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Cinema has always been political

By David Wanderi 

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV. 

Art has been used to convey and address countless themes throughout history. Politics is one of those subjects that have been explored through art, especially in our Western context. With the rise of streaming and access to social media, we’re now exposed to more visual media than any other humans in history. Although films and television series of the past have been used to promote or demote certain political views, many now argue the present day has the worst amount of political input. Quote on quote, “Everything has gone Woke.” But what facts do we have to say this conclusion is valid? What makes the politics presented in today’s media any more “woke” than the politics of the past? 

Truthfully, the number of political narratives being pushed on us hasn’t changed as drastically as people make it seem. Instead, we have a larger number of films and shows being created alongside the ability to hear everyone’s opinion of these programs. What difference is there between the pro-Iraq war movies of the 2000’s with the pro-LGBTQ or BLM movies of today?  

I’m not implying we should simply shrug our shoulders at certain political views presented to us, but I am suggesting we don’t act like it’s some strange phenomenon. Television and cinema have always been political, it’s only the politics in the forefront that are arguably more liberal in a social sense. 

On November 23, 2022, Disney Animation studios released their latest film “Strange World.” With a budget between $135-180 Million dollars, the film has currently made only about $62 million dollars. According to YouTube personality Brett Cooper, who has over 1.6 million followers, the film flopped because it pushed “woke” ideologies. 

Now I’m not a fan of Brett Cooper, nor do I frequently listen to her, but for the purpose of creating a concrete argument I wanted to watch her video to hear her explanation of why the “wokeness” of the movie ruined it. 

Unfortunately, a couple minutes into the video Brett admitted to the audience that she hasn’t even seen the movie herself. The entire thirteen minute and eleven second video is mainly her critiquing a movie she hasn’t seen. Were there any good points in the video regarding the movie’s subject matter? Yes, in that Brett made fair points of how the “wokeness” might not have been a factor in the movie’s financial failure. She even called out Disney’s past hypocrisy of editing movies with liberal ideologies for conservative foreign audiences, and how for this film Disney refused to do so. As a result, the film wasn’t allowed to be played by some of the larger international markets like China (although, save for the new “Avatar” sequel, Hollywood has been bombing in China for years anyways). Outside of a few good points which arguably contradict her headline, her critique falls by the wayside because she hasn’t even seen the film.  

I understand not all people who are politically conservative are like Brett Cooper, and there are those who do their due diligence and research what they’re critiquing. About one year ago, right-wing Youtuber Matt Walsh posted a video titled “Reviewing WOKE Kid’s Shows with Matt Walsh.” 

I must admit the video had an entertaining start, with Matt sarcastically showing the turmoil of the 90’s and how it wasn’t drastically different from today. As the video progresses, his argument closes in on the subject of kid’s shows. He believes the current state of television programming for children is no longer designed to entertain children. Instead, it’s created to make sure kids have the “correct” political views. 

Throughout the video, he reviews clips from different kids shows like “Muppet Babies,” “Arthur,” “Steven Universe,” and “Blues Clues.” I wasn’t in agreement with much of his issues for “Arthur” and “Steven Universe,” but I could sympathize with his argument on the other two shows. For starters, it’s not far-fetched for a parent to want simpler stories for their toddlers and infants. For both of the clips reviewed, the subjects were mainly on cross-dressing and pride parades. An argument Matt brought up against these subjects being presented to such young children were plots from past “Blues Clues” episodes. The difference between the old subject matter and new subject matter felt admittedly jarring. 

Now one might believe Matt has a bias against the LGBTQ community, as evidenced by his history of transphobia. But, surprisingly, the least problematic clip he reviewed was a clip from “My Little Pony.” Two of the older Ponies were a lesbian couple, and Matt had no issue with it. This shows perhaps his issue isn’t even the representation of different ideologies, but more so in the presentation.  

I can sympathize with conservatives over the manner of how different ideologies are being presented. Whether you believe it is positive or negative, mainstream culture has arguably shifted to supporting more socially liberal stances. However, that in itself doesn’t make the art worse. In listening to these conservative internet personalities, they attribute wokeness to worse quality movies and television shows. The sad reality is that the number of politics being imposed on us hasn’t changed, only now don’t subscribe to his politics. 

Are there films and television shows out there which suck because they preach an agenda? Of course, there always have been. But a film having a political ideology you disagree with isn’t grounds to dismiss it entirely. I’m not advocating people don’t care or don’t speak up, but I am calling for people to give art a chance even when there are political themes that you don’t agree with. 

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David Wanderi

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