Monday, February 25, 2019
Let Them Eat Diversity: Why Progressive Posturing @ 2019's 'Woke Oscars' Won't Do Anything For The Rest Of America
Once in a while, even the progressively brain dead New York Times Op-Ed page can have something interestingly unorthodox to say. Diversity Uber Alles is the new Hollywood loyalty oath---reality as the party wishes it to be. Disrespect it at the cost of your career in the Entertainment Directorate, loyal comrade. We keep lists of dissidents like you.
"Images can falsify as well as depict reality; they can mislead as well as inspire," writes Dickinson College Philosophy Professor Crispin Sartwell in a Times op-ed headlined "The Oscars and the Illusion of Perfect Representation." He was writing to deflate the multicultural pretensions of the Hollywood nomenklutara at the '2019 Woke Oscars' Sunday night, which stood as a much-needed racial correction of the #OscarsTooWhite of 2017. In the process he reminds that crusading for diversity may not do a thing in the fight against inequality, or even, in fact, the fight against racism itself. In the end, representational diversity is the refuge of a self-stroking cultural elite that has very little to offer beyond multicultural correctness, the conflicting intersectionalities of identity politics and mindless dogma. All of these might be considered the enemies of true artistic freedom, reminiscent of the mirthlessness of Soviet socialist realism.
"It is probably in the best interest of the goal of actually achieving a fairer, less discriminatory future to keep this in mind: Whatever the Grammys or Oscars looks like in the long run will have little actual impact on social justice. Perhaps, over all, the emphasis on what sort of person is on television has been a distraction from much more urgent matters. Imagine an America that gets the awards shows exactly right but in which, for example, mass incarceration or the internment of asylum seekers just ticks right along, or in which income inequality grows or residential segregation remains unchanged. It’s easy if you try: That’s liable to be the reality of 2020. And 2030, and beyond.
"Racial and gender hierarchies are structural and material. They have to do with differential access to power and resources, along with the daily privilege that attends them. These could continue even in the face of a representationally perfect movie industry, I’m afraid, and I expect that we will prove that by experiment…..
"….Rarely does history teach clear lessons that can be straightforwardly applied to present circumstances. But history has actually shown that representations do not create reality. The Soviet Union imposed a single style in the visual arts and enforced it for decades. Known as “socialist realism,” it relentlessly depicted strong, dignified workers, their shining eyes gazing upon a transformed future. To a large extent, the Soviet Communist Party achieved and enforced a monopoly on all media to portray the world as the party wished it to be, or at least as it wished other people to think it was. That didn’t make the forced collectivization of agriculture, in which millions of these same workers were displaced, dispossessed, starved and executed, hurt any less.
"Stalin annexed thousands of filmmakers, novelists, painters, dancers, musicians and architects to his project of embodying a more just and equal world, and sent those who wouldn’t help to the gulag. That made, for example, his ethnic cleansing of Chechnya hard for people elsewhere to know about, much less criticize. But it definitely did not make it not happen. Many other sorts of regimes, from theocracies to military juntas, have tried similar approaches. The contribution of all that activity to producing the envisioned world has been considerably less than zero. It makes the brutal reality a bit harder to see, without ameliorating it in the slightest.
"Now, Stalin is not an awards show. But as everyone knows, images can falsify as well as depict reality; they can mislead as well as inspire. On the other hand, to say that “Black Panther” is a falsification of reality is to say something that is obvious and ridiculous: It is a superhero fantasy rendered by C.G.I., after all. It can’t magically transform any of us, much less all of us, though it could provide a diverting entertainment and raise some interesting questions, maybe primarily about the history of movies.
"To a very large extent, American media have portrayed a kind of racial paradise since the 1960s. Only a few extreme racists continue to use the direct slurs, and no one does so on television. “Sesame Street” and more or less every other children’s program have taught uplifting racial lessons for decades. White people came to believe by this means that we were not racists, because we did not produce or approve the prohibited representations. Many of us seemed to think that American racism hadn’t survived “The Cosby Show” (where we now know that appearances did in no way reflect reality). Meanwhile, it ticked right on at a structural level, but it became harder to identify and attribute.
"When only approved images can appear, we have what amounts to a sort of censorship, not imposed by the government, but by all of us on one another through social pressure. The goal is a politically uniform flow of images. In order to achieve that uniformity, people are being vilified, pictures and Tweets deleted, novels withdrawn, films reshot with different actors, projects abandoned, works removed from museums, hosts disqualified and so on. Such procedures are not liable to help very much in achieving their intended goals.
"It’s a lot easier to fix the pictures than fix the world, though fixing the pictures, as Spike Lee can attest, turns out to be very complicated, too. Ultimately, it would be a relief if we stopped looking to awards shows to fix our social ills: If those things aren’t fun, there’s really no point.