Toxic Tropes & Hollywood Economics
That Hollywood sees itself as a vehicle for social engineering is no secret. Whether it's the countless pro-America military extravaganzas (Top Gun, anyone?) or the mockery of it (Team America: World Police) or the ever-pervasive America Saves The World Again schema, the perception of Tinseltown as an engine for manipulating thought wasn't missed in the post-war era of McCarthy's communist witch hunts.
The town is schizophrenic; virulently pro-Israel, yet openly endorsing of democratic socialism. Wantonly capitalist; yet relentless in its advocacy of LGBT progressivism. Wildly racist; yet pitifully cowardly. Morally grandstanding; yet willing to censor for project funding. Artistically affected; yet creatively bankrupt. Hollywood speaks one language: money.
“The only orgasm that Lew Wasserman ever had in his life was when he saw the opening numbers for Jaws.”
David Brown (producer of "Jaws")
Who Are The Audience?
It's the first and most important question you can ask. It turns out it's not all straight, white men. They're still teenagers and young adults, and the highest group are Asian. But cinema attendance age groups are getting older with the adoption of technology.
What about the male/female breakdown? It turns out it's women, which is not much of a surprise when you look at literature statistics.
What do they like watching? It's not war, musicals, crime, or westerns. It's horror, thriller, sci-fi, and documentary. Romance, comedy, and fantasy never change with the times.
Where are they watching it? Not on TV.
It turns out they prefer to stream it online.
But who goes where? Most are on newer social media networks.
And where do they watch videos? Netflix and YouTube dominate, but are being chased by Amazon Prime.
And who are these Youtubers? It's not a "male" platform at all. The genders use social media almost equally. Their divisions are primarily based around age and interest.
What are the girls watching? The boys like gaming and sports. The girls are watching beauty and music. What a massive surprise.
The latest growth - in short form video - is being led by women, who are liking TikTok.
Feminism Never Fails to Fail
Star Trek was possibly the most "woke" TV series of all time. Gene Roddenberry wanted to explore social issues he couldn't elsewhere, so he set them in space. Hardened capitalists loved intergalactic communism. Yet in 2020, despite a massive opening from the sheer anticipation, we have the most avid Trekkies boycotting the latest series and the Picard spin-off. The digital press of course, are omfg-in-love with it.
"Every attempt to prove its woke credentials stumbles into a TV Tropes page, annoying snowflakes of all political stripes. Everyone in the evil Mirror Universe is bisexual. The gay couple are inevitably tragic. By the point you have your black lead quoting RFK’s speech on the assassination of Martin Luther King, to an alien played by a white man, in a storyline about oppression and letting go of historic racial injustices, the messaging has become too tangled to parse."
Back in 2016, the trailer for the all-female "feminist reboot" of Ghostbusters became the most disliked video on Youtube. Even communist rag The Guardian couldn't ignore it, resisting any urge to defy type by declaring it a far-right conspiracy:
"Feig initially called much of the negative reaction to the casting of four women in the leads “vile misogynist shit”, but speaking to the Guardian last week, the director played down the backlash."
A year later, and "Star Wars: the Last Jedi" went down the sewer with fans after the studio head made a bizarre announcement:
"The force is female".
The backlash was so fierce Vox decided to write one of its patronising, faux-"objective" so-called "explained" articles: https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/12/18/16791844/star-wars-last-jedi-backlash-controversy
A year after, "Ocean's 8" collapsed at the Box office, making less than the worst-selling episode in the franchise (Ocean's 13). This time, it was the male critics who were to blame.
"Am I saying I hate white dudes?” continued Larson. “No, I am not. What I am saying is if you make a movie that is a love letter to women of colour, there is an insanely low chance a woman of colour will have a chance to see your movie, and review your movie.”
A year after that, as Hollywood refused to allow themselves to be molested by fate - or simple mathematics, the feminist reboot of "Charlie's Angels" bombed so badly it even featured the director, Elizabeth Banks, attempting to guilt-trip the audience before its release.
"If this movie doesn’t make money it reinforces a stereotype in Hollywood that men don’t go see women do action movies."
You'd think they'd learn their lesson, but that year's failure ledger also included "Terminator: Dark Fate", revealing a common theme:
"Let’s not beat around the bush, Terminator Dark Fate is an unoriginal disgrace on just about every level. The very fiber of this film comes off as someone who is ashamed that the foundation of this franchise does not fit their current day intersectional feminist worldview, so they decided to change it by repealing and replacing everything they felt was problematic with more progressive friendly elements."
In 2020, it was the feminist side-chain Harley Quinn story of "Birds of Prey" (described as "a feminist-themed attack on misogyny") which performed so poorly it you'd think it'd be career-ending stuff. What's to blame? You guessed it: sexism.
"What interested me with Birds of Prey is that it’s a feminist film. It is very finely written. There is in the script a real look on misogyny, and I think we need that. We need to be more aware of how we behave with the opposite sex. We need to be taught to change.”
Failure after failure. After failure. After total failure. After failure. Five years of apologism for #MeToo and the casting couch with corporate diversity initiatives really haven't landed.
The fans haven't exactly been shy in telling Hollywood what they think. Garbage. Garbage. Garbage. More garbage.
The Force is not "female". It's palpable not. The new head of Lucasfilm studios is. Whatever your thoughts on Star Wars - and let's face it, some people really do get a little obsessive over a Space Opera - the "messiah" story of Campbellian lore has about as much to do with gender politics as a banana has to do with a wheel.
All of this panders perfectly to a self-fulfilling circular question those particular fundamentalists wanted asked, so they could pick a fight and elevate themselves: are the entire cinema-going audience racist, sexist, homophobic bigots?
Has anyone actually asked any women? Or any black or Asian people?
We all already know their answer, don't we?
Before that, we should ask another pertinent question: what did this intrinsically racist bunch think of Black Panther?
"The film grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide and broke numerous box office records, including the highest-grossing film by a black director. It became the ninth-highest-grossing film of all time, the third-highest-grossing film in the U.S. and Canada, and the second-highest-grossing film of 2018."
They loved it.
Perhaps we need to ask another one which is even more awkward: why aren't more women going to see these movies to make up for all the toxic racist homophobic misogynists? Why are they failing with both genders?
What films did the best overall?
One of them stands out: The Joker. It's about the millionth time it's been made. The media went to town on this one, labeling it a "toxic" and "problematic" script about an "incel" loner with "misogynistic" violence acting as an "ode to the far-right". A bit like "John Wick", of course. They did a real job on it.
"One of the central points of contention around Phillips’s comic-book villain origin story is that it in some way panders to incel culture, or “involuntary celibates” – men who see themselves as losers and “beta males” who women don’t want to sleep with. Angry, misogynistic and feeling entitled to sex and attention, incels have been prone to real-world violence..."
Unfortunately, for the billionth time, it didn't survive contact with reality, as the movie's audience don't tend to read that kind of paper. It all went a little wrong after 11 Oscar nominations and a billion dollars.
But still: the leftie press tried to smear and stigmatize it, long after the battle had been so hopelessly lost. Because the disagreement with their worldview was evidence in and of itself of a problem.
"The questions are coming rapid-fire from so many commentators and online commenters: Is this the wrong movie at the wrong time? Does “Joker” glamorize a killer or simply hold a mirror to society? Will this portrayal be embraced by other sick young men bent on justifying their violence?"
So many! So divisive!
No, WaPo. Twitter is not real life. A billion dollars is not close to "divisive".
"It is a movie designed to seem impressive to anyone without much of an understanding of film history, who’s maybe seen clips from Taxi Driver online."
Would that be feminist film history, per chance? You're sure as hell not talking about Rambo, Falling Down, or any other which features male violence.
The audience voted with their feet. Mathematics don't lie, and they aren't opinion.
What we are seeing is Gamergate playing out again, but in movie theatres this time, as opposed to games consoles.
Stop Smuggling Marxism Into Our Games
What was Gamergate? A whole bunch of crazy, in essence. It was a straw which broke a camel's back. In April 2014, an online "war" erupted over a female journalist's cynical antics, and spiraled into a much bigger fight when it was made a "feminist" issue across all of gaming itself.
"The controversy has been described as a manifestation of a culture war over cultural diversification, artistic recognition, and social criticism in video games, and over the social identity of gamers. Many supporters of Gamergate oppose what they view as the increasing influence of feminism on video game culture; as a result, Gamergate is often viewed as a right-wing backlash against progressivism." (Wikipedia)
As the most conservative generation for half a century who have grown up living with millennial nonsense, Gen-Z aren't taking any prisoners. Gamers really, really, REALLY hate ideologues, and they are incredibly defensive of their games.
It didn't end well for the litigants: very little in games has changed. If anything, their views have become even more anti-"progressive". What is the most subscribed political channel for young people? PragerU. Who are their most revered speakers? Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris.
Almost everyone is liberal in their younger years. The issue here is: if they are this conservative now, how will they be in 20 years when they've paid into the tax system? Every media outlet with a spreadsheet is absolutely desperate to illustrate Gen-Z are not really that conservative - which is generally how you know the game is up.
More importantly, how are they going to be, having now been described as being "radicalised" into "extremism" by their helicopter parents? When your children are turning against you, you know you've gone too far.
Is it really surprising, when their biology professors stigmatize them as "nazis" for rolling their eyes in science lessons about multiple genders?
Hollywood has always been an enclave of communism and the paragon of enshrining LGBT folks as a protected group.
- The 2008 recession gave us the (Marxist) Occupy movement.
- In 2012, Trayvon Martin gave us (Marxist) Black Lives Matter.
- Misogyny hit the mainstream with Gamergate hit in 2013.
- In 2015, Bruce Jenner bought us transgenderism.
- In 2016, it was accusation of "populism" and Russian interference.
- The twin years of 2018-2019 gave us (Marxist) environmentalism via "Extinction Rebellion" and Great Thunberg.
Since Gen-Z entered university around 2012, special interest groups perfected the weaponisation of social media. And the social media tech platforms started to dwarf Hollywood, which cued the increasing claims of censorship.
But for Hollywood, something much worse took root between those, in 2017. Victims of the casting couch got their revenge via the #MeToo controversy, which its founder had insofar not managed to get off the ground.
The Forced Ascent of SJW-Flix
It's hard to even fathom just how broad and how deep the liability hole is when it comes to the abuse of young women and young gay men in LA. For activists, it's an endless gift with an infinite supply of offenders. The "Three Cs" of Hollywood were always "cocktails, cards, and cunt.”
"The secret to happiness is whores."
Sam Spiegel (the "producer of producers")
“You’d be surprised how tits figure in a hit movie.”
Louis B. Mayer
“Gangsters, music, pussy.”
(Robert Evans’s description of his film "The Cotton Club")
Nutty ideas like the Bechdel Test have been floating around for a long time. Alison Bechdel is a virulent, childless "gender nonconforming" lesbian cartoonist who penned an obscure lesbian comic named "Dykes to Watch Out For", and decided in 1985, for everyone, the "test" for erm, something, was what women talked about - regardless of whether the author was female, whether the film was any good, and whether any woman ever asked for it.
That Hollywood has a sexual abuse problem, amongst others, is unimpeachable. The entire industry has been operating on the near-edge to something resembling a human trafficking scheme since its inception. None of this is new. None of it has been solved.
"It is like one of these South American palace revolutions conducted by officers in comic opera uniforms—only when the thing is over the ragged dead men lie in rows against the wall, and you suddenly know that this is not funny, this is the Roman circus, and damn near the end of civilization.”
Raymond Chandler (on Hollywood)
Just ask Don Simpson, who was fired by Paramount as vice president of production:
“They fired me for doing coke. They fired me on a fucking morals clause in the contract. They had executives buggering boys in the backseats of their Porsches and they fired me on a fucking morals charge.”
Just ask the gossip-mongers of CDAN (https://www.crazydaysandnights.net/) or the poor assistants posting to the Brown List (http://www.tempdiaries.com/p/brown-list.html).
And like that young actress, the activists finally got the break they'd been waiting for.
Hollywood got themselves a real PR problem. Where did they turn? To the people who'd really hoped they would.
Must be really something to have Hollywood on your boring university resume when you're in the campus canteen.
"Executives from Disney, NBC, Sony, HBO, WME, Universal Music Group and other top entertainment companies will form a new advisory board for the think tank led by Prof. Stacy Smith. USC Annenberg professor Stacy L. Smith’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, well known for its rigorous studies on representation in the film and television industry, is evolving."
A huge amount of "evidence" being cited is from these USC Annenberg materials (http://annenberg.usc.edu/research/aii) as if it's golden truth. Where have we heard all that before?
"Authored by Professor Stacy L. Smith and the Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the study is the largest intersectional analysis of characters in motion picture content to date."
Professor Smith is also the lady behind the infamous "Inclusion Rider": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusion_rider. You can make your own (!) right here: http://assets.uscannenberg.org.s3.amazonaws.com/docs/inclusion-rider-template.pdf
The Annenberg is such an ideologically-possessed social science horror show it defies description. It shouldn't even be on the menu at a taco bar. However, it looks nice, it ticks the sociological boxes, and it makes a splash with the Twitter crazies. It's "science" for people who have never read a definition of science.
Outside of the studios' corporate HR departments, these types of "think tanks" (which are only called that if they are right wing, coincidentally), produce very attractive statistics for their sociology students who work in the trade and digital press, who, of course, never bother to investigate if anything they are saying is true, or even presented reliably.
These types of articles and organisations are multiplying at a phenomenal rate, with the same old story we've come to recognise.
The argument made by Elizabeth Banks about male reviews found its way from the USC study: https://annenberg.usc.edu/sites/default/files/MDSCI_Inequality_in-700_Popular.pdf
However, it didn't seem to tally so well with the industry opinion on those reviewers. For instance...
“They are at once heavily ego-driven and desperately insecure. Film critics are movie geeks who write as much to impress other critics as they do to inform their audience. They’re obsessed with being taken seriously, which can manifest itself either via quotes in movie ads or their anointing by the critical intelligentsia as one of their own. Yet while critics sport the iconoclast’s soul, it’s mitigated by an almost child-like need to be loved—not necessarily by the public but by their peers. They pine to be members of the club and at the same time somehow outside it, but not so much that they appear to be snobbish. This is why most would never be caught dead lavishing too much worship on a mainstream blockbuster … unless of course their contemporaries did too (such as in the case of Spider-Man 2). Then it would be cool.”
Hollywood Reporter columnist Ray Richmond (himself a sometime film critic)
While talking about Ocean's 8, Cate Blanchett issued a fascinating claim:
"Such makeup was well-known, said Blanchett, but only belatedly being raised. “When you start pointing that stuff out you realise there’s a certain gaze that looks at women.”
A certain male gaze, you say? Could she be alluding to "feminist film theorist" (and failed filmmaker) Laura Mulvey's batshit 1973 essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema"? Which used a bunch of meaningless jargon to arrive at the stunning conclusion men might film women in a sexualised way?
It's a bizarre world where social "scientists" go out to do research to demonstrate what they already believe. Real magazines needed to get in on the action by mining the field of crazypeople with too much time.
Cue "research" by well-known think-tank ThePudding.com, which hilariously states this:
"Lately, Hollywood has been taking so much shit for rampant sexism and racism. The prevailing theme: white men dominate movie roles. We didn’t set out trying to prove anything, but rather compile real data. We framed it as a census rather than a study."
This isn't how science or statistics work: we adopt a hypothesis and apply iterative tests to determine its falsifiability. There's a reason only confirmation-bias-peddlers print this kind of nonsense they were sold in arts college.
But it just doesn't stop. Next up are the "power" and "agency" levels of princesses - presumably "research" for the next transgender Barbie.
Who is producing this utter garbage?
AI researchers ironically studying "bias" at the University of Washington being funded by Google and Facebook: https://www.washington.edu/news/2017/11/13/new-tool-quantifies-power-imbalance-between-female-and-male-characters-in-hollywood-movie-scripts/
Another repeat offender in the most LGBT-friendly industry on planet earth is the GLAAD Studio "Responsibility" Index (you have to love the Orwellian barbarism of language in these names). They spell it right out in their own tagline, as parents do when they are disciplining children for "telling stories" (i.e. lying):
"GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change."
Despite the successes of the LGBT movement making itself increasingly obsolete - such as the legislation for gay marriage - special interest groups have apparently found the reasons for their existence are even more profound than before, e.g: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/glaad-studio-responsibility-index_n_572772dce4b0b49df6abc868
If we take the demands for "equal representation" seriously - ignoring the obvious question of who do these narcissistic a-holes think they are to dictate how artists make art - no more than 5% of the cast should be LGBT:
What's the answer to ease up all the incoming outrage on Twitter? Lando Calrissian is a bit like Miley Cyrus: "pansexual" and ready to bed his droid. The Huffington Post breaks this clickbait in a world exclusive transcript of what is definitely a contender for the worst example of celebrity-pandering interview journalism in modern history:
"So, given the opportunity to speak with father-and-son “Solo” co-writers Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, I asked them about Lando’s possible sexual fluidity. Is he pansexual?
“I would say yes,” Jonathan Kasdan emphatically said. “There’s a fluidity to Donald and Billy Dee’s [portrayal of Lando’s] sexuality,” Kasdan continued. “I mean, I would have loved to have gotten a more explicitly LGBT character into this movie. I think it’s time, certainly, for that, and I love the fluidity ― sort of the spectrum of sexuality that Donald appeals to and that droids are a part of.”
Lando might have romantic feelings for his droid too. For the record, L3 would not reciprocate those hypothetical feelings, but as she tells Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), “it” would “work,” physically speaking.
In a shock event which surprised absolutely no-one, "Solo" collapsed at the box office as the worst failure in the Star Wars canon.
According to Vulture (https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2018/06/12/box-office-solo-star-wars-bomb-flop-disney-lucasfilm-incredibles2-jurassic-world/), and others, the reason for it being a "disaster" was everything but everything about it.
If you asked the fans, the story was, of course, a little different: https://www.cbr.com/15-reasons-han-solo-is-doomed-to-fail/
According to Esquire, it wasn't the ideologues who ruined the last one, it was "loud, racist misogynist trolls" (AKA the fanbase): https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/a25560063/how-fans-ruined-star-wars-the-last-jedi-2018/
Can you imagine a headline stupider than "Star Wars Fans Finally Ruined Star Wars"? What do you think would happen if you ignored the audience and went on a poorly-produced ideological ego trip?
Back to Ben Hecht:
“The trouble with you, David, is that you did all your reading before you were twelve.”
(to producer David O. Selznick)
It Kinda Works Until You Mention Israel
Movie people are only as good as their last job. If you bomb in Hollywood, you're done. Of course you need an excuse for your film's failure. Of course you need a way to see off the bad PR.
And let's face it: a lot of women have genuine and reasonable grievances with their treatment. If the only way up the career ladder is watching Harvey Weinstein masturbating into a plant pot, it's not unfair or unreasonable to petition for change.
But we also see a common theme here:
- If the audience doesn't like your film with a black cast, it's because they're racist.
- If the audience doesn't like your LGBT film, it's because they're homophobic.
- If the audience doesn't like your feminist reboot, it's because they're misogynistic.
It wasn't your film. They just don't appreciate your genius because of centuries of post-colonial supremacist brainwashing.
Your customers sound like a terrible bunch of people. It's clear you don't like them and think they're ignorant, stupid, and malicious.
There's a small problem with this thinking. One small word for very large talent.
For such a terrible group of people who hate blacks, gays, muslims, women, the environment, communists, etc, you'd expect this "audience" - whoever they are - to also be anti-Semitic, if they seem to subdivide things into their boycott-ability.
Those awful white supremacist Christian fundamentalists who love oppressive Israel.
Yes, that Israel: that tiny democracy surrounded by 300 million people who wouldn't exist if it laid down its weapons, gives women, gays, arabs and others the best form of life in the Middle East, and just so happens to come down really hard on people who hide arms silos in childrens' schools before they raid them to fire missiles at towns across the border. To kill Jews.
“Tell him to go fuck himself. It’s none of his goddamn business. Ask him if he’s a Jew.”
Screenwriting legend Ben Hecht, to a director who had been asked by Columbia chief Harry Cohn if he was a member of the Communist party. Hecht didn’t call Cohn by name. He called him “White Fang.”
It turns out audiences don't stop watching movies from an industry created and dominated by Jews, which wouldn't exist without Jews: Jewish financiers; Jewish producers; Jewish writers, and Jewish actors. They couldn't care less. Even the most virulent neo-Nazis who won't let anyone too "Jew-ey" into their house will stick on a copy of Top Gun without a thought.
Audiences don't refuse to watch films with Natalie Portman starring; or directed by Woody Allen; or containing a soundtrack licensed by David Geffe's record label(s).
Men don't stop going to movies because they have women in them. In fact, they tend to be rather motivated to attend. The industry uses them to attract male customers. That infamous (and absurd) feminist essay, dripping with resentment, condemned the practice as posing the camera through the "male gaze". Men don't "hate" women in cinema; they lust and fantasize over them as objects of beauty Hollywood is only too glad to market. Nor do they demand to see them in "domestic" roles, only talking about men (aka the idiotic "Bechdel Test").
The further you go down this particular rabbit hole, the stupider it gets: audiences may have picketed films in the Golden Era for featuring black actors, but sales for Idris Elba or Morgan Freeman's latest haven't slipped. Black Panther and Get Out smashed the billboard.
Could it be something a little more on the nose? That your movie sucks. and your ideology-smuggling is a foul smell to their nostrils?
Isn't it so much easier to blame your failures on imaginary prejudices and obscure psychological theory?
Art Doesn't Sell You An Answer. It Asks You A Question
Stories have a moral. They are vehicles and illustrations of moral instruction. Humans are primarily separate from animals because we have moral consciousness. Morality and the Moral Law is the ability to distinguish and choose between good and evil. Stories help us to understand how to make those decisions.
Stories depict both good and evil, and invite us to transcend the latter for the former. However, in order to do that, we must witness it in all its horror. Often characters are entirely failing in that decision, prompting the reader/viewer to avoid doing the same.
Art without moral perspective is useless noise. When authors deliberately corrupt art in order to drive home a particular message, things can become sinister quickly because of our human vulnerability - hard-wiring - to stories.
Consider these statements in terms of our "entertainment" choices over the last fifty years:
"Ideas or statements that may be false or present only one side of an argument that are used in order to gain support for a political leader, party, etc." (OED)
"the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person"
"ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause" (Merriam-Webster)
"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" (Cambridge)
The horrifying thing is we all recognise this in newspapers and movies. We give it various names, such as "bias", "influencing", "engineering" and so on.
It's three dictionaries' definitions of the word propaganda.
As director Milos Forman put it so wisely when describing the manipulative relationship between victimhood and propaganda:
“When the Nazis and Communists first came to Czechoslovakia, they declared war on pornographers and perverts. Everyone applauded: who wants perverts running through the streets? But then, suddenly, Jesus Christ was a pervert, Shakespeare was a pervert, Hemingway was a pervert. It always starts with pornographers to open the door a little, but then the door is opened wide for all kinds of persecution.”
Great art is there to tell you the truth. Either the beautiful truth, or the horrible truth; to provoke you into asking what the truth is. Propaganda gives you the answer and declares it as an established, self-evident truth. Being forced to lie, or even to attempt to believe a lie, is demoralising.
Art describes how the world is, not how it "should" or "could" be. Life is ugly, complex, nuanced, contradictory, elating, shocking, confusing. And that's before you've turned fifteen. When you corrupt art, you corrupt our very means of making any sense of things. All sides are to blame because all of us are corrupt; the twenty sides to every story spawn a million others. When one "side" is clumsily portrayed as being morally "correct", you know you are looking at a Soviet-era poster.
Writing Tropes Which Need To Die
As the Grandfather (Aristotle) so brilliantly stated, probable impossibilities are to be preferred to improbable possibilities. Despite the word salad, he related an indisputable literary truth for the ages about suspension of disbelief and plausibility. He was making a point about irrationality, and cited Odysseus's arrival in Ithaca while asleep.
Matt Lazarus gives a fun example:
Archaeologists unearth a magic wand that turns sand to gold. The nations of the world go to war to claim it.
A man gets mugged. He punches out his assailant. The assailant is so impressed, he gets a gender reassignment and becomes the man’s wife.
Which one is the audience most likely to believe? The first is impossible, but what happened as a result would be likely. With the latter, it's possible, but to put it kindly, it's unlikely. The principle is a poet needs to establish reality in a way which is convincing.
Cheap, bad writers never quite recognise the mediocrity of their pen even when it is pounded into them at great volume. The Dunning-Kruger effect can be far more pronounced in artists. The stupider and more ideological they are, the more omfg-awesomerer they think their stories are. They opt for cliches, appeasing groupthink, and clumsy tropes, rather than risks and idiosyncrasy. They are motivated by a zeal to proselytize their politics rather than explore them.
Why engage with all this complex Aristotlean stuff to climb the ladder on your own merits when you can just screech Marxism? Especially if you're not very good at writing in the first place?
Great art is like an extraordinary five-course meal. Audiences are hungry. The more art you feed them, the hungrier they get.
As one (unnamed) Hollywood exec put it, "over 99%" of scripts are "absolute dogshit".
So what does make a good story? Jack Warner felt that if he had to go to the bathroom during a screening, the movie would fail. A movie that would be a disastrous embarrassment was “a three-piss picture.”
A pretty girl is better than an ugly one.
A leg is better than an arm.
A bedroom is better than a living room.
An arrival is better than a departure.
A birth is better than a death.
A chase is better than a chat.
A dog is better than a landscape.
A kitten is better than a dog.
A baby is better than a kitten.
A kiss is better than a baby.
A pratfall is better than anything.
(Preston Sturges’s The Power and the Glory, Strictly Dishonorable: 11 rules for writing a hit movie)
Nobody knows anything.
“I’ll tell you what makes a good film. Fifty percent is the choice of the story. Fifty percent is the screenplay. Fifty percent is the actors. Fifty percent is the director. Fifty percent is the cinematographer. Fifty percent is the editor. If any of these elements goes wrong, there goes fifty percent of your film.”
Director Jean-Pierre Melville
“If my fanny squirms while I’m watching it, the movie is bad. If my fanny doesn’t squirm, it’s good.”
But if we wanted to start making a list of ways to get ideology out of films so we can get back to the story, we could start with these.
Women can do anything men can do
They certainly are far more violent on more occasions, despite being less lethal. Biology is indisputable, and lived by every human, every single day. Bone density, muscular development, and to top it off, puberty. No-one in their right mind recognises the improbable possibility of a size 6 woman matching a 6ft 200lb man in a fistfight. It's not brave, it's absurd. Women don't even necessarily want to do what men want to do, if they are even interested in it. At 6 weeks old, infant girls react to pictures of faces, whereas infant boys react to pictures of things. We are different. Without the conflict there is no drama; without their compliment, there is no chemistry.
Submissiveness debases a woman's "agency"
The colossal failure of the attempt to reboot Cinderella as a "feminist" project is warning to all others who attempt to usurp drama with politics. The beauty in the traditionalised Cinderella is of love transcending social class; it is also a critique of the feminine need to be "chosen", and power of beauty over wealth. It happens to be damning of the resentful uglies over whom she trumps. Removing social class and her vulnerability entirely destroys the engine of the drama: if there's no barrier to transcend, there's no drama.
Note: Fifty Shades of Grey - a story of a frail waif being violently sexually dominated by a wealthy villain, in the same vein as Beauty and the Beast - was the fastest-selling book of all time, in an era supposedly unparalleled in feminist influence. How many men do you know who have a copy of it on their bookshelf or suitcase? Why is rape always cited as the number one female sexual fantasy?
Gay relationships are socially and demographically equivalent
Even gay people don't buy this one. In every neighbourhood BBQ, there's a gay couple chinking their glasses, discussing their children. Even the most contemporary research shows no more than 5% of any population describe themselves as homosexual; gay relationships statistically have domestic violence rates at levels so far beyond any other group it's barely conceivable; and one conversation with any gay person is enough to convince the most romantic idealist the community, as such, has a lot more centred around sexual behaviour than family life.
Minority people should play minority characters
Acting is impersonating another person, not playing a version of yourself. In fact, that's a simple test to determine a professional who is skilled at a craft, compared to a model giving it a try. The very definition of acting is being able to convince an audience you are someone else. There is no such thing as affirmative action in art: if you are happy to be the diversity-hire, you're not an artist; you're a talentless hack wanting to be infamous.
Groups need equal "representation" on screen
The blood-splattered gospel of outcome equality is not only the road to mass-murderous politics, it's entirely irrelevant to drama. Stories have a context; they are often slanted deliberately to make a point. Sikhs do not need "equal representation" in a film about Apartheid; black people do not need "equal representation" in a film about Hitler's high command in his last days. One of the most powerful elements in drama is not what is being said or who is there, rather what is conspicuously missing.
History is best described as a long march for emancipation
Maybe it has been, for many, which always should be explored because of the stories to be told. But the interpretation of all history through such a "lens" isn't just reductive, low-resolution, and shallow, it's unrecognisable to anyone but sociology undergraduates reading Marx's theories of historical materialism or Gramsci's prison thoughts. Catharsis is the high-resolution option. Macbeth is not a story of achieving equality; nor is Superman; or virtually any other artistic work you can cite. Art is the narration of tragedy, beauty, and farce. To claim otherwise is to think one knows better than Aristotle himself, which is one epic level of hubris.
Human potential is the state of nature
As Douglas Murray rightly puts it, anyone who thinks the natural state of humans as good has an enormous shock in store. Drama is our way of reminding ourselves, understanding ourselves, and attempting to transcend ourselves. It may have been Rousseau's big idea, and it may have been popular in the 1960s. But without murder, adultery, greed, betrayal, death, suffering, lust, violence and everything else we are, there is no drama. If it bleeds, it leads.
Fringe psychology and pseudoscience explain our motivations
The broken, nihilistic cop out for revenge. Needing to resolve childhood desires or damage. We only use 10% of our brains. It's simply cheap, crap writing from spoilt middle-class people who have never been anywhere or done anything. Iago and Lecter are terrifying not despite their evil lacks apparent explanation, but because of it. Why did Mengele brutalise innocent Jewish children? Because he enjoyed it. Can psychology explain that? Do you want to understand it?
Sexual gratification is the meaningful end of romantic love
They have their meet-cute. They fight and misunderstand each other. But in the end, they eventually have sex as the zenith of their relationship. It was all leading to sexual congress as the starting gun to everything else, like marriage. Then they live happily ever after, before the sequel detailing their unsatisfied married life of wishing they were single again, only go out to try it in an orgy of "permitted cheating" where no-one seems to suffer any ill effects. Salaciousness is not drama.
Careerism is the ultimate source of person fulfillment for women
Thousands of years ago Solomon gave writers a lesson which can only be described as one of the most extraordinary insights into human need ever articulated: "There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’: the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’" These words by themselves are enough for a century of screenplays. Feminism and the Pill never dealt with motherhood. We never hear of the deep pain of miscarriage, abortion, and infant death. Even since 1972, the United States General Social Survey has reported women's happiness has been declining, for decades; over 60% report they feel most fulfilled in the home. The existential agony of an empty womb has been with us for millennia.
Needing to protect/save your family
It's the laziest writing imaginable: when an author's story is so weak it's unable to drive itself on its merits, the only option is to pull in a "motivation" which is so profound it is undeniable. What's more powerful than losing a loved one? Most people don't even see their families, let alone get on with them. If they were threatened, it's most likely they'd freeze out of Bystander Syndrome before they could act, if they could withstand the paralysing helplessness of grief - and they certainly wouldn't go out on a campaign of revenge which took down a cartel or government.
If You Can't Write, Cry Outrage and Affirmative Action
We get it. Nobody likes Hollywood people. The town revels in its infamy and iconic imagery of debasement. We live and let these people live in their messy corner of the country, and try to ignore the nonsense. There's a healthy distance between what they make, and who they are; we don't have to believe what they believe.
That line has been crossed. Now the activists have corrupted that negotiated agreement, as they did in academia. Now we have to believe what they believe, or else.
Ordinary people do not think children being given mastectomies, puberty-blocking drugs, or masturbation lessons by drag queens is remotely "progressive" or morally acceptable; neither do they live in mansions with weekly champagne sex parties (an "overcrowded brothel", as Marilyn Monroe described it), feign tears over identity politics at awards ceremonies, or take private jets to climate summits.
“What’s wrong with sentimentality?” (reporter to William Faulkner)
“People are afraid of it,”
Most of them are simply going to work and trying to make a living. They want to transcend the banality of ordinary life for a brief moment in time, not be dragged into neo-Marxist student politics. As Bruckheimer put it:
"We are in the transportation business. We transport audiences from one place to another."
Newsflash again to Hollywood: people love Hollywood's product; they despise Hollywood.The moguls knew this. So did the stars.
“We can’t afford to alienate our movie audience by telling them the truth about themselves.”
B. P. Schulberg (head of Paramount)
- If you scold the audience, they're not going to pay you for the privilege.
- If you try to enforce a dogma on an audience, they will teach you a lesson.
- If you patronise the audience, they will despise you.
- If you ignore the audience, they will ignore you.
- If you pander to half the audience, you'll lose 80% of it.
- If you attempt to deceive the audience by smuggling in your ideology, they will spot it.
Hollywood's made some deals with the devil over the years. The silence over Hitler and finance from China come to mind.
When did it stop listening to the audience?
This one is something else. This isn't politics; it's pathology. Luckily Hollywood is well-versed on people turning up to heist them for fame or money. They simply need to realise who and what they are dealing with. After that, it's all over.