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Variety ‘Debunks’ Get Woke, Go Broke. Not So Fast

Entertainment journalists have taken a curious approach to Hollywood’s woke crusade.

Some cheer it on without reservation. Others decry movies and TV shows that aren’t woke enough. Another group’s take is, well, baffling.

They ignore how uber-woke content is a tougher sell for audiences. Consider:

  • Charlie’s Angels
  • Long Shot
  • Ghostbusters
  • Booksmart
  • Terminator: Dark Fate
  • The Last Jedi/The Rise of Skywalker
  • Late Night
  • Birds of Prey

Those films all went woke, to varying degrees. All underperformed, some in spectacular fashion, at the box office. “Ghostbusters” alone cost its studio roughly $70 million.

Yet entertainment journalists rarely acknowledge how woke storytelling, or branding, hurt their box office appeal.

One major entertainment outlet finally woke up – Variety. The reason shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Liberal film critic Owen Gleiberman says the success of “The Invisible Manshatters the “get woke, go broke” mantra. You know, the same mantra conservatives have been sharing for months based on box office that the media ignores?

That one.

Gleiberman argues “The Invisible Man,” which earned an impressive $29 million over the weekend, reflects the #MeToo era in spades.

The film spins the classic movie monster story, focusing on the abused woman dating the “Invisible Man.”

The film’s commercial success, at least after one week of release, shows we really do want woke movies, Gleiberman contends. 

Even more?

He argues anyone who connected the dots on past woke failures are … misogynists.

Yet over the last few years, Hollywood’s mostly superficial onscreen attempt to deal with issues of women’s empowerment has resulted in a track record dotted with box-office failure, and this has given rise to a certain knee-jerk misogynistic appraisal of that phenomenon. It goes back, in a way, to the “Ghostbusters” remake, which was greeted with undisguised hostility before it was ever released. And when it turned out to be a so-so movie, it got beaten up on as if its failures, comedic and financial, somehow meant something.

Says the critic who claims the success of one film, “The Invisible Man,” means something.

So people didn’t want to see another “Terminator” film, or another “Charlie’s Angels.” What the success of “The Invisible Man” points to is how much they do want to see a movie that grapples, urgently and entertainingly, with who women are.

The writer, a veteran film scribe who previously reviewed films for Entertainment Weekly, misses the point entirely.

Audiences don’t mind female-driven stories. “Little Women” just sailed past the $100 million mark at the box office.

We reject films where the woke messaging is shoved down our throats. The marketing behind “Ghostbusters” and “Terminator: Dark Fate” did just that (as did the films themselves, to a degree).

Reminder: This was the first image from “Dark Fate” shared far and wide. Do you see the franchise’s biggest star, Arnold Schwarnegger, in the frame?

The very first line of “Charlie’s Angels” went woke, too.

“I believe a woman can do anything,” Kristen Stewart literally said as the movie opened.

“The Invisible Woman” never stops the narrative to lecture us. It serves up thrills, chills and a plot that lets viewers interpret it as they wish. It could be a straight up thriller, no questions asked. Or, audiences can think about the implications of the plot, drawing their own conclusions on the way home from the theater.

The best art does that. Woke movies don’t.

They wag their finger at us rubes, telling us precisely what to think. “Late Night” featured several wince-inducing moments where “the patriarchy” and “discrimination” are awkwardly addressed.

Meanwhile, Mindy Kaling’s character is less than lovable, and the laughs are few and far between.

That’s Woke Movie 101.

Gleiberman doesn’t address these key differences. He deserves a dollop of credit for acknowledging the “get woke, go broke” mantra, but only because he tries, and fails, to bring it down.

BONUS: Some Variety readers took issue with Gleiberman’s take: Here’s two examples…

  • Ah yes, the usual trope from someone with no leg to stand on claiming that 1 example that goes against the trend is somehow proof to invalidate all the other examples that prove the trend.
  • The term “Get Woke Go Broke” pertains specifically to legacy franchises that take hard forced turns to suddenly retcon characters and stories to fit a female empowerment angle. Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr Who, are but a few long running IPs that have recently been severely altered for no other reason than to put females in seats of power. Most wouldn’t have issue with strong female leads but the knee-jerk way it has been handled has left those franchises broken and with fragmented fan-bases.
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