2017: The Year Cultural Populism Challenges Big Hollywood

What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after. If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them. Do not get lost in their shadow, or stuck in a past not of your own making: Establish your own name and identity by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way.

Law 41: Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes.

Of all the laws of power, it is arguably this one that Hollywood and the big entertainment industry has violated the most in recent years.

Let’s begin with a confession of sorts. I have a soft spot in my heart for old Disney movies. My mom used to play them for me all the time when I was little. My grandfather also used to read me Disney picture books whenever I saw him. I partly learned how to read from these visits.

I’m particularly soft for Beauty and the Beast. One year for Christmas in the early 90’s, my mom bought my brother and I plastic armor and swords, and every time the showdown between Gaston and the Beast loomed, we would put the armor on and my brother would shout “KILL GASTON!”

So when this movie was shown on Christmas Day this week, I admit I felt all warm and fuzzy inside, which is good for Christmas. But what was peculiar was that the movie was running partially to promote a live-action remake due to be released in early 2017, starring the social justice warrior Emma Watson.

I don’t know how good the remake will be. It may be good. But I do guarantee this – I’m 99% certain it will come nowhere near the original.

How could it? Beauty and the Beast was one of a series of classics for an entire generation of children. Of course their memories are going to be dominated by the first in comparison to the second. The void is too big to fill. As Robert Greene said, the remake would have to be twice as good as the original to outshine it, and that is astronomically unlikely.

The live action Beauty and the Beast will likely make money because of name recognition. It might even be good, but it won’t be worthy of being remembered for all time. It won’t be worthy of kleos.

This is the big trap that Hollywood and the entertainment industry has been caught in for the past decade or more. It takes known franchises, does a sequel, prequel, midquel, or remake of them, and then puts it out for a quick payday. A very large portion of some of the highest-grossing titles of the past decade or more are movies that bank on name recognition, milking established franchises for more money. They’re additions to a pre-existing franchise out of the blue solely to bank on the name recognition. Comic movies are probably the most notorious films that fit this description, but Star Wars is perhaps the best illustration.

The original trilogy was a series of classics that will last for all time. Though I was never the biggest Star Wars fan, the original trilogy was groundbreaking, pushing the boundary of what the medium of film could deliver to the viewer and telling a great story. It completely redefined the sci-fi genre not just in film, but in all media. It took the story of the classic hero’s journey and retold it in a modern, futuristic, groundbreaking, and even optimistic way.

Fast forward about fifteen years and you get the prequel trilogy. Unlike the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy was largely running on inertia supported by special effects, but at least it was part of the original Star Wars story as conceived by George Lucas. Audiences hadn’t seen Anakin’s descent into Darth Vader yet, so there was a reason to go (as disappointing as the films, especially the first two, turned out to be). It completed the story arc.

The sequel trilogy and its associated add-ons (like Rogue One), on the other hand, is an ad-hoc creation designed solely to be an easy cash cow. I knew this when they first announced the series. Though I’m not a big Star Wars fan, some friends are more into it, and their opinion on The Force Awakens was more or less unanimous – it was OK, but the story was derivative, as it mirrored A New Hope too much, all along with a Mary Sue in Rey because, you know, grrrlllll power.

End result: The Force Awakens was one of the highest grossing films of all time, but it will always remain in the void left by the original trilogy. It will never measure up to the original trilogy’s impact or love among the masses. It will not be celebrated for thousands of years.

And the “grrrllll power” aspect? It dovetails with the next big weakness I see in Hollywood and the big entertainment industry – the forced diversity.

Remember when Aladdin came out in 1992? It was actually a pretty big deal at the time by Disney standards, as it was likely among the first blockbusters that focused on “people of color.” It created some controversy at the time, but it added “diversity” to the studio and was a massive success. Who doesn’t remember this classic?

When we watched this as kids, we weren’t thinking about “diversity.” We probably aren’t even now. We think of fond childhood memories, something we love dearly. The “diversity” sale was already made and entirely unimportant in comparison. A movie based around Arab characters and lore from Arabic culture moved our hearts and was worthy of kleos.

But what Hollywood and big entertainment is doing now is what Scott Adams calls “selling past the close.” It’s forcing the fig-leaf of diversity onto the audience to cover up for its own lack of originality. “Oscars so white,” the mandate of “diversity” to be eligible to receive a BAFTA award, the list goes on. After last year’s “debacle” you can bet that the bean counters will make sure that the Academy Awards are “diverse” enough from now on (which will never please the Year Zero social justice warriors anyway), sacrificing quality for “diversity.” If it doesn’t happen this year, it will happen.

By making such a fuss about it, Hollywood and big entertainment is selling past the close. With massive classics like Aladdin, we implicitly accepted “cultural diversity” with no controversy, because we all loved the movie. But quality is secondary in big Hollywood and entertainment of the Current Year.

The entertainment status quo is one of remakes and sequels that pose no realistic chance of equaling the originals, all with “social justice” preening sprinkled on top of it. This is not limited to Hollywood studios, by the way. To my horror, I learned that there is a remake in the works of Xena: Warrior Princess (another childhood love that’s still a great show), only this time, Xena and Gabrielle would be explicitly gay! Yay!

But one of the brilliant aspects of Xena: Warrior Princess, was that the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle grew over time based on their challenges, and though it was possibly romantic, as the later seasons hinted at more than the earlier ones, you still never truly knew for sure. It was sold in a way that avoided any controversy while allowing you to think past the sale – a relationship between the two was feasibly possible, but was incidental to the story – part of it, not its main focus. The ambiguity was a strength, allowing viewers to think for themselves and see what they wanted to see.

But if the remake turns out how its been billed, that magical ambiguity is gone. It’ll just be another remake that won’t catch the quality of the original, all with “social justice” preening sprinkled on top. I can imagine making Hercules (who changed Xena’s life and was responsible for her even meeting Gabrielle in the first place) and Ares (another hugely important figure) hapless and disposable males in furtherance of the LGBT grrrrllll power.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Hollywood revenues are down big. Some of the biggest movies, most notably the “social justice” remake of Ghostbusters, were massive flops.

Was it “sexism,” or was it people getting fed up with the uncreative recycling of established franchises for a quick cash grab, all the while the same uncreative people lecture audiences about the evils of “something-ism” and “lack of diversity?”

It’s no coincidence that one of Ghostbusters‘ sales pitches basically amounted to “see this remake or you’re misogynist.” Hollywood and the big entertainment industry have essentially tried to make some of their biggest movies mandatory to see.

This was seen in the leadup to the release of Rogue One, where prominent Star Wars writers flipped their shit over Trump’s victory, babbling absurdities like “the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.”

….OK.

And Star Wars began associating itself with safety pins too.

Star Wars safety pin lame Hollywood is dying

How lame can you get? You know what I picture when I see that? A diaper being held up by safety pins. Not exactly the kind of edgy or cool image you want to use to promote your movie.

When Trump fans began to talk about boycotting Rogue One (often jokingly), the fake news media (owned by the same players as the big entertainment industry) went into meltdown mode, as if a sacrament had been violated. More stories in the fake news media centered on the “boycott” than things like politics for a while.

And it’s not just the movies that are in trouble.

That staple of snarky crybaby Millennials, the late night “comedy” show, showed big strains in 2016 as well. The race peddling “comedian” Larry Wilmore, who got the prestigious gig of hosting the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, had his Nightly Show cancelled because of ratings which tanked fast in half a year. The Daily Show, hosted by virtue signaler Trevor Noah, is having big problems also. Even programs like Stephen Colbert’s Late Show are having bumpy rides.

And that’s still just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s being denied by fewer and fewer – Hollywood and the big entertainment industry is in an identity crisis. A vacuum exists.

All of these hit pieces, the “diversity” shaming campaigns, the treatment of old established franchises like Star Wars as a sacrament rather than allowing them to stand or fall on their own quality – all of it is a sign of manifest weakness to me. Behind a facade that appears less impressive by the day, there is almost entirely nothing.

Big Hollywood, big entertainment, the industry as a whole, is ripe for a takeover.

If 2016 was the year of populist politics, where a massive revolt among the electorate took place against an elite that was viewed as condescending and out of touch, 2017 shows all the signs of being one of populist culture. The 2017 wave of populism may well be against a condescending and out of touch celebrity and media mogul class preening against the benighted while seated safely inside their gated communities.

The decentralization of media and fundraising that was the topic of Stumped’s 7th chapter can just as easily be applied to cultural expressions as it can to politics. The power of the new media to bypass the old and promote new works, combined with the power of social media celebrity and standalone complexes to drive crowdfunding now makes it possible to challenge the traditional gatekeepers of entertainment just as they repulsed the traditional gatekeepers of politics in 2016.

The public, tired of being lectured by celebrities and moguls that live nowhere near the “diversity” they virtue signal about, and who only seem good at producing remakes that come nowhere near close to the original stories that it loved, is yearning for something new – stories and entertainment that are meaningful and high quality without an obnoxious, in-your-face agenda. Subtlety is a mark of a true artist.

Consider what happened in the last days of 2016 to Milo Yiannopoulos. After he announced his new book, Dangerous, a pressure campaign came on his publisher, the mainstream Simon and Schuster. The Chicago Review of Books announced it wouldn’t be reviewing any of the 2017 Simon and Schuster books out of protest of its acceptance of “hate.”

But then something remarkable happened.

Simon and Schuster stood by Milo and his book rocketed to the top of Amazon in all books, above even that of immortal Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher just days after her passing. Hapless criticism from celebrities were brushed aside.

You just witnessed a “big 6” publisher standing by a “heretic” to the “social justice cult” and laughing all the way to the bank despite it all.

This is massive.

“Social justice” warriors lost big league in 2016, and the world’s been put on notice. At the end of the day, people do things to make money. Corporate America is taking notice.

Milo Dangerous Social Justice Warriors Simon and Schuster

There are more normal people than SJW’s, and corporate America will be forced to respond. Big entertainment, Hollywood, and even the universities now face this reality.

In 2017, we’ll begin to see the populist elements that put Donald Trump in the White House turn to the culture. The new media and elements in the populist right are well-prepared to make this undertaking. The hapless fake news media will be in meltdown mode over Trump daily and be powerless to stand in. Hollywood and other places may hold out for a while, but no one said this was going to be an entirely friendly takeover. Besides, when elements of the emerging populist culture make money, the big entertainment industry will have no choice but to take notice.

Video game developers have been using the the new means of communication to put out projects for a while, but increasingly, we’ll see populist cultural elements in other media become more prominent by using them, diffusing into the broader consciousness and eventually catching the attention of the big entertainment industry. Books will likely be the first trend, because they’re the lowest cost margin medium and thus the best way for new people to come up. And so we will see the seeds of the new movies and so on in those books.

Beyond books, new streaming shows will come to take the place of a large television or film distribution network, now rendered unnecessary. If the story catches the interest of the public, that public can fund it directly. No more being beholden to social justice warriors on top to get a project green-lit, just as Donald Trump wasn’t beholden to donors and so was able to bring a realignment of right wing politics to the American public.

Speaking of Donald Trump, don’t underestimate his own impact. As the earthshaker, he will make cultural waves as well as political ones. Remember when Jimmy Carter was President? I don’t, because it was before my time, but when he was in office, dystopian, dark, chaotic pictures were the meme of the day. Escape From New York (technically started production during Carter’s tenure) and The Warriors were emblematic of the 70’s malaise that the Carter administration was so symbolic of. When Ronald Reagan became President, things changed. People were feeling hopeful and thinking big again, a trend that was no doubt influenced by him in some way. This was expressed with works like Back to the Future and even the iconic action movies of the time like The Terminator – people were feeling hopeful and pumped. America was back. The optimistic Disney movies of the 90’s like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin were arguably an extension of this trend. The Soviet Union had collapsed and the economy was set to soar. People were feeling jovial indeed.

The “diversity” craze that came to the big entertainment industry in such an overt way during Barack Obama’s tenure was no coincidence, but other than that, the cultural works we see being pushed by Hollywood and the big entertainment industry seem remarkably detached otherwise. One other problem with all the remakes and sequels is that, aside from coming nowhere close to the original works they derived from, they also don’t really tap into the spirit of the times. Can the third iteration of Iron Man really reflect what people are feeling deep down? Somehow, I doubt it. Arguably the last real iconic films to do this were the Lord of the Rings movies, which came out after 9/11 and reflected how people felt – that we were facing a great evil.

The Donald Trump era is likely to be (at first) one of polarities – hope and chaos because of the emotions he stirs. Cognitive dissonance will be high. He has the potential to unify the country, but will have to deal with that cognitive dissonance even if he does a great job (leftists simply won’t admit it if he does because it would conflict with their self-image). The Democrats and the left are likely to get steamrolled in politics at least for the first two years. This will create great confusion and lashing out, and because of the influence of the elite cultural elements that will now be under assault by the next populist wave in 2017, a great vacuum of controversy will call for appropriate cultural expression.

I’ll be part of filling that vacuum with The Red War, to be released in four parts starting in 2017. It’s a tale of triumph and tragedy, of the ruin of war combined with a great hope for the future, the violent end of one world and the birth of another, and the event that forces a civilization to come to maturity. The Red War calls for everyone within it to be great, and to come together in that greatness. It would be the only way to confront such a monumental struggle. Be great or be destroyed by forces more powerful than you can imagine.

War on Mars

This will be my contribution. Bookmark the Masculine Epic and sign up for the email list to keep updated. I don’t want to aim for a cheap mediocrity like Hollywood studios and so many other authors do. I want to create something worthy of kleos or nothing at all.

The Red War reflects that struggle, and the struggle we have ahead, which will be hard, but full of great promise. A Whole New World has truly begun to be born, and now the next wave of populism will crest into our cultural institutions, to wash away the tired, meaningless, and preening cultural elites out to sea – one burst at a time.

If we’re worthy of it.

See you in 2017.

  • This coming year will definitely be interesting. I’m looking forward to some of the cultural realignments.

    The comment about the Chicago Review of Books got me thinking. Does anybody pay attention to them? I know I don’t. I’m not sure I’ve heard of them. I’m sure some of the old stalwarts in the industry take them seriously, but like the NYT, I don’t expect them to recommend anything that would be of interest to me. I wonder if institutions like that will ever figure the world out, or if they’ll just die off with no idea how or why it happened.

    Anyway, happy new year, Libertas. Looking forward to greater things in the next year.

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    • Yeah, in the past it might have been a big deal (and may be if you’re smaller), but Milo is too big to ignore, entirely because of the decentralized communication network. The cultural gatekeepers are down. Time to take advantage with our talent and our networks.

      Happy new year to you too, brother.

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