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Author Topic: Is Woke media always dreary?  (Read 3041 times)

S'mon

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Is Woke media always dreary?
« on: January 25, 2022, 04:08:57 AM »
It's a common trope that adding Wokeness to an IP, or creating a Woke IP (which hardly ever happens, since Wokesters are parasites) makes it objectively worse. I was wondering whether there are any counter examples, or at least examples of something 'ok' in terms of entertainment value.

I was thinking of a possible contrast between the Black Widow and Captain Marvel MCU films. Black Widow to my mind has basically no redeeming features. Lazy Feminist writing, an incredibly boring Harvey Weinstein-expy villain - played by great character actor Ray Winstone - active discarding of everything that made Black Widow a cool character. It's Woke and it's drek.

I find Captain Marvel much more interesting. As presented, I find the character utterly repellent. Her personality and character arc is much more that of a villain than a hero. The narrative structure is Marxist-Feminist dialectic, like Black Widow. But I find it much better done. This is not a 'lazy' film; the philosophy may be vile, but to my mind it's presented with skill and heaps of enthusiasm, a Totalitarian Left film almost reminiscent of a John Milius film from the Libertarian Right - Conan the Barbarian, say, or Red Dawn. The protagonist is dour, humourless, unpleasant, arrogant, and even sadistic. The scripting and Direction I thought were highly competent. The action is decent. Technically, it is a 'good' superhero film.

I was wondering if anyone else makes a similar distinction between typical bad-and-incompetent Woke, and evil-but-competent Woke. Or is it all just undifferentiated trash to you (or undifferentiated good stuff, if you are pro-Woke)? Are there any other examples of Woke done competently?

VisionStorm

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2022, 07:11:58 AM »
It's been a while since I watched it, so don't remember much, but the Netflix series Sense8 was kinda woke from the onset, with lots of "diversity" characters in it (including a transgender character), yet done well. It's basically the only example I've run into of wokesters actually creating something (instead of "subverting" existing IPs) that wasn't just woke garbage. The series was about eight strangers from different countries all over the world who find out that they are "sensates" who possess some sort of psychic bond with each other, allowing them to share memories and skillsets to assist each other in overcoming their problems and fight bad guys who're after their kind.

Season 2 was more woke than season 1, and had a few episodes that made me wanna puke. It eventually got cancelled, though, cuz it was way too expensive to shoot across different countries from all over the world, which was part of the show's premise, but attracted a strong following from woke types, who cried when it was cancelled, because of course they would.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense8

HappyDaze

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2022, 07:21:19 AM »
I can safely ignore just about everything shown on CW...although I tolerate Superman & Lois.

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2022, 11:16:08 AM »
I will admit that for me, part of the difficulty of finding counterexamples is that I have become so antipathic to Woke philosophy that its very presence renders any story containing it less entertaining, regardless of whatever craft and quality it may legitimately boast. That said, one of the hallmarks of a great creator is that they can make works which still entertain despite carrying messages, or exemplifying themes or tropes, some may find distasteful. I reject Lovecraft's philosophy across the board but still find his work enjoyable, and I was never really into the neo-Goth scene of the '90s but still loved Poppy Z. Brite's horror. So it can be done.

If I had to think of a fantasy series recently which I enjoyed despite its Wokeness, the Australian author David Hair did two epic fantasy quadrilogies -- the Moontide Quartet and the Sunsurge Quartet -- which have distinct weaknesses deriving at least in part directly from too many of the characters embodying modern Western secular sensibilities in how they think and act.  Nonetheless, the books still have enough action, scope, energy and vividness to make them worth reading.
Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. -- Mark Twain

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S'mon

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2022, 02:34:23 PM »
Nonetheless, the books still have enough action, scope, energy and vividness to make them worth reading.

I felt that way about the first book of His Dark Materials. The trilogy went downhill really fast though - each book a huge drop off from the previous one.

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2022, 03:48:06 PM »
I was thinking of a possible contrast between the Black Widow and Captain Marvel MCU films. Black Widow to my mind has basically no redeeming features. Lazy Feminist writing, an incredibly boring Harvey Weinstein-expy villain - played by great character actor Ray Winstone - active discarding of everything that made Black Widow a cool character. It's Woke and it's drek.  ...But I find (Captain Marvel) much better done. This is not a 'lazy' film; the philosophy may be vile, but to my mind it's presented with skill and heaps of enthusiasm, a Totalitarian Left film almost reminiscent of a John Milius film from the Libertarian Right - Conan the Barbarian, say, or Red Dawn. The protagonist is dour, humourless, unpleasant, arrogant, and even sadistic. The scripting and Direction I thought were highly competent. The action is decent. Technically, it is a 'good' superhero film.

Interestingly, my reaction was completely the other way around: Captain Marvel felt like the lazier film by far to me, where the absolute minimum effort necessary was invested at every step to create a product felt necessary by marketing perceptions rather than narrative relevance to the MCU's whole arc. (When your movie is never really clear on who your actual Big Bad is meant to be until the final ten minutes or so and the most important relationship the character has is with a friend she doesn't remember for most of the film, you're not getting anything like worthwhile catharsis out of your story.)

By contrast, Black Widow, while still feeling like a waste of potential (especially given its placement in Natasha's already established plot arc), felt much more like the writers and actors had thought seriously about the emotional dynamics of family vs. loyalty, and gone out of their way to create both internal and external conflicts. Natasha's free fall dive to rescue Yelena, clunkily as it was executed in the film, felt more emotionally moving than anything in Captain Marvel. (It also helps that Scarlett Johansson is a better actress than Brie Larson -- Larson is good when given good material, but she hasn't got the knack of being watchable even in a bad script the way Johansson does.)  I thought it was a crime how they wasted David Harbour, but Rachel Weisz's scenes with Johansson pretty much made up for everything.
Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. -- Mark Twain

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S'mon

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2022, 04:39:33 PM »
(When your movie is never really clear on who your actual Big Bad is meant to be until the final ten minutes or so and the most important relationship the character has is with a friend she doesn't remember for most of the film, you're not getting anything like worthwhile catharsis out of your story.)

I thought that was all intentional and necessary to the narrative - her arc is realising she is being held down by the Patriarchy, and is already perfect in every way. She doesn't need anyone, including friends.
Maybe it helped I watched a Sargon/Carl Benjamin video analysing the dialectic in the film.  ;D

Pat

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2022, 04:59:35 PM »
I was thinking of a possible contrast between the Black Widow and Captain Marvel MCU films. Black Widow to my mind has basically no redeeming features. Lazy Feminist writing, an incredibly boring Harvey Weinstein-expy villain - played by great character actor Ray Winstone - active discarding of everything that made Black Widow a cool character. It's Woke and it's drek.  ...But I find (Captain Marvel) much better done. This is not a 'lazy' film; the philosophy may be vile, but to my mind it's presented with skill and heaps of enthusiasm, a Totalitarian Left film almost reminiscent of a John Milius film from the Libertarian Right - Conan the Barbarian, say, or Red Dawn. The protagonist is dour, humourless, unpleasant, arrogant, and even sadistic. The scripting and Direction I thought were highly competent. The action is decent. Technically, it is a 'good' superhero film.

Interestingly, my reaction was completely the other way around: Captain Marvel felt like the lazier film by far to me, where the absolute minimum effort necessary was invested at every step to create a product felt necessary by marketing perceptions rather than narrative relevance to the MCU's whole arc. (When your movie is never really clear on who your actual Big Bad is meant to be until the final ten minutes or so and the most important relationship the character has is with a friend she doesn't remember for most of the film, you're not getting anything like worthwhile catharsis out of your story.)

By contrast, Black Widow, while still feeling like a waste of potential (especially given its placement in Natasha's already established plot arc), felt much more like the writers and actors had thought seriously about the emotional dynamics of family vs. loyalty, and gone out of their way to create both internal and external conflicts. Natasha's free fall dive to rescue Yelena, clunkily as it was executed in the film, felt more emotionally moving than anything in Captain Marvel. (It also helps that Scarlett Johansson is a better actress than Brie Larson -- Larson is good when given good material, but she hasn't got the knack of being watchable even in a bad script the way Johansson does.)  I thought it was a crime how they wasted David Harbour, but Rachel Weisz's scenes with Johansson pretty much made up for everything.
Agree with the best overture of all time on this topic. Black Window was oddly paced, the rest of the Widows outside the artificial nuclear family were nonentities, turning men into jokes or one dimensional villains ended up hurting the story, and they completely failed to exploit the looming knowledge of her fate for pathos, but there was a family dynamic and some emotional stakes. All Captain Marvel had was a really amazing skrull actor and easter eggs.

Trond

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2022, 05:19:16 PM »
That reminds me:
A friend of ours saved money for a kind of festival and rented a hall owned by the Church of Scientology (he probably got it for free).
We had to sit through half an hour of Scientology propaganda films. Pretty awful.......but it was well made :D

For me, it's the same with woke stuff; there are degrees of course, but at a certain level there's no saving it.

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2022, 05:21:38 PM »
Maybe it helped I watched a Sargon/Carl Benjamin video analysing the dialectic in the film.  ;D

I'd be interested in seeing that if you happen to have the link handy.
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Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2022, 05:33:06 PM »
I thought that was all intentional and necessary to the narrative - her arc is realising she is being held down by the Patriarchy, and is already perfect in every way. She doesn't need anyone, including friends.

This is, I think, the biggest way in which Wokism drags down creative storytelling: the problem with Woke narratives is that all their stories follow the same pattern -- a protagonist from a disadvantaged minority group overcomes the institutional prejudice of the privileged majority through excellence, ideally deconstructing en masse the majority's justification to claim that privilege in the process and helping to forever dissolve the structures maintaining it.

This does not have to make for a bad story in itself, but in Western pop culture the problem is that by now this dynamic is old -- it's been seen so often that the attempt to keep it fresh, by perpetually finding smaller and more obscurely disadvantaged groups from which to draw the hero, is facing a steep curve of diminishing returns. (I firmly believe part of the reason Agent Carter failed was because the writers couldn't figure out a way, in Steve Rogers' absence, to give Peggy a meaningful character arc of change and progression while still keeping this same plot dynamic at the heart of the story.)
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Ghostmaker

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2022, 07:35:40 PM »
I thought that was all intentional and necessary to the narrative - her arc is realising she is being held down by the Patriarchy, and is already perfect in every way. She doesn't need anyone, including friends.

This is, I think, the biggest way in which Wokism drags down creative storytelling: the problem with Woke narratives is that all their stories follow the same pattern -- a protagonist from a disadvantaged minority group overcomes the institutional prejudice of the privileged majority through excellence, ideally deconstructing en masse the majority's justification to claim that privilege in the process and helping to forever dissolve the structures maintaining it.

This does not have to make for a bad story in itself, but in Western pop culture the problem is that by now this dynamic is old -- it's been seen so often that the attempt to keep it fresh, by perpetually finding smaller and more obscurely disadvantaged groups from which to draw the hero, is facing a steep curve of diminishing returns. (I firmly believe part of the reason Agent Carter failed was because the writers couldn't figure out a way, in Steve Rogers' absence, to give Peggy a meaningful character arc of change and progression while still keeping this same plot dynamic at the heart of the story.)
Worse, the story rings somewhat hollow in the U.S. as (a) Americans like underdog stories anyways, and (b) a core ideal is that striving to excel is rewarded. Exceptionalism is the term, I believe.

But wokeism actively denies exceptionalism because it clashes with its Marxist roots. So the stories become schizophrenic.

jhkim

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2022, 07:48:37 PM »
Interestingly, my reaction was completely the other way around: Captain Marvel felt like the lazier film by far to me, where the absolute minimum effort necessary was invested at every step to create a product felt necessary by marketing perceptions rather than narrative relevance to the MCU's whole arc. (When your movie is never really clear on who your actual Big Bad is meant to be until the final ten minutes or so and the most important relationship the character has is with a friend she doesn't remember for most of the film, you're not getting anything like worthwhile catharsis out of your story.)

By contrast, Black Widow, while still feeling like a waste of potential (especially given its placement in Natasha's already established plot arc), felt much more like the writers and actors had thought seriously about the emotional dynamics of family vs. loyalty, and gone out of their way to create both internal and external conflicts.

I also liked Black Widow better. I thought the biggest problem with Black Widow was its timing as a prequel. It came out after the main character is killed in the main timeline, dealing with a much bigger-scale plot - which made it feel more like an afterthought. If it had been released before Infinity War and the villain had been integrated into the ongoing plot (as the finish to the Winter Soldier / Civil War plotline), then it could have felt much more emotionally impactful -- and made Natasha's death more poignant as well.

It's interesting to note that all of Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman: 1984 were prequels rather than advancing the plot in their respective universes. As a result, I think that made them seem less important.

As for woke material more broadly, I think two better examples in recent years would be Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse and Mad Max: Fury Road. These put woke issues front and center -- and while people here probably don't like them, I didn't think they were dreary.

oggsmash

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2022, 08:06:20 PM »
Beyond race swapping spider man (which honestly, given the nature of the multiverse, not even sure it is race swapping) what made Spider man into the spider verse woke?  I am starting to think maybe woke gets tossed around a bit loosely.

BoxCrayonTales

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Re: Is Woke media always dreary?
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2022, 08:26:20 PM »
Yup.

Older stories like Jim Henson’s Labyrinth are much better written and genuinely feminist than modern drek. In those films the heroines actually go thru arcs.