Woke is now firmly entrenched in popular culture.
You can thank celebrities racing to be more woke, or socially aware, than the next star or starlet. Blame entertainment reporters, too, They dutifully factor identity politics into their reviews, commentary and news coverage.
If a critic spends time counting up the number of women or people of color in a movie, chances are it’s a woke review. Some films, as a result, scurry to be as woke as possible. Yet, as we’ve seen recently, sometimes woke isn’t woke enough.
Consider the following six movies. Each strained to be as socially aware as possible.
- The casting
- The themes
- The messaging
Yet each endured brickbats from Social Justice Warriors. Why? Sure, they were woke. They just weren’t woke enough.
The wokest movie … ever? It’s a prime contender given its themes, comedy beats and overall premise. Two woke liberal teens regret not partying hardy during the final year of high school. So they try to fix that during one madcap night.
Director Olivia Wilde’s film is both socially conscious and funny, a combination rarely seen in pop culture circles. That still wasn’t enough for sites like BuzzFeed. It slammed the film for having a “class” blind spot. Not to be outdone, The Mary Sue blasted the film for featuring two white characters. Really.
The MCU smash got so very, very close. The film touches on colonization, inner city inequality and more. It’s set in Africa and features an almost all-black cast. That’s a woke home run, right?
Of course not.
Some are attacking the film for its lack of LGBTQ perspective. More specifically, why we didn’t see any gay romance during the action saga?
Turns out we almost did in one sequence “featuring Ayo and Okoye (Danai Gurira) suggesting that the two might have been romantically involved, or at the very least attracted to each other.”
The scene hit the cutting room floor, sparking an outcry over its absence.
“A romance between Okoye and Ayo is the sort of thing that easily could have been included in Black Panther with something as simple as a longing look and a bit of flirting kiss, but it looks like we’re going to have to wait even longer for the MCU’s films to catch up with the times.”
Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn teamed for his 2017 action romp with a decided feminist slant. Our heroes save the day on their own with very little help from men. A comical subplot features a lesbian couple whose paths keep crossing our heroines.
Schumer bragged prior to the film’s release that she ordered a sequence involving a gun to be removed following the Orlando mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Florida with left 49 people dead.
Woke on steroids, right? Not even close.
Film critics shredded “Snatched” for portraying a foreign culture in a negative light. Here’s a sample slam from The New York Times:
“Snatched” is one of those movies that subscribes to a dubious homeopathic theory of cultural insensitivity by which the acknowledgment of offensiveness is supposed to prevent anyone from taking offense. The idea is that if you use variations on the phrase “That’s racist!” as a punch line a few times, nothing else you say or do could possibly be racist. Including, say, populating your movie with dark-skinned thugs with funny accents and killing a few of them for cheap laughs.
This delightful Disney feature went out of its way to portray Polynesian culture with authenticity and respect. The film’s creative team traveled extensively to nail the minor nuances of the culture, a painstaking process that likely jacked up the film’s budget.
Impressive, no? It still wasn’t enough for some.
Of particular concern is the movie’s portrayal of the demigod Maui, who is shown as enormous and egotistical, albeit with a good heart. That has been jarring for some in Polynesia, where obesity rates are among the highest in the world and where Maui is a revered hero in oral traditions.
The science fiction film arrived at a perfect time … on paper. The film features a mostly female cast in the kind of sci-fi adventure men typically dominate. Natalie Portman is the main attraction, but fellow female cast members include Gina Rodriguez, rising star Tessa Thompson (“Thor: Ragnarok”) and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
It’s like a #MeToo advertisement. Only there’s a problem with the casting.
The film is based on a trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. The second book in the series describes Portman’s character as being half-Asian: “high cheekbones that speak to the strong Asian heritage on one side of her family.”
Portman isn’t Asian.
Writer/director Alex Garland (“Ex Machina”) says he hasn’t read the second book or third books and wasn’t aware of that description. He based the project solely on reading the first story in the trilogy, with the plan to expand the story’s universe himself down the short road.
Portman, after being alerted to the issue, called the casting decision “problematic.”
This Netflix original got blasted by most film critics. It was ugly, and the film’s lame dialogue and clunky plotting were clearly to blame.
It’s still a high-profile actioner with a black lead actor (Will Smith) and a story line tied directly to prejudice. Co-star Joel Edgerton plays an Orc assigned to partner with a human cop (Smith). Orcs are uniformly targeted and taunted in the “Bright” universe, bringing to mind race relations in the real world.
The fact that orcs—a breed of monster that are generally known for brutishness and being both villains and cannon fodder in The Lord of the Rings—are essentially meant to take the place of African Americans in Bright’s attempt at unpacking race relations is a huge problem on its own …
Then there’s the Latinx gang, headed by Enrique Murciano sporting the nickname “Poison” and a face full of tattoos, who form the only other contingent of actual people of color in the entire movie. As a bunch of stereotypes thrown in with other stereotypes—given the way the orcs dress pretty much exactly the same as they do—where are they meant to fit in? It’s impossible that they’re nonexistent.”