The problematic nature of "wokeness"

“Wokeness” is dumb.

Now before I get attacked for that, hear me out really quickly. I am not referring to actually being socially conscious. I don’t think anyone thinks that being more socially conscious is bad, unless you’re a self-proclaimed “anti-SJW” like Ben Shapiro or Jordan Peterson. When I say “woke,” I refer to companies who try to be socially conscious for the sake of trendiness and being hip. It’s become a term drenched in irony, more often than not used as a joke or a criticism because of how much of a parody it has become.

There is a lot that can be said about “woke culture” in particular, but I’m going to specifically focus on pop culture. I think “wokeness” in our pop culture has been ruined by “cultural analysts” in the media who like to write filler, and corporations exploiting it for profit.

Part 1: The Media

For the first point, let’s look at the Joker controversy, which has been done to death, but represents everything wrong with how the media tries to be “woke.” For “cultural analysts” in the media, the “woke” goal was to be ahead of the curve. If you spoke out about the movie being dangerous before seeing it, reviewed the movie and happened to like it, and then the shooting happened, at least you can point to the first thing you said and be like “see, I was right all along and I’m really woke.”

Here are the problems with this whole ordeal. First, movies don’t cause violence. They haven’t ever been correlated. Second, the hysteria caused by this will only increase the likelihood of a shooting, not the opposite. Many “cultural analysts” thought the new Joker movie would inspire another shooter akin to the one in Aurora, CO from 2012, who claimed he was inspired by the Joker. Except he wasn’t. That was a rumor that got erroneously circulated. A simple Google search could have cleared that, but that didn’t stop these “cultural analysts” from going ballistic.

The movie was also called an incel movie repeatedly, which none of the trailers indicated. The movie itself didn’t turn out to be one. If anything, the main point many of these “analysts” jumped to is that a story about a white guy going insane is an incel movie, which isn’t “woke” at all. It’s just wrong and they seem to completely not know what “being an incel” means. What even is an incel movie? Incels will view any awful, sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, and/or violent white character in any piece of media as a hero, especially when that piece of media portrays said character in a negative light. That’s what incels do. It’s the same way racists liked Borat and homophobes liked Brüno without getting the fact that they were being made fun of. Don’t give incels the negative attention they crave with this unwarranted “woke” crusade.

If you really wanted an actual cultural critique of the movie, talk about how the movie correlates mental illness with violence. That discussion has been severely overlooked, and the film’s lack of nuance regarding that subject was grating. A film creating empathy for the main character who is an awful person doesn’t mean you’re glorifying that character. Saying that it does for the sake of being “woke” is dishonesty and bad criticism, especially when you’re cherry-picking which movies to have that point applied to.

Part 2: Corporations

No one should be surprised by corporations ruining “wokeness.” Let’s look at Disney, a company I would love to see get dismantled piece by piece. We all know their remakes are bad, but the more I thought about it, the more I was bothered by the way they try to be “woke.”

After torrenting the remake, I rewatched the original Dumbo, and I swear to god there is a scene with a pack of crows led by a crow named Jim Crow who sounds like a caricature of a black person that a racist white person would imitate. The remake doesn’t even acknowledge that, cutting out the crow characters entirely. Now that doesn’t seem bad until you realize they have an entire anti-animal cruelty message running throughout the whole movie to “correct” the mistake of the original. In the original, Dumbo gets drunk and hallucinates, but in the remake they “correct” that by keeping the alcohol away from the baby elephant when someone offers it.

This is a microcosm of what’s wrong with these movie studios trying to be “woke”: it’s “woke” for the sake of profit. It seems obvious, but it’s really insidious and people eat it up. Animal cruelty and women’s empowerment are things that can be marketed. But Disney’s racist history? That’s not marketable. Just erase it entirely and pretend it doesn’t exist. It works. Aladdin and The Lion King made tons of money. Both featured scenes of all the female characters being “extra empowered,” such as Jasmine getting an extra song talking about how she won’t be silenced in Aladdin (which wasn’t a problem in the original anyway) and with Nala getting a fight scene in The Lion King because Disney really wants to show how strong she is. But neither addresses the racist material in both movies, and both movies diminish the female characters by making them one-dimensional in the remakes.

The industry just seems to be content with ignoring its racist history, and will claim it’s solved racism, sexism, and all the other -isms by marketing how it’s becoming more “representative.” Writing one-dimensional female characters who are physically strong is totally good representation. Who cares about writing good female characters? Doesn’t matter. The industry says they respect women, even though they pay them less on average and are hesitant to hire female directors and writers. Recasting previously white characters as different races is such good representation. Who cares about writing good characters for non-white actors to play? Doesn’t matter. So many “woke” people will eat up this garbage, pandering nonsense from the industry, but it’s just corporate robots selling them a PR vision.

Ok so you criticized everything. What’s the point?

At this point, I just find people claiming “wokeness” to be disingenuous. This isn’t me acting all high and mighty, nor am I calling people bad for being disingenuous. Their intentions are in the right place. But I haven’t heard a single socially conscious person refer to themselves as “woke” without being ironic. I think many people can do better to be more conscious, and it’s not hard to do better.