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The wokification of our heroes started with the changes made to the original Star Wars in 1997. Han shoots back at Greedo instead of shooting first and it sucks. Old stories get retold, and with each retelling, they are infused with the ideas of the time. But as essential as those new messages that writers and directors intentionally infuse the retold stories with, are those that are unintentional. Current retellings offer moralizations about how society should be, how people should think, and all the way in which we should do better. But the undercurrent is an anti-individualistic idea of a civil society that values group identity over the content of one’s character.
Back before all heroes had to be the same, our leading characters had qualities that made them stand out. This archetype of the individualist, loner, solo actor, black-coated unorthodox warrior has been besmirched by real-life villains who take on the ethos of fictional iconoclasts. But that doesn’t mean all our stories need to become something boring. For instance, vampires were the flavour of the day in the 90s and 2000s. Half-predator, half-hero—complicated, complex protagonists.
George Lucas reasoned that Han Solo was a good guy, and good guys would never shoot first. He cited the old westerns as precedent. The good guy isn’t one thing, and the fact of the matter is that Han Solo may be a great guy, but he’s not quite a good guy. Despite the new stupid retelling in the Han Solo solo movie, where he does it all for the love of a lady, Han Solo is a bad actor with a heart of gold for his friends, but not for a cause.
The thing is, Han Solo is cool. And we liked Han Solo the way he was. He was a smuggler, a crook, a scoundrel. He had a redemptive story arc. It was awesome. Lucas made Han Solo less cool, and that trend has continued to this day. The new heroes suck. They have no vivacity, they are rote, boiler-plate, cookie-cutter reflections of what we think we want. But we don’t want that!
They keep ruining our favourites and it has to stop. We feel like we should love boring heroes who exemplify our potential to be better, but we don’t love them. We love messy heroes who fuck up and realize it and try again and fail again and fail better. We love them because we can be that, and heroes are about showing us not the socially visualized unrealistic ideal person, but a story. Heroes are not the embodiment of anything other than their story, and a perfect hero has no hero story, because they are fully formed, like Megan Rapinoe, and they have nowhere to go but the dust bin of obsolescence.
The Simpsons, that juggernaut of satire and political incorrectness, has even contracted the woke virus. After the Women’s World Cup victory, the beloved characters of Springfield flew the flag of “equal pay.” This, despite the clear evidence that men generate an astronomical amount more in revenue and actually take home a smaller percentage of it. Instead of skewering culture, it’s buying into it and propagating its messaging.
The all-female Ghostbusters thing was pretty brutal, and the media practically insisted that we had to enjoy it or we were bad people. But we didn’t enjoy it, and we didn’t enjoy faking it, either.
Hating bad movies is not hate speech. Making movies with unlikeable leads isn’t correctable by guilting us into liking them. Even if the public is coerced into believing that they like bad films with unoffensive good guys, these will not be the stories that make us the better people we want to be.
The new incarnation of Star Wars sequels is chock-full of virtue signalling and feel-good progressive platitudes, so much so that it has made fans look back at Jar Jar Binks with warm nostalgia. We even sort of almost like him now.
Terminator: Dark Fate has picked up the mantle and is marketing their movie by claiming that its lead character will scare misogynists silly. Well, who cares? Being afraid of a woman who is literally lethal is not misogynist, it’s self-preservationist.
Twitter users were quick to point out how pathetic this corporate woke marketing. Virtue signalling by Hollywood studios may make them look good to their cadre of execs and reviewers, but it doesn’t make their entertainment projects good.
We don’t need our entertainment to preach at us how we should be, we have religion and myth for that. We need our entertainment to show us how we are, to let us know that we’re not alone, not to hold us to attainable standards of perfection.
It bears repeating: Han shot first, and that may not be a good thing, but it’s most definitely the heroic thing to do.