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A miracle is happening. 2020 might go down as the year that woke culture died. Numerous celebrities emerged in the final inning of 2019 to fly the flag of common sense. Ricky Gervais, Dave Chappelle, Louis CK, Sarah Silverman, and JK Rowling found support among the masses, and now we can add the great novelist Stephen King to that list.
Explaining his Oscar-nomination votes, King tweeted: “As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just 3 categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay. For me, the diversity issue—as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway—did not come up. That said, I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”
A powerful figure like Stephen King expressing this universal truth about art and artists is a game-changer. King’s statement is in direct contrast to comedian Issa Rae, who quipped “congratulations to those men,” after announcing the all-male noms in the best director category.
Art matters more than the artists: it places beauty over identity. We ended up in this mess because identity politics has been grafted over everything we do. We began to regress as a culture when we rejected the notion of separating the art from the artist. We lost our way when we placed platitudes above originality and competence. We came to believe that it doesn’t matter if a song, painting, or film is great, but whether the work of art was produced by a non-binary, latinx, disabled activist.
The idea was that diversity itself was its own reward, overshadowing objective considerations like merit, technical skill, or quality. In order to elevate diversity over other considerations, objectivity was relabeled as prejudiced in and of itself. Through the perpetuation of the concept of unconscious bias, there was no way a person could make an objective judgement about a piece of art without first questioning whether their view was inherently racist, ableist, homophobic, misogynistic, or bias.
This left us afraid of our own judgements, not only to express them, but to make them at all. Replies to King’s comment called his view “white supremacist,” because that’s where we have landed: a white man’s objective view is considered racist if he chooses the work of white men over women’s work, or the work of other races and ethnicities. The assumption is that, whether intentionally or not, he’s racist.
We started rewarding artists for what they are instead of what they do, and artists responded by creating boring work about identity instead of work truly from their heart. That’s how we ended up with so much truly mediocre content and artists who place more value in their identity and diversity virtue than truth, beauty, and honesty. There is no magic answer that will a) eliminate all prejudice and b) ensure that the objective best always comes out on top. We have to be open-minded when making judgements, consider multiple perspectives, and make a decision given all the factors.
A tragic irony of identity politics is how it has led to instant dehumanization and erasure of those who are perceived to be the wrong kind of people. Yesterday, actor Vince Vaughn suffered a potentially major blow to his career simply because he was spotted talking to the American president. That’s all. We have no idea what he said. Just a Twitter clip of a smile, some banter and a handshake, and his career is in jeopardy. Maybe the wokesters would have preferred if Vaughn was rude, or punched him or something.
Perhaps King has taken note of how the woke world treats people like shit while claiming to be empathetic and forward-thinking, or has noticed that great art and decent people have been consistently smeared as “hateful” or “white supremacist” in the name of progress.
The recent fake controversy over the movie Joker exemplifies this. For months, media fretted over the film’s perceived message of “white supremacy,” worried that movie theatres across the nation would be shot up by crazed incels. It didn’t happen, and Joker leads all movies with Oscar eleven nominations– unless all Oscar voters are white supremacists.
Ricky Gervais was threatened with being banned from hosting The Golden Globes, after being deemed hateful and transphobic for Twitter comments. The Globes didn’t cave, valuing ratings over woke points, and the result was perhaps the most hilarious hosting gig of all time. This is what happens when you don’t capitulate. You win. Everyone wins.
Stephen King’s vital endorsement of art for art’s sake will make waves and change minds. Like Gervais and JK Rowling, he’s too big to fail. We should be grateful that he spoke up, and let it give others courage to speak their mind, too. Woke culture has a stranglehold on our media, culture, and corporations, but as the revenues plummet, the boring work goes unrewarded, and the public begins to wake from wokeness, things are beginning to change. Woke culture is losing. Let’s finish it off.