Scott Feinberg does some great journalism here and gets the story, asking key questions most people will want to know. And by “most people,” I mean the small handful of devotees who remain even remotely interested in the Oscars. Frankly, and I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, we’re now in “let them eat cake” territory.
The thing about journalism is this: if people aren’t afraid of you, then you’re probably not a journalist. You’re kind of a hybrid of a PR person. Journalists are supposed to scare people at the top. Feinberg does here what too few have done in recent times.
In the article, new CEO Bill Kramer would like to see all 23 categories reinstated. He would also like to have a host. They are paying attention to the new wave of “gender neutral” categories, but are not planning to implement them yet.
But Feinberg did here what almost no other reporter in this town would ever do. He asks about the controversial “inclusion mandate” applied to all films hoping to qualify for the Oscars. The answer is interesting and gives you a glimpse into the minds of the people making all these calls.
“We don’t want to legislate on art. That’s not what it’s about. We want filmmakers to keep making the movies they want to make. I’m very pleased to report that the top image nominees of the past year would all have qualified by our inclusion standards. He continued: “At the all members meeting, we will talk more about this because it is a big talking point for our members, and we want to be very clear that we do not want it to be onerous or punitive; we want it to be collaborative.
So here’s the thing. Feinberg popped the question, a miracle in itself that anyone would do. There’s no way anyone in power in Hollywood collecting a paycheck will speak candidly about what’s happened in Hollywood since 2020.
The biggest change in Hollywood since the Hays Code and the blacklist has overturned free market ideology. What is happening to movies today is more or less what Hollywood was trying to prevent in the 1940s and 1950s. They wanted to keep communism out of movies. That’s why they created a blacklist. Many of these screenwriters actually wanted to inject Marxist ideology into the films. It had to be done in secret. Since our government and most businesses were against communist ideology (after allying with Stalin in WWII to defeat Hitler, our government was now worried about the spread of communism around the world and in our country) .
I’ll give you an example of how things have changed drastically. The Lifetime Movie Network airs thrillers daily. They almost always follow a few basic plots. Psycho husband or boyfriend, psycho ex-girlfriend, psycho mother, psycho doctor, etc. In almost every one of these films, a woman is in trouble and must escape. Until 2020, almost all the protagonists were pretty white women. After 2020, there is a notable change to be more inclusive. Usually this means a mixed-race couple in the center. Either a white woman and a non-white man, or a non-white woman and a white man.
One of the most entertaining on their new list of “woke” movies would be Single Black Female, where instead of two thin white women there are two plus size black women. Usually, however, there isn’t such an effort to bring a different tone to these films. They serve one purpose. The insertion of people of color in the main roles does not change the plot in any way. And given how race-obsessed the American left has become — microaggressions, anti-racism, etc. – it is always strange to see the characters play in their archetypical roles with different skin colors. We don’t even seek to live in a “colorblind” society because that ideology has been deemed racist. Yet, in most cases, it’s one of Hollywood’s only coping mechanisms to the way things have changed.
Single Black Female is, in my opinion, better than your average Lifetime movie. I wish it had been made as a real movie in theaters because I think it would have made money. It’s done well mainly because they’re not trying to emulate the Lifetime model as much as they’re reinterpreting a classy 90s movie. It’s done with camp and humor.
What they want is to reverse human tribal behavior. Usually a majority of any group wants to watch or listen to voices and faces that reflect their group or cultural experience. Since white people have been in the majority throughout American history and still are, the market often responded to stories featuring white characters and white culture. Lifetime movies have traditionally been about as white as you can imagine.
But Lifetime’s grassroots — white women — have become the most strident of anti-racism activism. So seeing people of color in a Lifetime movie (one wonders if those movies are particularly popular with another group) makes them feel good. It makes them less guilty, less paranoid, etc.
And ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. A friend of mine called the way the Oscars featured nearly all black presenters “a new kind of black face.” The Academy is 80% white. America is about 60% white. America is also 95% heterosexual. Americans believe in God approximately 80%. Those statistics are starting to change, no doubt. Gen-z tends to be the generation that is more LGBTQIA, less religious, and more “woke” for sure. But we’re still talking about minority pop, not mainstream.
The Oscars can’t attract the majority because they’re singularly obsessed with their outward image, like most of the top 1% who run Hollywood. They have almost ceased to be able to tell good stories and now find many ways to tell good stories under the thumb of fundamentalism. It’s wrong to control art like this, and I don’t care what Twitter thinks about it. It is simply the truth, proven century after century. Dogmatic art is not art. It’s propaganda.
Executives are mortally afraid of being arrested for racism. It’s bad press they don’t think they can afford with an army of child Orwellian spies blowing on them. The Oscars and most movies that will pass the required standards reflect the paranoia of the white community, not the actual power of that community. In other words, to what extent is it merely a “signal of virtue” and to what extent is it a real change? And if it is change, what exactly does it change?
Yes, they are trying to legislate art. All of the executives of all of the studios that create content legislate art. They force artists to reflect a specific ideology that serves their new religion and pulls them through. Remember that the people at the top who hold the power are always the same – in all institutions of power in this country. They therefore allow marginalized groups to be presented as proof that they prioritize activism.
I think ultimately it doesn’t do much for anyone in the long run. You can’t make people better filmmakers by giving them awards or giving them good reviews to assuage your own desire to be a good puritan in 2022. That doesn’t give them something to work towards, or any kind standard to be met.
We seem to have crossed into a bizarre new unreality where art is meant to be like someone’s Instagram – a utopian vision of America. The awakened avatar to reflect their idealized society. That’s not the truth. Once you lose access to truth, you lose everything in terms of art, comedy, journalism, science.
Part of the problem for the American art left is simply that it has run out of good stories to tell. They have lost touch with the “struggle” of everyday life. They exist inside a kind of Brave New World bubble where their biggest problems are ideological angst. No more Frank Capras and John Steinbecks. There is simply no way for them to truly see or understand the ordinary Americans who have been their target audience since their founding.
What better than trying to force every filmmaker to adhere to a “Woke” code continues to support filmmakers of color, or women, to give them a platform. Artists should be free to write their stories as they wish without being watched and reprimanded for not being “correct”. The result is inauthenticity and distancing from the actual storytelling, provocative storytelling that makes its mark.
Not all stories are about race and gender. Every person’s experience does not revolve around social justice and fair treatment of everyone. Not all stories have such a distinct binary of “good” and “bad.” Most people are too afraid to say what they really think. Basically, we’re all walking alongside a naked emperor, whose schlong is hanging out, and we’re saying his clothes look really good.
I understand that I have played a big role in the fight for diversity and inclusion for many years. The tree must have been shaken. Hollywood has been too white for too long. In my wildest dreams, I never thought there would be warrants and thought police and a pervasive panopticon of puritans turning art into performative dogma. As well-intentioned as it is, it’s not just depressing to watch, and sooner or later people will seek authenticity wherever they can find it.
What should the Academy do? Stop flattering. They need to get over themselves and stop acting like high priests of the moral code. Remember America is a big country with a lot of different people and probably most of you wouldn’t agree with it politically. That doesn’t make them “bad”. You can lock yourself in an apocalyptic bunker and hope for the best. Or you can just drop the artifice and remember why there are Oscars and why artists want to tell stories.
Otherwise, what good is it all? Why not just start a foundation or a church and distribute certificates for shining examples of goodness. Artists, however, must be freed to do what they do best.