Have We Reached Breaking Point For The Woke Blockbuster?
It’s an interesting time to perceive the reactions to various Hollywood releases on Woke Twitter. Star Wars: The Last Jedi pushed to the surface some of the strongest sexist (and, to a lesser extent, racist responses ever witnessed to a film) that we’re just about finished arguing about with assholes. (For the record, I think Last Jedi is a pretty weak film; but I’m on board with its progressive intentions). Meanwhile, the studio behind that film are about to release what’s pretty much the most expensive American movie with no major Caucasian characters: the Marvel spin-off Black Panther, an Africa-set epic of black talent and cultural fusion.
It is, by all accounts, going to be extraordinarily successful: pre-sales are insane, Kendrick Lamar is involved in the soundtrack, even the background actors are goddamn Oscar nominees (hi, Daniel Kaluuya!). I’m typically a Marvel cynic, but I really hope I like Black Panther: it’s going to be a cool party to be at in 2 weeks. And in the summer Marvel will be launching their first movie with a female character’s name in the title: Ant-Man & The Wasp. Fox’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix is strongly female-led in late Autumn. People are still hysterical about Wonder Woman. So the White Men Only era of the superhero genre seems to be on the way out.
But if we glance over at Warner Bros., things aren’t looking so #Neat and #Fresh. Justice League dragged the liberated Wonder Woman back to 2004 standards of big-screen femininity, reduced to the brunt of flirty jokes and filmed in a distinctly lecherous manner. It was a bad state of affairs.
Their chance for redemption in 2018 seemed to take the form of the new J.K. Rowling scripted Wizarding World prequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which was — very excitingly — going to pair Jude Law’s Dumbledore with Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald as the most major depiction of a gay romance in a family blockbuster to date. It was almost cool enough to compensate for casting the controversial Depp in the role.
Then, this week, the ever-bumbling director of the film, David Yates, said that…ummm.. yeah… the romance won’t be… ummm… in the… movie. Apparently homosexuality is still a bit too edgy for the kids flocking to see a movie called The Crimes Of Grindelwald. J.K. Rowling is probably the only person powerful enough to get a gay romance into a movie this expensive. But J.K. Rowling isn’t very woke. She couldn’t care less about representation unless it has financial benefits (which, I’d argue, a gay romance in Beasts would actually have provided). So looks like The Crimes Of Grindelwald will not be getting that all-important approval from Woke Twitter.
The problem will Beasts, obviously, is that they made a promise and then bailed on it, but it’s indicative that making movies about straight people, white people, even Men, is no longer going to satisfy an awful lot of people. So every studio exec currently deciding what to greenlight for the next few years should take into account that audiences would like to please see themselves reflected in the cast of characters.