they replace wisdom with political nonsense:
- A programmed "message" to the audience of the world's unnatural inequality;
- A virtuous underdog fighting for revolutionary justice against a sinister oppression as the source of evil;
- Advocacy of a Utopian conclusion which corresponds to an inverted, disordered parody of reality.
All sociology and "meta" analysis amounts to in the end is cheap plagiarism and corruption. It's the same story, over and over and over and over again, with the same, boring meta-structure: "liberating" people from social conventions they are supposedly "trapped" in, towards a future which apparently holds itself together without any structure whatsoever.
Nothing is created. It's merely abstracted and derived. A postmodern copy of a copy, as Tyler Durden might say.
It's not a story; it's political advocacy and prescription. It attempts to indoctrinate us, and we rear up in revolt. It violates the idea and purpose of story itself, and what we intrinsically recognise stories to be.
There is no dilemma or moral choice, merely a linear progression of predictable events attempting to instruct us in behaviour. It attempts to conform us to orthodoxy, rather than serving us with the means to conform ourselves.
The Meta-Bullshit Abstract Language of Screenwriting
This pattern of pretentious abstraction in storytelling is plainly traceable back to Campbell's religious sociology of the Hero's Journey. Screenwriting is easy to pick up, but extraordinarily difficult to master. As time goes on, the scripts get increasingly harder to perfect.
Here's an example of this sociology bullshit at work: https://www.well-storied.com/blog/write-stronger-characters/
And here is the invasion of the social sciences into literature: https://www.well-storied.com/blog/how-to-craft-powerful-character-motivations .
Yes, we get it. A plot looks like a curve on a graph when it's visualized. We also call a timeline or a sequence.
Your characters aren't in a "conflict" and don't need "conflict". They have bloodthirsty hatred, burning resentment, devastating grief, uncontrollable greed, insatiable lust, terrifying savagery, maddening confusion, foolish compulsion, relentless hubris, gullible pity, idealistic ambition, indifferent arrogance, and so on. If you need to manufacture "conflict", your story sucks.
The Greek word Hamartia which Aristotle uses is also found in the New Testament Epistles as the word for "sin" . It's a theological concept which is not translated as "weakness" but more akin to innate depravity. The context is a deficiency of moral maturity, not that your character is a bit foolish.
Your character isn't in a fucking self-help seminar. Most people don't have the slightest idea of the consequences of what they are doing, or know but don't care. Which is their Hamartia, causing the Tragedy. What they want is obvious. "Saving my family" is trite, as is "keeping us safe". Make it stop. Nobody does that. One last mission before they retire! Just fuck off.
This idiocy comes from Campbell, and sounds like a soul-finding hippy trip to Goa. Your character is heading towards tragedy and disaster; either their fault, or someone else's. They are not on a personal "journey", just as cancer patients are not on a "health journey" before they "expire". They are on a mission, fighting for survival, defying the odds, daring to risk something, murderously stealing something, avoiding consequences for their actions, being tricked, and so on.
Villains aren't likable. That's the entire point.
It's a man or a woman your character pines for romantically or infatuated with to the extent they make a pursuit. A man who wants a woman is called a suitor. Either are a lover, paramour, shrew, beau, sweetheart. admirer, flame, inamorato, doxy, courtesan, beloved, or a swain. They have a meet-cute. Often the chap is a Lothario, Casanova, Gigolo, lecher or an adulterous philanderer and the girl is a siren or coquette.
Your motivation is your paycheck. That's it. The clue is in the word "character": what they do comes from who they are. Serial killers are homicidal: read why. Romantics are idealistic dreamers. Fools are immature. Human motivation is perfectly simple: selfish gain. Everyone (wrongly) believes they are a good person. Hannibal Lecter has no identifiable motivation; it's what makes him terrifying.
Is your character in a gymnasium or on an assault course? No. Sorkin uses this analogy, but it doesn't help. They have an enemy, refusal, misfortune, certain death, a countdown, counterstrike, disaster, restrictions, sabotage, etc. It comes from another human, or a group of them.
It's a movie. It's not real. It's deliberately unreal. Nobody "relates" to Vito Corleoni other than when he's playing with his grandchildren. "Relating" to characters is something female script readers do when they are stuck at an airport in the Women's Literature section. The audience are haunted, terrified, infatuated, or mortified by characters.
Nobody "deserves" representation, and nobody is "under-represented". The stories which get told are the good ones. The bad ones don't.
The writer's Voice. The character's Voice. Nobody cares. Do they have different ways of speaking, and are they memorable? That's it.
If your "flawed" character is on a "journey" with a "voice" and is motivated to achieve a "goal", it's going to be a shit story.
There is only one driving, aggravating factor in a tragedy: sin. The question is which characters display the most of it.
Don't listen to this meta-bullshit, or talk this meta-bullshit. It is a nonsense counterfeit abstraction supplanting actual human behaviour.
Stop "analyzing". Write the fucking story. And make it hurt.
Patient Zero: The Alien World
Let's take an immediately obvious example of young adult fiction. An adventure begins in a hostile place, full of potential for all the usual human drama. The circumstances are strange and unpredictable; the norms are uncertain.
Gene Roddenberry mastered this with Star Trek. He took situations which were difficult to talk about and put them in space, allowing us to have the conversations through the moral dilemmas his crew were made to face. By all accounts, he was a dreadful human being, but he was frighteningly clever and original.
"Indeed, Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, during one interview is quoted as saying, "I have no belief that STAR TREK depicts the actual future, it depicts us, now, things we need to understand about that". And David Gerrold, a writer for the series, says in his book that "the stories are about twentieth century man's attitudes in a future universe. The stories are about us"
So we place teenagers in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Or plane crash survivors on a magic island. Or a cast in an alternate timeline. We start them afresh, so to speak.
We can use their setting to do a number of things.
We can embrace reality: expose human nature and explore universal moral truths which are independent of time or place, learning about what it means to be human.
Or we can avoid reality: construct what we think the world should look like.
The first is difficult, rigorous, and meaningful - its where that Oscar lives. The latter is cheap propaganda more alien than the world the characters are in. The former attempts to educate, the second advocates.
In our propagandized imaginary world, subversion of norms is seen as "creativity": sexuality is merely fluid and gender simply a bygone convention. Brother romances brother, and sisters bring up children who mysteriously arrived without fathers. Women are fiercer leaders and more physically powerful fighters than men, who only exist as backup dancers. People fight for equality and the status quo of niceness to one another. Gone are "backward" human ideas of hostility and want, until... a sinister force of oppression arrives to challenge or revert the equal status quo.
We learn absolutely nothing.
Critical Theory does away with the concept of sin or personal responsibility, which is the basis of all tragedy. There is only one empty "story" serving the same "answer". You're not to blame; society is.
These are some basic categories of sin:
- Sexual Depravity
Real drama is based on exploring what is underneath the banister. It it confronting our darkness and the very nature of what it means to live with Hamartia. The religious aspect is irrelevant, as the reality is humans are morally conscious beings capable of good or evil - who always, always choose evil, inexplicably.
Tragedy is the imitation of our State of Nature. It is a moral education, but not an imposition of instruction. We relive and imitate our failures as a means of error correction, not to learn how to be better people.
Read that again. Drama's purpose and value is in its function as a mechanism of error correction.
If you wanted to reduce it right down to First Principles, drama is concerned with the audience's Free Will. Social Justice liberationism as informed by propaganda Critical Theory is only concerned with hijacking religious cult ideas to spread itself via fueling human vanity. Screenwriters who believe they have a "critical conciousness" are a narcissistic troupe of psychopaths, who happen to specialise in typewriters.
Back in our fictional alien world, we might want to talk about the fallacious evil of racism. Race is a stupid idea, after all: attempting to categorise "sub-species" of humans is demeaning, and a violation of individuality.
Again, we have two choices:
- Reality: Show just how horrific and ugly racism is, or
- Pseudo-reality: Depict the virtues of a utopia where it doesn't exist.
The first is traditional drama: the offensive value of art illustrating the problem in painful, compelling ways. The second is the "praxis" of Critical Theory in its "activist" or "answer" mode: a boring, lifeless propaganda instruction video of a world no-one recognises. Another shit movie.
Themes Of (Postmodern) Critical Theory
It's entirely possible to finish a whole screenplay and not know you've included this nonsense in the worldview of your characters. It's important to know what those themes are. The essential premise is social problems are caused by oppressive social "systems".
History Is Oppression
History is on a trajectory moving towards a collectivist future. Everything to date is a bookkeeping of oppression.
Systems Produce Misery
Systems and history produce an unsatisfactory quality of life for the masses, where they become "one-dimensional" consumer drones.
Agency = Liberation
Individuals are hapless victims of social systems, and are fighting as membership of a group for "liberation" from "systems".
Freedom Is Subverting Conventions
Happiness is achieved by ignoring or abandoning "oppressive" institutions like marriage, sexual morality, gender, religion, philosophy, etc.
An Indifferent Elite
An all-powerful group are responsible for all social problems suffered by the powerless masses, and their only function is to oppress.
Societies are "superstructures" which are systems of control seeking to continue their own existence.
Who Has Power vs Who Doesn't
Power is all there is, and all that matters is whom has power over whom, and why.
The Unconscious Drives All
Humans are powerless to recognise or change the views and perspectives they have been indoctrinated with by their society. Prejudices underneath every transaction.
Self-Actualization Is Discovering Identity
The ultimate paragon of success and fulfilment in life is in recognising your true identity, which was previously hidden or oppressed.
Ideology Vs Rationality
Ideology is the source of all social problems, and rationality is the alternative.
Language = Control
Language is a system of control, and "creates" our sense of reality. Words are fictional constructs which must be changed to re-engineer attitudes and behaviour.
Subjective Truth & Experience
There is only narrative and biased perspective. Systems and institutions indoctrinate their own view, and need to bend to each person's ideas and feelings.
Cultural & Moral Relativism
Nothing can be evaluated from an objective standard, and there is no universal truth. All moralities and behaviours are of all equal value.
There is obviously more to it than just these broad strokes from a ten-thousand-foot view. Critical Theory does have minor validity in specific circumstances, such as when you're investing crimes like fraud.
It's trivial to repudiate any or all of it. But that's not the point: people who have been indoctrinated in this worldview were taken hostage through their unfulfilled religious needs. It's not susceptible to or penetrable by reason alone.
Getting This Crap Out Of Your Screenplay
There are cases where it's entirely appropriate to incorporate these themes into writing, but they're rare. Five minutes on Netflix is enough to demonstrate Hollywood is saturated with it, by writers who believe this activist shitcake is a substitute for an actual story.
information, ideas, opinions, or images, often only giving one part of an argument, that are broadcast, published, or in some other way spread with the intention of influencing people's opinions:
information or ideas that are spread by an organized group or government to influence people’s opinions, esp. by not giving all the facts or by secretly emphasizing only one way of looking at the facts
Were you mis-educated in this crap at university?
Start here. You've got a problem. You weren't taught; you were indoctrinated. It's like being born into Scientology. Get out. Life doesn't work like this, and your grievance and resentment needs to be dealt with.
Have you ever been anywhere or done anything? Do you know anything at all?
Being sheltered, over-rewarded, and writing parochial sermons about a world you've never visited or barely understood is immature, pathetic, and useless. Have you visited another country? Dodged bullets in an invasion? Lived through a Marxist coup? Comforted anyone whose family were murdered by revolutionaries? Been under surveillance in Shanghai?
Do you think Feminist Film Theory is credible and profound?
You're an idiot. Read about how disturbed some of these nuts were. Simone de Beauvoir molested a child. Foucault was a predatory paedophile. Ask anyone you know what they thought about "feminist Ghostbusters". These theories are not "fact" because you agree with them or are moved by them somehow.
Do you think words are violence, or some themes in art should be avoided if they are "offensive"?
You're weak and soft. Art comforts the afflicted, and afflicts the comfortable. The purpose of art is not "activism", it is the language of the soul. Grow up, toughen up, and start offending people with the truth. Otherwise, you are simply an apparatchik propagandist who wants a job at Pravda. Grow a pair.
Are you concerned about the "Bechdel Test" or "Vito Russo Test"?
Listen to some ordinary girls talk. They like gossiping about other girls, and talking about boys. Even power-execs do it. There is no "test". Alison Bechdel is a militant lesbian Marxist cartoonist nut who wrote a shit comic about "dykes" (her words). GLAAD is a militant Marxist advocacy group who would be more at home in North Korea than the radical free speech playground Hollywood is supposed to be.
Is your script a reality-defying attempt to "re-balance" so-called "inequality" between social groups?
You're simply lying. Example: women can't punch like men. They don't have the same upper body composition or overall bone density. They're not interested in the same things - at all. Lesbians don't have peacefully dreamy relationships: they have the worst levels of domestic violence. Thomas Sowell isn't found on every corner. Africa doesn't have a space program. You might want these things to be true, but they're not, and nobody believes the lies which attempt to make it real.
Are you altering or manufacturing history?
You're lying. It doesn't matter if you think it's for a good cause, or you're writing what you think SHOULD have taken place. History is messy and complex. Most of its heroes were also villains. Churchill inspired a nation, but he also wanted to gas the Kurds. Hitler was a monster, but he was loved and followed. Stalin was a despot, but he's missed. African slaves trafficked over the Atlantic were captured and sold by other Africans - 95% ended up in Brazil, and the first legal slave owner was black. It's never, ever simple.
Are you attempting to show how things "could" be, or "should have" been?
This is not the purpose of drama. You are a propagandist. Art shows us who we were, and who we are. Who we should be is an individual moral decision to be made in the heart of each person. Maybe you can influence that decision. You are indulging in cheap futurology. There is a motivational self-help section in the bookstore for that.
Is your protagonist "flawed", with a "voice" and "motivation", who is on a "journey" to reach a "goal"?
Stop reading this meta-bullshit. None of these "gurus" have ever written a film you've watched, let alone actually liked. Write a story your friends DEMAND to know the end of over a drink. Make it hurt.
Are you using jargon or buzzwords as the "motivation" or in your dialogue?
Does your character talk about "intersectionality"? Social "science" is a disreputable section of the Academy the audience hate listening to. It doesn't make you sound clever. It makes you sound like an indoctrinated, pretentious nut who thinks they're cleverer than others. Nobody speaks like this. Only the Faculty Lounge does, and there's a reason they don't get party invites.
Are you taking any risks, or are all your characters "Twitter-safe"?
A risk is making your racist character likable, in the face of the Twatter mob complaining you are "promoting" it. A risk is excluding non-white characters. A risk is going against LGBT propaganda. A risk is attacking leftist orthodoxy. If all you are doing is confirming Twitter's biases, you are alienating the other 80% of the audience. You're a coward.
Are you writing your screenplay to "highlight injustice" or "power dynamics"?
Stop. The first is reasonable, the second is sociology. Stories are not social science. If your idea of "justice" is communist revolution, you are not a writer. You are an indoctrinated propaganda apparatchik. Join a think tank or advocacy group instead, and make your films there.
Are you attempting activism, or "using your platform"?
Stop. Get out of this industry. You are a propagandist. Go and read about Soviet Russia and what happened to artists under Stalin. "Using your platform" is a Marxist dog whistle for "politicise your position with divisive rhetoric against class enemies".
Are you posing a question to the audience, or an answer?
The first is art, the other is propaganda. Remove the answer.
Are you suppressing the opposite worldview?
Are the conservatives, libertarians, villains, and fascists in your plot allowed to have a point? Is the audience allowed to like or admire them - without it requiring they sympathise with the protagonist's parroting of your own political opinions?
Are you demonising characters by giving them the opposite political views you disagree with?
Is the villain a capitalist republican, or fascist authoritarian who is trying to oppress angelic revolutionaries who embody your political yearnings? Are their evil attributes embodied in their views towards minority groups, or their Amercian patriotism?
Are you writing in a way you think will make woke lefty Hollywood activists buy your script, or will be fashionable to Twitter twats?
Newsflash: anything Twitter likes always bombs, and Hollywood only cares about one thing: that it SELLS. 70%+ of the box office is always aged 15-25, and predominantly male. Take a look on YouTube or 4Chan. Look at the Oscars viewing stats. If you end up at the conclusion it means we need to do more to smash the patriarchy, you don't understand what this industry is about. Hollywood will sell whatever sells.
Are you respecting the audience's Free Will to make up their own mind, or dictating how they should feel?
You can present the different ways people see things, or the way you want the audience to see it. They are far more right wing and radical than you might expect. Have you set the up the goodies to be your political side, and the baddies to be the people you dislike? Is it all slanted so your viewers think favourably of your side?
If the audience comes to a different conclusion to you, is that OK?
Is they land on the side of your racist granddad in a way you disapprove of, does it invalidate your art? If it does, you're not an artist. You're a propagandist who doesn't respect your audience, or their time.
Is your screenplay a study or analysis of "society" or its problems?
Stories are about people. There are men, women, families, and children. Individuals. You cannot represent "society" in any meaningful way, and it's not your job to "engineer" or "analyze". Your job is to dramatise.
Are your characters unhappy because of "society"?
Have you ever met anyone who is unhappy because of "society"? Anyone over eighteen without goth clothes or blue hair? People are unhappy because of other people and what they've done to them. If they're not, your characters aren't in touch with their own conscience or spirituality. SomeONE hurt them, not someTHING.
Do your scenarios correspond to painful reality?
Watch the biopics about Freddie Mercury and Elton John again. Here's something they don't cover while "celebrating" their LGBT "liberation" - the utter humiliation, abandonment, and suffering of the wives they jettisoned. What about the racism on gay dating apps or the rape at Gay Pride? Oprah and Yasser Arafat being billionaires? So-called "de-transitioners" who have sued clinics for being left mutilated and infertile? Teenage girls mass-raped by "grooming gangs" or "honour" rape? The trauma of abortion? Do any of your characters regret their "liberation"?
Does your screenplay feature social science pseudo-nonsense fringe theories, or do your characters mention them?
We don't use 10% of our brains. There is no evidence the "unconscious mind" exists. Your "positionality" is nonsense. "Intersectionality" makes no sense whatsoever. Gender divides widen the more "equal" things become. There is literally no difference between the "theories" emerging from this disreputable faculty and fiction. There is more evidence for Flat Earth or astrology than anything the social sciences misrepresent as "fact". The rest of us call it fantasy, or lying.
Is your character's end some kind of "liberation" from "oppression", or a fight against a "system"?
A hero often needs something to fight against. But it needs to be a person, or a group. Not a "system". Luke Skywalker isn't fighting the Empire, he's fighting the Emperor and Darth Vader. Humans cannot connect with ethereal "systems". What exactly is your character being liberated into? Promiscuity, venereal disease, a seven-week abortion, and a childless life with four cats?
Is your character's group identity more important than their individuality?
Seventy years ago, people's sense of identity came from their family. There isn't much of a concept of family left, so their religious impulses and insecurity have translated into tribal allegiance and activist politics. If it's more important your character is black than their enjoyment of chess, your script is an empty trash can of political sanctimony.
Are your characters moral failures, or NPCs who believe "woke" ideas and try to do the right thing?
Drama isn't about doing the right thing. It's about doing the WRONG thing. Missing the mark (hamartia). Choosing badly. Failing. Making a tragic mistake. Pride comes before a fall. Lust consumes like a fire. Humans don't sit around in cafes, consulting social science books and Elle magazine about their life decisions.
Are your characters specifically cast according to their immutable characteristics, like skin colour, race, age, gender, disability, or ethnicity?
Stop. Reassess your life. This isn't your job. It's the director's decision. There is no reason for this to be in a script, and it's not going to "inspire" the buyer. Same goes for naming them stereotypically. "Representation" is not in your remit or "platform". The chances are you really do have a problem.
Author's note: the worst i've ever seen was an uber-woke feminist screenwriter who specifically mandated a character in her script as Hispanic in an attempt to painfully "correct". The character was an office cleaner named "Maria".
Do your characters offend each other, or the audience?
It's not "brave" to write a script about slavery or a gay politician "offending" the system with their identity. Do they offend YOU? The people watching? Watch Irreversible or American History X again. Life is awful. It's your job to reflect it back to show the audience who we are.
Are you angry at this list?
Are you offended or enraged? Contemptuous at the notion you live on the balcony above the people who need your help? Furious the author can't understand the need for your political aims of rebalancing representation with your literature after centuries of oppression?
Your story sucks, and you suck. You need to grow up. The world is far more complex than a secret elite maintaining an oppressive system which is designed to cause your unhappiness. It's uglier, too.
What Do I Write About Now?
You write about love. All its insane twists and turns. Unfulfilled, painful love. Separated, difficult love. under strange circumstances. The inexplicable weirdness of it, and the corny, cheesy expression of it. Broken people being made whole across universes of space and time.
Write about controversy, conspiracies, intrigue, and scandal. Think about evil and its horror. Face up to how it affects our ordinary lives and what it does when it touches them.
Write about things nobody has heard of yet. Things that will surprise us. Stuff we want to know about but won't know how to react to.
Write about imaginary worlds. Strange languages and ancient rituals with odd beings we can't yet father.
Write about monsters and their terrifying incarnations. Flesh out their backstories and origin tales so we can connect with them as they rampage across the earth.
Write about farce. The insatiable stupidity which keeps the wheels of humour turning in the darkest of moments. The silly jokes, moronic Sunday mornings, horrific misfortunes, and tragic absurdities.
Write about anything, other than Critical Theory or its radioactive view of existence. People want to go to the movies, not listen to your dreadful activism. It's been a long decade without art to help us through. We all know sociology isn't story no matter how hard you try to make it that. We all work out all too quickly that meta-bullshit doesn't make a film work. It tries too artificially to tug on the heartstrings.
Drama brings out the best in us by forcing us to confront the worst in us. Art demands a response.
Critical Theory has nothing, because it is nothing. It's an empty counterfeit, rotting away in the filing cabinet like floodwater collecting after the hurricane has left. Every story is the same, every character is half-dimensional, and every audience knows every line is written for the same reason.
Art makes you come alive; it sets you on fire from fifteen different angles. It produces dozens of different responses from different people. Artists are fearless creatures who aim to provoke and offend, so they can witness the transcendentally wondrous parts opposite to the darker things they depict.
Critical Theory is cancer. Pure and simple. But the patient has to realise they are sick before they can agree to an ugly treatment. Ignoring it only lets it metastasize.
If you find it, rip it out. Burn it. Destroy it. Purge it. Do whatever you have to banish it to the flames of hell it emerged from. The magic of this medium is too wonderful to be lost to something so repulsive.