Creative minds use their work to express themselves while creating whatever art they please to make. Depending on what is happening in the world, it can be reflected by those creations, while facing some push back. Today, we see a strong force against substantial works of film, TV, and music for being political, whether it is the new Star Wars trilogy or HBO’s Watchmen, things that have always tackled politics getting fought back against people with various political leanings.
To get down to the nitty-gritty of boring details, let’s simply look at the definition of art. The word is defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” The main takeaways are “creative skill and imagination” that is followed by examples along with the ending about “beauty or emotional power.” Art is an expression for artists to delve into their emotions and thoughts and display the inner workings of their brain to the world.
If it is as easy as someone’s expression of their worldview or their personal experiences, then it makes for a confusing situation as people want that to stay out. Well, people dislike having to face opposing views, especially when they are trying to relax away from work or the chaos exploding on their Twitter feeds. That is reasonable, and they deserve to do so, but creative minds need to create their work.
Take HBO’s adaption from the comic series Watchmen. Taking place 34 years later, superheroes and the police are facing a group of white supremacist terrorists. Despite its praise, it has gotten some review bombers who are not happy about this political theme in the narrative.
It may not be the definitive answer to quality, but Rotten Tomatoes does have a shocking disparity in its reviews, with critics accounting for 94% and audiences adding to 43%. The score on IMDB lands on 6.8, and many viewers complaining about “woke culture” and its more liberal ideology. Plenty of negative comments do come from people not understanding this is further down the road from the comics and thinking it is a lousy adaption, but plenty of viewers do feel the politics are too strong.
Anyone can like or dislike whatever they want, but being educated is the best bet. People who claim to love the comics must be forgetting the political themes. While the twelve issues looked at radical right-wing ideas, it tried to stand as a realistic take on a world with superheroes with the purpose to entertain readers, even writer Alan Moore spoke about this:
“I also wanted to write about power politics,” Moore told Entertainment Weekly in 2005. “Ronald Reagan was president. But I worried readers might switch off if they thought I was attacking someone they admired. So we set Watchmen in a world where Nixon was in his fourth term because you’re not going to get much argument that Nixon was scum!”
He worried about people getting hung up on the politics by going into an alternative universe, but that does not always stop people from reading into something the way that they want, especially with all the time that has passed since the late ’80s, the decade in which the comic series was created.
The notion of letting people consume content in a way to gain thoughtful insight or empowerment for their own lives has been established across the board for decades. Not everything has to be like BlacKkKlansman or Vice, which puts the message as the face of the film. Sometimes films have that balance of having something to say but letting audiences decide whether or not they want to have a thought-provoking experience or let off steam from work.
People can voice their opinions in any way, but weaponizing those views has become a problem. Rotten Tomatoes had to alter their system as people review bombed Captain Marvel. Nothing is that political about the movie, unlike Black Panther, but people made it a target against Marvel’s first female lead, including the studios’ first leading black character.
A lot of this comes from prejudices and toxic fan communities. Sadly, these kinds of people can be found in any fandom, whether it is stemming from comic book followers, football fanatics, or people who are furries. Where humans are found, you tend to discover negative behaviors.
Comic books are one of the more confusing when people say they don’t want politics in their superhero movies because the origin of many comics come from something political. That is where Marvel saw the pushback against Chadwick Boseman and Brie Larson’s films in the MCU.
The comic run between 2006 and 2007 with Civil War was driven by politics. The movie, Captain America: Civil War, is one of the most beloved in the universe, but both the source material and film dodged outrage from its fans. CW is a commentary on the George W. Bush administration along with the Patriot Act, so it does blur the lines of what is acceptable and not for fans.
This certainly smells like more prejudice against women and people of color rather than having something political, at least in the world of superheroes.
Superman, an icon in the genre, especially for Americans like myself. The indestructible hero came from childhood friends Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Much of that inspiration came from their heritage as their parents were Jewish immigrants. Due to widespread anti-Semitic viewpoints, that lead to one of the most recognizable heroes in tights and a red cape.
“What led me into creating Superman in the early thirties?” Siegel said. “Hearing and reading of the oppression and slaughter of helpless, oppressed Jews in Nazi Germany… seeing movies depicting the horrors of privation suffered by the downtrodden.”
Going back to Marvel, you have Captain America, the best in the game when it comes to punching Nazis. He got his start in books by beating Hitler and his army of Nazis. Sure, it is political in a piece of entertainment that some people may not want. Still, they are Nazis, so it is not Marvel pushing an immoral agenda, it is because some racist nerds are angry that their views are getting rightfully demonized.
Also, remember Hydra is a Nazi group that America’s Ass must face against throughout his comic and big-screen appearances.
While the MCU is the biggest juggernaut conquering the planet before it was Star Wars. The prequels tarnished the reputation for its quality, and now people still are not letting up on the new films since Disney acquired the property.
The new films have plenty of issues that anyone can argue. The one thing that cannot be pointed is its anti-fascist message as it is not new.
The Sith have always been a regime taking control and wiping out whoever they want. It is similar to Nazi Germany except in space. Somehow the First Order, the new version that took power after the death of Darth Sidious, but this new regime has people hyper-focus on the political themes even though nothing in its message has changed since 1977.
Looking back, the prequels were full of this as Palpatine did not become Darth Sidious from the outside; he grew power within. Similar to Hitler, he used skills in communication and other means to gain what he wanted. Once he had the resources, he dived into the dark side and raised an army that wiped out the forces that stood in his way.
The new trilogy has more diversity, which has lead to a high amount of misogyny and racism. Kelly Marie Tran who got introduced in the iconic franchise in The Last Jedi with the role as Rose. For narrative purposes, she did not bring much, but that was a script issue, not her talent as an actress, along with prejudices towards her being Vietnamese. She got cyber bullied to the point of deleting her Instagram posts.
On a brighter note, she was met with love during the Star Wars Celebration event from this past spring.
The Internet is a toxic place to be. Anonymity and traditional bullying create a high amount of cyberbullying. We all know how bad YouTube comments can become, showcasing that anything that is disliked must meet a nuclear assault rather than a thumbs down and that person moving on with their life. These people feel a need to dedicate their hatred, no matter the cause of those emotions.
Of course, Hollywood tends to lean heavily in a more liberal environment. People of all walks of life have a range of political beliefs, outside of the traditional Democrat or Republican, which is expected. While many high points are made in the material I have mentioned from Marvel to Star Wars, the film industry, especially in Las Angeles have not done themselves justice, showing off hypocrisy and eliminating credibility.
Plenty of people have been burned out of the industry, and rightfully so. However, a lot of people have been forgiven out of nowhere. Mel Gibson received a standing ovation for Hackshaw Ridge, but the many is a misogynist and an anti-Semite.
He may be sober and indicates his words against the Jewish people to come from being drunk and angry, but that is hard to swallow from someone who directed Passion of the Christ. He chose anti-Jewish lines from Gospels and depicted the brutal murder of Jesus (Jim Caviezel) by the Jewish people, despite any historical evidence to support his choices in the film.
Anyone can redeem themselves, but Gibson should have done somethings to regain that respect instead of making a respectable war film. Thanks a lot, sincerely, this Jewish writer.
Outside of bigotry and bizarre decisions of who is forgiven, the pay gap for gender is astounding. Scarlett Johansson is the highest paid actress right now, yet she got paid $198.5 million less than George Clooney. In All the Money in the World, all that money went to Mark Walhberg with a payout of $5 million, and his costar, Michelle Williams, earned $625,000.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have that kind of money, but putting myself in their shoes, that is pretty insane to have that disparity between costars. Even then, lower jobs in the business need a pay bump.
Other jobs in Hollywood are worse off. Actors, directors, and other big positions audience think of usually get paid well, even if there is a gap. In some areas, that pay is not worth it to make a living in an expensive city like LA. Assistants came out in a #PayUpHollywood trend on Twitter to bring light to being overworked for not much in return for their bank accounts.
So, the liberal-leaning filmmakers don’t always do themselves justice, opening up for fair criticism. That’s why having credibility will enhance the film’s ability to project a message to the audience. Jordan Peele, a black director, and writer, showed this in Get Out as a critique of racism within the world of liberalism.
When tackling mental health, Ari Aster has confessed to his own struggles. That is why his two horror creations, last year’s Hereditary and this year’s Midsommar, are great examples of a director using his own experiences to establish a theme that he truly knows, same goes to Peele.
The world that Aster has cemented himself in along with Peele’s new adventure into the spooky side of entertainment, the political and social commentary aspects are not new. The ’70s saw a rise in slasher flicks like Halloween for a reason, the U.S. was on fire. The social turmoil and the Vietnam war were tearing the country apart, but thankfully to teenagers getting stabbed on-screen and rock music, people had a way to escape through thought-provoking avenues.
John S. Nelson from the University of Iowa, talks about how people process information from “audiovisual media,” specifically from horror.
“Studies of cognition show that Americans get much of their political information from audiovisual media,” he said, “Therefore, attention to popular films can help us learn how genre conventions communicate politics. The popular genre of horror uses subtexts to help people face political evils in their everyday lives.”
Across the ’30s as DC and Marvel were born, the rise of Star Wars in the late 70’s, or modern and vintage horror films, having political and social commentary in entertainment has been around for lifetimes. Even look at Shakespeare, that guy loved politics, and he was making his work hundreds of years ago. This wave of wanting to take away expression from people’s work comes from blinded, angry individuals who don’t see the failure in their views.
If you want no ideology in your downtime, then great, but don’t be that person who attacks something political since before you were born like it is something brand new. Be mindful of what people want to say in their art and go find things that resonate with you like a responsible viewer instead of raising hell on Rotten Tomatoes or someone you don’t know’s Twitter or Instagram.
Now just watch or read what you want and let others live their lives without ignorant and hateful comments.
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Header image via HBO