The announcement of Bari Weiss's University of Austin, a non-accredited college looking to educate those who can't stand illiberal wokester tyranny at typical ivy-league colleges, has inspired Hollywood Elsewhere to announce the the establishment of Wells University, a special educational counselling service for aspiring journalists and writers who are having trouble coping with woke terror in the workplace. Login with Patreon to view this post
Amazon synopsis: “Something is wrong with American journalism. Long before ‘fake news’ became the calling card of the right, Americans had lost faith in their news media. But lately, the feeling that something is off has become impossible to ignore.
“That’s because the majority of our mainstream news is no longer just liberal; it’s woke. Today’s newsrooms are propagating radical ideas that were fringe as recently as a decade ago, including ‘antiracism,’ intersectionality, open borders and critical race theory. How did this come to be?
“The moral panic around race, encouraged by today’s elite newsrooms, does little more than consolidate the power of liberal elites and protect their economic interests. And in abandoning the working class by creating a culture war around identity, our national media is undermining American democracy. ‘Bad News’ explains how this happened, why it happened, and the dangers posed by this development if it continues unchecked.”
The closest Dowd comes to just saying it is to quote James Carville kvetching about “stupid wokeness”.
Here’s what she could have said: Goaded and justifiably alarmed by Donald Trump’s racist, dog-whistled taunts during the ‘15 and ‘16 campaign, doubly freaked by his defeat of Hillary Clinton, jarred by “The 1619 Project” (launched in August’19) and then carried along by the agonized George Floyd protests of May ‘20, Democrats embraced the woke progressive agenda lock, stock and barrel.
The time had come to not only push back against 300 years of systemic racism but to embrace anti–white racism as a counterweight. The tables had to be turned, and whites had to not only be confronted but condemned for a bedrock biological poison in their bones a la Robin DiAngelo. Which required stringent anti-racist education in not just colleges but public schools, and in some cases with young kids being taught this doctrine.
This led to suburban parental perceptions that wokesters had overplayed their hand — that the basic educational thrust in schools was that people of color are sainted figures and hothouse flowers and needed to be treated with scholastic kid gloves (equity vs. “racist” meritocracy) and that European-descended Anglo culture is rooted in cruel, dismissive, anti-persons-of-color attitudes.
Nobody has any arguments with frank teachings about the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow and systemic governmental prejudice and neglect, but instructing kids that whites are infected with a fundamental evil gene was a bridge too far, and telling parents not to try and mess with school curriculums (as Terry McAuliffe did) was rubbing salt in the wound. Hence the decisive victory of Glenn Youngkin last Tuesday.
That’s what Dowd could have said.
Basically Sheng was forced to grovel and apologize and finally withdraw from teaching a high-profile class because he was dumb enough to show the students Laurence Olivier‘s Othello (’65), which in today’s universe is an obscenity because Olivier plays the title role.
Seriously — could Sheng bave been any more blind to the times and socially tone-deaf? Black actors can play this or that historically white character but whites can’t play blacks — not now and never again. How could Shern have not known that?
To wokesters there’s no difference between Olivier playing Othello in ‘65 (or, for that matter, the Muslim “Mahdi” in Basil Dearden’s 1966 Khartoum opposite Charlton Heston) and the worst minstrel shows. It’s all the same offense — the arrogance and temerity of a white person playing a non-white person.
The fact that Olivier’s Othello is quite the tempest and suitably tragic (as was Orson Welles in his 1951 version) is, to woke lunatics, immaterial.
Would a white actor even flirt with the idea of playing Othello today? Of course not. But Denzel Washington can play a medieval Scottish social climber who was done in by his own (and his white wife’s) ruthless ambition. Actors of color can play anyone or anything they damn well please, but white actors have to respect ethnic boundaries or else. It’s simply the way it is now.
Shouldn’t there be respect for historical context and the social climate in which the Olivier and Welles versions were made? Answer: No way, Jose.
Great acting is great acting whatever the guise…right? Answer: Not in today’s climate.
By this same token Marlon Brando’s Emiliano Zapata performance in Viva Zapata! (‘52) also needs to be cancelled and forgotten. No less a personage than Guillermo del Toro once told me that he holds Elia Kazan’s 1952 drama in very low regard. “How would you feel about a Mexican-made film about Abraham Lincoln?”, he said. “And one that you might instantly recognize, as an Anglo American, as inauthentic and therefore disrespectful?”
I’m sure that University of Michigan wokesters would REALLY lose it if they were shown Black Like Me (‘64), a kind of African American or minstrel show-like version of Gentleman’s Agreement. It starred James Whitmore as a white guy who pretends to be black by coloring his skin. Remember that one? And it was made by good-guy liberals.
Many of us are deeply grateful to Dave Chappelle for being a staunch realist and a dedicated foe of wokester terror. In my heart of hearts and dream of dreams, Chappelle leads us out of this horrible nightmare. Not in a militant sense, but simply by being cool and sensible and unruffled.
Note to HE community: Please pay attention to this post, but especially to the final five paragraphs — thank you.
Yesterday Gordon Klein, a veteran professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, posted an essay on Bari Weiss’s Substack about being hounded and threatened by campus wokester fanatics for not going along with a suggestion (contained in a 6.2.20 letter from a “non-black” student of Klein’s) that he grade his Black students with “greater leniency than others in the class” because, you know, they have it tougher than white students and need all the support they can get.
Excerpt from 6.2.20 letter: “The unjust murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the life-threatening actions of Amy Cooper and the violent conduct of the [University of California Police Department] have led to fear and anxiety which is further compounded by the disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on the Black community.
“As we approach finals week, we recognize that these conditions place Black students at an unfair academic disadvantage due to traumatic circumstances out of their control.”
In other words, the white student was claiming, Black students are too socially handicapped and emotionally traumatized to get their shit together and study and apply themselves to the curriculum. Given all the social and psychological pressures, the only decent thing to do is give them a pass if their grades aren’t up to snuff.
More specifically, the final exam that Black students take should be a “no harm” exam — one that would be counted only if it boosted one’s grade.
Klein found this suggestion appalling, and as a result was subjected to a campus-wide hate and removal campaign in which he was tarred and feathered as “woefully racist.” This was followed by a suspension on 6.5.20, followed by a near-firing. He is now suing UCLA over this whole affair.
I was struck by this episode because it reminded me of a similar incident that happened when I was in 11th grade in Wilton High School — a critical year in terms of grade-point averages and applying to various colleges. I had been earning poor grades in everything except English composition and gym, and so I wrote a letter to the WHS principal and others in charge, pleading for leniency because I had it tougher than other students due to (a) an abusive alcoholic father, (b) a bad case of low self-esteem, (c) an inordinate aversion to boring classes, and (d) a deep-seated preference for listening to rock music.
I know this sounds satiric, but I did have it tougher than others back then. Or so I believed.
Excerpt from Wilton high-school letter: “The unjust, bloody beating that I received from my father when I was 16, along with various psychological pressures impacting my teenage mind…various forms of emotional torture, sexual intimidation by hot girls who haven’t found me sufficiently attractive, and the traumatizing conduct of the Wilton Police Department in their brutal confiscations of cases of beer, [confiscations] that have deprived me and my friends of the pleasures of getting buzzed on weekends, not to mention the fear and convulsions caused by the disproportionate effect of primal sexual urges that plague me night and day…
“As Wilton juniors approach finals week, I’m requesting that you recognize and sympathize with the fact that the afore-mentioned pressures and conditions, all of which are out of my control, have placed me at an unfair academic disadvantage. I therefore request that Wilton High School allow me to take ‘no harm’ final exams in my various courses — ones that would be counted only if they boost my grade.”
Wilton administrators refused my request, and soon after my life took a turn for the worse. It took me years to recover and take a stab at movie journalism. It is my earnest hope that present-day college professors and department heads and deans can see past the brusque and dismissive attitudes of the past and urge that all attending Black students to be treated with appropriate scholastic leniency.
In a recent “What I’m Hearing” column about the Motion Picture Academy’s plan to somehow arrest and even turn around the ratings plunge that has been increasing over the last five or six years, Matthew Belloni wrote that the “increasingly niche tastes of Academy members” are a principal reason why most people haven’t seen the films up for awards.
What Belloni means by “increasingly niche tastes” is that since ’16 or thereabouts, the film industry has increasingly fallen under the grip of aggressive progressives, otherwise known as wokesters (POCs, #MeToo-ers, LGBTQs, obliging guilty liberals, kowtowing corporations). And they’ve been calling the shots more and more, and it was this increasingly dominant influence that made last spring’s Steven Soderbergh Oscar telecast seem like such a suffocating experience.
We all understand that the Soderbergh Oscars absolutely killed whatever was left of the old mystique. They made it clear that the Oscars had been transformed into a West Coast Tony awards thing — awards that reflected the mentality of an elite membership that had its own progressive game going on, and to hell with skillfully finessed movies for the politically neutral meatheads — i.e., films that reach out to people and reflect their lives as actually lived.
(Sidenote: it’s heartening to note that one such film is Reinaldo Marcus Green‘s King Richard, due from Warner Bros./HBO Max on 11.19.)
Five or six years ago the “increasingly niche tastes” crowd, understandably goaded by the election of Donald Trump, decided that the older-white-male dominance had to be strongly diminished and that the world needed to change. And so the industry, Marvel and D.C bullshit franchises aside, needed to increasingly forego the usual escapist or emotional engagement elements and/or baseline reflections of real life that movies have historically provided over the decades, which meant mostly ignoring the experience of average Americans who live outside the NY/LA bubble.
Streaming changed everything and the pandemic really up-ended the salad bar, but what’s been implemented more and more over the last five or six years is a variation of the social realism movement that took hold in the modern art world of the 1930s.
“Since wokeness began to manifest in ’17 and certainly since the pandemic struck, 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.
I personally feel as if a combination Amtrak and freight train that I’ve been riding on and living off most of my professional life (spiritually and economically) has jumped the tracks.
Even five years ago (summer of ‘16) we were all part of a hugely different landscape, or soul-scape even. Even with the overwhelming formulaic Marvel/D.C. scourge (which had begun around ’05) there were pockets of vibrancy…opportunities for surprises and odd possibilities….who knew?
Then the realm started to convulse and consume itself by way of four traumatic shake-ups that amounted to a perfect storm:
(a) the horror and chaos of Trump, and the sense that rural racist bumblefuck attitudes that Trump winked at and empowered (Charlottesville, George Floyd) + older white male sexist establishment attitudes (Weinstein, et. al.) had to be resisted head-on;
(b) regimented cinematic woke political currents (the traditional function of nervy smarthouse cinema up-ended by required SJW narratives & the transformation of Sundance and to a lesser extent Toronto into instructive progressive re-education camps);
(c) streaming overtaking exhibition (thus ensuring that the “go woke, go broke” effect wouldn’t interfere with said narrative); and…
(d) the concurrent pandemic effect of ‘20 and ‘21, which has all but killed exhibition (which had already been isolating itself by succumbing to the gladiator-arena syndrome, which was caused by a tidal shift in audience appetites due to adult-level dramas moving to cable and streaming).
The film world was far from idyllic before all this happened but the last four or five years have been shattering. The only upside I can see is that the pandemic ejected Trump from the White House, although the psychology of Trump Nation has obviously persisted if not metastasized.
World of Reel‘s Jordan Ruimy has posted a fairly persuasive projection of the 2021 Venice Film Festival, as well as a scoop about Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Soggy Bottom (UA Releasing, 11.21) probably aiming to debut at the ’21 New York Film Festival. A source has told him that NYFF director Eugene Hernandez is close to locking down the world premiere of PTA’s Los Angeles-set period film.
Just to be thorough I checked with Hernandez myself this morning…crickets.
Ruimy is calling Soggy Bottom, which has something to do with a San Fernando Valley high-school student becoming an actor in the early ’70s, “the most anticipated movie of the year, without a doubt.”
Maybe, but I don’t think PTA is cooking with the old high-test these days. To me the PTA show peaked somewhere between Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood and started to gradually lose the mojo with The Master (’12), Inherent Vice (’14) and Phantom Thread (’17).
I’m sorry but we all experience peaks and valleys. Sometimes we bounce back — it happens in rare cases.
Take me, for example. The column-writing is going great, but I sure as shit am not peaking these days in other respects. Not since the wokester shitheads put out a contact on me starting in ’18 and ’19, followed by a special boosted contract put out last March over that idiotic hoo-hah about a single paragraph’s worth of commentary that I didn’t even write.
The only other things that people know about Soggy Bottom is that (a) Bradley Cooper plays a Jon Peters-resembling hotshot (and possibly Peters himself), and that (b) Benny Safdie will portray real-life politician Joel Wachs.
Here’s Ruimy’s Venice Film Festival spitball rundown:[NOTE: IMPROVED LIST POSTING TONIGHT]
Dune, d: Denis Villenueve
Blonde, d: Andrew Dominik
Madres Paralelas, d: Pedro Almodovar
The Power of the Dog, d: Jane Campion
The Card Counter, d: Paul Schrader
The Hand of God, d: Paolo Sorrentino
Spencer, d: Pablo Larrain
Decision to Leave, d: Park Chan-wook
The Eternal Daughter, d: Joanna Hogg
Driftwood, d: Michel Franco
Il buco, d: Michelangelo Frammartino
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, d: Ana Lily Amirpour
Official Competition, d: Gaston Duprat, Mariano Cohn
Freaks Out, d: Gabrielle Mainetti
…putting 60% to 70% of Hollywood Elsewhere behind a Patreon paywall, that is, you’re greatly mistaken.
I would like nothing better than for Hollywood Elsewhere to just cruise along like it has for the last…God, it’ll be 17 years on 8.4.21. (And nearly 23 years if you count the October ’98 launch of my Mr. Showbiz column, which was lamentably titled HOLLYWOOD CONFIDENTIAL.) I really wish I could’ve kept going as a free site until 8.4.23 — 20 years, nice and tidy.
Alas, the monsters began arriving on Maple Street back in early ’18, and before I knew it “the terror” had begun to infiltrate everywhere.
HE began making modest amounts of dough almost immediately after launching in August ’04, and the income began to grow a bit more by ’07 or ’08. For about seven years (’10 to ’16, let’s say) HE award-season ads were pulling down decent six-figure revenues, and from this I was able to savor a modest lifestyle that included travel, buying the rumblehog, Italian lace-ups, Prague touch-ups and so on. Hardly a life of luxury, but, as Randy Newman might’ve put it, “it was all right.”
Then came the politically correct lizards and crocodiles and Komodo dragons, and before I knew it ad revenue had begun to shrink. Because “they” didn’t like me (or were afraid of seeming vaguely supportive) and so little by little revenue began to dwindle. Or as Lady Bird Johnson used to say, to “dwinnel.”
The ’20 and ’21 Oscar season (COVID) was the worst in HE history. There’s no sense kidding myself from where I sit right now. I have to either launch a paywall and do the best I can (or the best we can, I mean…myself and HE ad guy Sean Jacobs) with the ’21 and into ’22 Oscar season, or find some freelance writing gigs or, God forbid, send out resumes and find a (choke) “job.”
Over the last two or three years some truly wonderful Millennials and Zoomers in the publicity and marketing end of things (initially at film festivals and then within distributor offices) decided that I’d become a kind of pariah. Except I’m not. I’m the same columnist I’ve always been — the same mentality, the same passion, the same edge. What’s changed is that the culture has tipped into a kind of rigid woke mindset — say the right things and repeat the party dogma or you’ll be cancelled.
I am a humanist, a sane person, a father, a husband, a good writer, and a left-center moderate. And I haven’t written anything, said anything or done anything to warrant pariah status. I haven’t changed — the culture has. Things have gone CRAZY in some ways. All I’ve said and written has been the same old plain-spoken stuff. I have a voice, a way of writing, etc.
Do we ALL have to sound like Anne Thompson and Eric Kohn in order to survive these days? Isn’t there room for just one of us — i.e., myself — to have a blunter, franker opinion?
The shunning of certain ex-Commie screenwriters happened between the early to late ‘50s, but that era finally ended. “Scoundrel Time”, somebody called it. The woke totalitarian era will come to an end also. Sooner or later, all pages are turned, all chapters end and all things pass.
I. Have. Done. Nothing. To. Warrant. This. Kind. Of. Treatment. Even that recent thing that got me kicked out of Critics Choice…that wasn’t me! I wrote nothing. A friend did and I posted it for 45 minutes. And then I took it down. It was nothing. It was bullshit. And yet Jen Yamato and Chris Bumbray‘s fanged teeth were soaked in saliva.
Thank God for the sanity and friendship emanating from the good people I’ve been lucky to regard as friends for the last two or three decades, and press credential-wise from the Telluride and Cannes camps. From my persepective these are the last sane people on planet earth.
Wokesterism is a social-political plague — the new iteration of Maximilian Robespierre, the New McCarthyism, the New Victorians and surely a form of Bolshevik Totalitarian Orwellian insanity. Wokesters are suppressors and punishers — they’re against any concept of freedom that you or I or any semi-liberal person might recognize. I can’t wait for the zeitgeist to gradually swing in the other direction and for these reprehensible jackals to be on the run and/hiding in tall grass. And again, my core beliefs are liberal moderate and I come from a place of adventure and satori and clarity of the soul.
Wokesterism is fundamentally guided by love and compassion and humanitarian goals and a respect for all modes of ethnicity and sexuality and what-have-you, agreed. But in the name of righteous cleansing these people have become the totalitarian brain police that William S. Burroughs was so properly terrified of…they’re against freedom of speech…they’re about punitive measures and suppression and ruining good people’s lives…in a phrase they’re the new Khmer Rouge…FUCKING FANATICS.
Critic friend several weeks ago….
“The weird thing to me in all of this is the number of people — i.e., more than half of Jeff’s readers — who do not get it because they simply cannot see what is going on. They are such lockstep, go-along-with-the-crowd personalities that they think Jeff is talking about some fantasy in his head, rather than a genuine universe of real ideas that can no longer be expressed in the public square of mainstream media.
“Every time one of them says ‘Give it a rest, Jeff!’ I think: Here is someone who is truly, definingly clueless. The house is on fire, and they just think it’s a warm day.”
Nobody loves great, earth-shaking cinema more than myself.
According to MSNBC’s Joy Reid in one of her “Absolute Worst” essays, Republican-backed legislation that would ban critical race theory has been introduced in “nearly” a dozen states. Reid says that critical race theory is a “decades old” concept, but in fact it’s a relatively recent education-system additive that explains the history of systemic racism in this country (which no semi-educated, fair-minded person would argue with).
It follows, unfortunately, that CRT has also metastisized into a woke belief system that says white Americans are fundamentally stained and poisoned by their history, and so they need to detoxify themselves by picking up a copy of Robin D’Angelo‘s “White Fragility” and work at cleansing themselves of a shameful past. They also need to absorb and accept the theology of The 1619 Project, which states that racism is the fundamental definer of the American experience.
However enlightened or well-intentioned this kind of re-educational process might be, it is believed in many corners of this country (including the better-educated cities) that critical race theory advances a new form of racism (“bad whitey needs to atone and be strictly schooled”) in order to counter historic racism.
I think we all understand that Average Americans (including liberal parents in big blue cities) are not going to go for this, and that CRT will be flayed as a campaign issue in ’22, you bet. I hate that my own distaste for and discomfort with critical race theory puts me in the same camp as a lot of horrible Republicans, but what can I do? All I can say is, you don’t have to be a crazy Republican to have arguments with CRT.
From a 1.27.21 Bari Weiss column: “Critical race theory is a threat to the most basic foundations of American life, including, but not limited to, equality under the law. It asks us to define ourselves by our immutable characteristics” — i.e., skin color. “It pits us against one another in an endless power struggle. It rejects Enlightenment tools of reason and scientific discovery as tainted. And it undermines our common humanity.
“[It holds that] America was born for the purpose of upholding white supremacy and it remains irredeemably racist. It claims that our founders were not primarily political geniuses but slaveholders who wanted to find a way to hoard their property. And while [last year’s George Floyd] rioters may have gotten a little out of hand, they weren’t wrong to target statues of men like Lincoln.”
I greatly fear the ’22 verdict on this issue from American voters.