Friendo: “I can’t believe how much the political climate described in Albert Marrin‘s “A Time of Fear: America in the Era of Red Scares and Cold War” is like right now.
“The only difference is that it’s all totally flipped. The fear of Communism and Communist association has become the fear of racism or racist taint or anything offensive to the Left, or even that which seems to argue with Critical Race Theory…anything in that realm. But the methods are exactly, and I mean EXACTLY the same. Except for the absence (so far) of a HUAC-like Congressional examination and indictment committee.
And as long as we’re talking about punitive social traumas and history repeating itself, please consider once again the parallels between woke terror and the 1930s Social Realism movement in art — an essay that I posted on 3.22.21 (“Wolfe Reminds, History Repeats“).
Since wokeness began to take hold in ’18 and certainly since the pandemic struck 13 months ago, the movie pipeline has been losing steam and under-providing, to put it mildly. Nothing even approaching the level of Spotlight, Manchester by the Sea, Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, Lady Bird, La-La Land, the long cut of Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor, Zero Dark Thirty or Portrait of a Woman on Fire has come our way from domestic filmmakers. **
Above and beyond an array of pandemic suffocations, a significant reason for the strange absence of robust cinema, for this general faint-pulse feeling, is (wait for it) wokeness and political terror.
Wokeness might be good or (sadly) necessary for social change, but it’s not much of a propellant for the creation of knockout award-season flicks that really reach out and touch Joe and Jane Popcorn.
The bottom line is that the erratic pursuit of sweeping, penetrating, soul-touching art (a rare achievement but one that has occasionally manifested over the decades) has been more or less called off, it seems, because such films or aspirations, in the view of certain #MeToo and POC progressives, don’t serve the current woke-political narrative.
You can dismiss the previous three paragraphs as a typical, broken-record HE rant. But there is, in fact, a historical precedent for what’s going on right now, and it’s nicely recounted on page 30 and 31 of Tom Wolfe‘s “The Painted Word“.
The passage is only two paragraphs long. Would you like to read it? Because what happened in the modern art world in the 1930s — i.e, the dominance of “social realism” — precisely mirrors what’s going on today.
For upscale, sensitive-person, social-reflection dramas have fallen under the influence of a new form of ’30s social realism and, it could certainly be argued, are being used to illustrate and argue against social ills that wokesters regard as (and which probably are) evil and diseased. The result has been a new form of enlightened propaganda cinema. (Feel free to supply your own examples.)
It’s almost astonishing to read Wolfe’s description of the “social realism” movement of the ’30s because the same damn thing is happening right now.