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Why Some Movies Need ‘Cancelling’ and Others Given a Second Chance

When the public fails to approve a film or a celebrity, a backlash can occur, leading to a person or movie lacking credibility in the public eye, leading to the person or film being canceled. Cancel culture is a term used to refer to a modern form of ostracism where an individual, a movie, film, or a book, is thrust out of professional or social circles, which can be online, on social media, or even in person. The challenge with this trend in the entertainment industry is the lack of an actual procedure or method to institute the cancellation.

The cancellation happens out of emotions, and it is easy for it to be based on mere propaganda. As such, there have been numerous cases of cancel culture processes being selective. However, this problem is understandably so because it is the public that comes up with the cancellation, and one cannot dictate how the public thinks. Two movies have been victims of the cancellation culture in different ways.

The movies that I am talking about today are Cuties by Maïmouna Doucouré and Music by the singer-songwriter Sia. Cuties is one example of a movie that has suffered negative impacts of the public’s uncontrolled and selective cancel culture. The movie was supposed to be known for its activism against children’s sexualization. However, this is no longer the case since the movie is no longer on Netflix following a heated backlash and review bombs that followed it way before the movie had been fully released. Therefore, it is essential to construct all the events that came before the review bombing to ascertain whether the movie’s cancellation was justified in the first place.

The movie Cuties was produced and released in France as a coming-of-age drama film. The movie received many accolades from various quotas in France and became an all-time award-winning movie. Some of the organizations and events that gave awards to the cast and the whole directorship of the movie included the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Cesar Award for Most Promising Actress, and BAC films where the movie was released in France. However, Netflix exclusively purchased its rights in the year 2020.

The rights purchase was a formal process usually done by Netflix when buying any movie or documentary. The main challenge started when Netflix released a poster and a trailer of the movie to be fully released at a later date. The poster depicted several young girls dressed only in panties and bras, which did not sit well with most Netflix subscribers.

The subscribers could not sit and wait to see the movie first since the backlash, and the review bombing started immediately. The response by Netflix on the whole issue did not help the matter, and neither did a comment by the director. The majority of the people who watched the movie when it was fully released declared that the controversy behind it was the very reason why they watched it. Many of the people who watched the movie claimed that they did not see anything offensive after watching it.

Meanwhile, the management of Netflix had become victims of criticisms, including political pressures from various individuals, including Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Despite the backlash and review bombing that seemed to have taken the day, several pointers in the whole drama that show the cancel culture applied in this movie by the public were not justified. First, the movie was produced and directed in France, a European country that shares different values from most Americans.

It is essential, therefore, at this stage, to ask whether the problem was the movie or the cultural differences that exist between Europe and the United States, which seems to be more conservative. Second, in one of the responses by Doucouré, the movie director noted that the conservative Americans who had not watched the movie in the first place were behind the review bombing.

This comment speaks a lot about the cultural differences behind the movie cancellation, especially concerning the cultures. The response by Doucouré raises another aspect worth considering. When review bombing and backlash came up, the Netflix viewers had not views the movie. The uproar came up as a response to a poster and trailer that Netflix posted. Therefore, it is essential to consider whether the problem was the movie itself or the trailer and poster that Netflix used to market the movie.

Netflix might have accepted that the poster was not appropriate, especially when Doucouré admitted to having received a call from the co-CEO of Netflix apologizing for the poster that they used without consulting her. However, Netflix also came up with a second poster that did not over-expose the girls. Therefore, it cannot be fair to cancel a movie based on a mistake made by Netflix when the original content of the movie had pure intentions.

On the other hand, it is good to review the intentions that the movie had and see whether the people participating in the review bombing knew it. The movie features an 11-year-old girl known as Amy, who is an immigrant girl from Senegal. She does not like the Muslim culture she is being exposed to by her aunt. Peer pressure from her age mates makes her get into aspects like twerking that she learns from her neighbor Angelica. The same peer pressure would later move her to post a photo of her vulva online to get social approval. This becomes detrimental even to her acting life, where Yasmine replaces her. The story does not end well for Amy, who goes to the extent of pushing Yasmine to a ditch and failing to act in a play to the end.

The movie intends to show how the hyper-sexualization of young girls is always detrimental in the long run. The movie should discourage young girls from the peer pressures they may get from social media to be hyper-sexual. However, it uses an example of hypersexualized girls to draw the lesson.

The primary challenge that brought about the review bombing is that viewers did not take time to watch the movie and understand the main intention and message that the movie sought to draw. In this case, the problem is the poster that Netflix used and not the movie. Doucouré claimed in several instances that the people criticizing the movie did not realize that she was on the same side of the argument as them. Authorities gave the same claim in France in their defense of the movie. France claimed that the criticisms were against the free space of creating discussions and conversations in the film industry.

Cuties, therefore, became a victim of negative backlash and review bombing, which are precursors to the creation of cancel culture. It is good to compare the movie with prior movies that might either have been canceled or were not canceled despite having negative characteristics warranting their cancellation.

Take an example of another Netflix movie, 365 Days, that also received review bombings due to the cultural erosion that it seemed to be portraying. However, the movie Music by Sia is an example of a movie that has all the reasons why it should be canceled, yet it was not canceled. The movie has been widely criticized for its use of a character known as Music, who acts as a non-verbal autistic half-sister of Zu’s protagonist.

The primary concern from the negative reviews about the movie has been much to do with why Music should play an autistic character, yet many other people are suffering from autism who could also play the role very well. The critics also came from people with autism who claimed they could play the role in an even better manner than what the able-bodied character did.

The problem was further worsened by the movie director and management, who took the matter lightly through their responses. Music is a perfect depiction of a movie that completely goes beyond the set societal norms where disabled people ought to be given the respect they deserve. The portrayal given by Music while acting as one with autism is a complete disrespect to people with autism. The character comes out as a mockery to people with autism. Comparing this with the well-intentioned movie, Cuties leaves one with questions on whether cancel culture is applied fairly in all situations.

It is easy to come across situations where a well-intentioned movie gets canceled while a movie that should be canceled remains on the screen despite the backlash. This selectiveness leaves several lingering questions that may need to be answered. One such question is whether cancellation should be based on the reviews given and the hashtags that trend either in favor of the movie or against it. This should be weighed against the need of having proper review commissions that can look into a movie before giving a verdict about it and advising viewers on the way forward.

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cancelculture celebrity influencers

Influencer Culture Takes Over L.A.

There are many hubs around the United States that contribute to both American and worldwide cultures. However, the influence of Los Angeles may just beat out these other cities being the capital of the entertainment industry and a creative center for many different industries as well. Culturally, it is home to a melting pot of communities that all share the vast landscape in California.

Over the past decade, a new digital age has emerged causing a shift in the way we consume media and entertainment. Social media being at the forefront of our daily lives, it has opened doors of opportunity for a new kind of celebrity. The old stars of Hollywood, in their age, were put on an untouchable pedestal for the rest of the people to admire, but the appeal was never that of being relatable or like us in any way. Their elaborate, glamorous lives were special and different than anyone else’s. Thanks to the digital age, celebrity is now accessible to all in the form of being an influencer, granting access to the lifestyle of the people others look up to and aspire to reach. Due to this new accessibility, it has caused an influx of changes and problems as well as opportunity. The rise of social media and the digital age has caused an overtaking of influencer culture in Los Angeles, with the over-saturation of influencers leading to the unfortunate replacement of culture with clout and contributions to gentrification.

In order to understand the complications, first one must explore what an influencer even is. It is likely a term heard and known by many, but the truth of the matter is that there are many forms of influencing and different ways of doing so. The majority of these people can be placed “into the following categories: celebrities, industry experts and thought leaders, bloggers or content creators and micro-influencers” (Zdenka and Holiencinova 92). It really boils down to anyone that has any sort of power or guidance on a significant number of people. This is why the celebrity is so accessible because of the range in which you are able to be an influencer and how “an unprecedented number of fame-seekers use social media as the gateway to self-promotion even if in reality, only a few get the kind of recognition that can be converted to money” (Gomez 10). In the last decade, especially when Instagram was released, that sparked the new influencer economy present today that gave communities and people a platform to share their work and communicate instantly. Platforms such as: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and now TikTok have all been successful in getting users and contributing to the growing influencer scene. With each new app that arises, is born a new set of influencers. At the rate of growth that social media and the digital world has grown, these numbers are not set to slow down anytime soon.

Anyone can aspire to be an influencer because of the nature of the platforms in which you can be successful. In contrast to a more corporate or professional career that stems from formalities and growing experience, influencers are born out of many things, from their relatability and people’s attraction to things they are interested in to viral fame. That is why no influencer has to be a celebrity. They are just people who add value to their social networks and reach a large number of people from their following from their knowledge or expertise in a specific field (Zdenka and Holiencinova 93). Users who are already using these platforms for fun, entertainment, or to stay in touch with friends and family, are already producing content. With that in mind, the attraction to being an influencer for many comes from making money off of something that is already happening. That lifestyle of an influencer then becomes the main goal and motivator for people trying to gain their following in order to live off of their earnings and simply produce content by living how they want.

In order to produce watchable, viral content, the environment and events are everything. Needing an aesthetic backdrop to put behind their lush lifestyle that people will want to follow results in a huge flocking of these influencers to Los Angeles. Being at the creative and cultural hub, the city becomes a place for these influencers to grow their brand and status and try to expand on their connections and opportunity for more success. People come to L.A. not to “break from the hustle of everyday life by relaxing and taking in the sparkle of Tinseltown,” but to earn more likes because those are influencer currency. Likes turn into followers, more followers turns into more fame (Fry). This move makes sense given that Hollywood has always been the home of many celebrities and home to opportunities as well. This is a place to meet like minded people and others in the creative field with similar aspirations.

Collaboration then becomes a major part of the influencer journey especially for young people interested in the party scene and getting together with people their age to create content and have parties. This influx of young aspiring influencers created collaboration houses.These young influencers are banding together to live in luxury, forming groups to live in a mansion together. This is both a financial and creative strategy as they are able to create content and have a luxurious backdrop to do it and also to collaborate and make exclusive events and parties. Some well known houses include The Hype House and The Sway House. Both are fairly new to the game as they are TikTok influencers. Starting in 2019, these mansions are being occupied by the top influencer celebrities and have a following on social media for the content released from the house in the billions.

The impact of this on the other Los Angeles residents, especially in these more upscale locations, are the shenanigans and volume of these houses. It is reported that “neighbors complained to the Times about hearing loud music late at night, trash left out front, the sounds of someone vomiting and the early-morning firing of paintball guns” (Leggate). Having consistent partying going on and loud events creates a less than hospitable environment for other wealthy residents in the area. The disruption and inconsideration of the neighbors comes from the influencer culture that lives on clout chasing and attention grabbing content. In order to hold viewers attention, things often have to be both in your face and loud. Group content especially needs some sort of exciting factor to keep viewers engaged.

This influx of influencers not only affects the residential life of Los Angeles, but the actual landscape as well. As many other subcultures are already outraged by the gentrification taking place in their neighborhoods, driving up the cost of living and erasing history within their culture, influencers are adding onto it. One instance demonstrating this is when “a (kind of) new mural on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles sparked outrage on social media, with people calling it “social media gentrification” and “perfecto capitalism”. (Adrian) The mural was only accessible to people with a certain following criteria and was a promotion for a new influencer oriented company. This is attributed to the exclusivity of influencer culture, like that of celebrity, but more harmful in the way that more and more people are making the effort to become an influencer because of its accessibility in comparison to A-list celebrities in Hollywood.

The connection between gentrification and influencer culture especially draws from the roots of capitalism. Once an influencer grows their following, much of their profits comes from brand deals and influencer marketing. A brand will reach out to an influencer they feel matches their target demographic, and therefore their followers would also be the company’s target as well. Influencer marketing is one of the leading forms of marketing because of its success for brands. Influencers hold so much power due to the relationship between them and their followers. There is a sense of trust between them because someone will only follow another person if they like them and what they are producing. The longer an influencer is online and puts out content, the stronger of a relationship is grown. People feel that they know the influencer, as if they are their friend. That is the power of the relatability aspect and everyday folk feeling that many influencers have. People today are more cautious of brands and other advertising directly from the brand itself because of the idea that they are only in it for the profit. The illusion of the influencer is that they are essentially doing the exact same thing, but instead of someone hearing it from a stranger, it feels as if it is a recommendation from a friend. The dangers of this especially those who are younger influencers, is that once they find success, they will do anything to propel that and upkeep an influencer status. That’s when clout chasing and authenticity come into question because of the fake-ness of social media.

People can project what they want to project. Influencers will go all over Los Angeles into places they are not even aware of the culture and pose with things of significance without appreciation for the history and use it for their aesthetic. Likewise, especially starting out, influencers will take any brand deals they can get in order to get their income started. So, they may praise and try to sell a product to their viewers that they don’t even like or use.

Authenticity is a major concern because of the nature of the market and the desire for an upcoming influencer to gain their income and feel their career blossom can easily outweigh being authentic in their posts. Being accustomed to already scouting locations and editing photos for the best posts online or curating videos they think will get more attention and staging certain events makes it seem like part of the job as an influencer. “People’s claims of digital authenticity sometimes turn out to be superficial attempts to claim certain alternative identities to enhance their egos or the knowing cultivation of personas in the interest of persuading others for the purpose of some form of gain” (Hund 30). Because the digital space is newer, and influencer culture has only sprouted in the last decade, navigating these problems is unique to this industry and time. The collaboration between influencers and companies need to be regulated in order to keep ethics in check. Another major factor with influencer culture is that because they could be any regular person, the rise to fame over a short period of time can have a negative effect on celebrity life, culture within L.A. and the influencer themselves. It can be seen in a lot of young TikTok stars and YouTubers getting constantly canceled or called out for problematic instances because they do not know the societal expectations and responsibilities that come from being a celebrity and having that lifestyle.

The glamorous aspects of being an influencer or celebrity are the normal motivators for influencers, meaning that the other aspects of being in the spotlight are overlooked. In a commercial, capitalist world, it is easy for a young person who has grown up with social media and this culture to aspire to have that as their career. The additions of the negative impact of social media on society and mental health in general due to the facade that can be cultivated online, sparks problems within this industry that are not even addressed because of the newness of it all. The infiltration into Los Angeles not only is harming the cultures present, but the new digital age and influencer culture is removing the authenticity of L.A. and the people that reside there.

Overall, this rising influencer culture has had a lot of impact within the last decade and continues to thrive with new markets being created within digital platforms. Unfortunately, that is causing an influx of influencers to Los Angeles, which is changing the landscape and existing cultures there as they take over mansions in Beverly Hills and other high end areas, and use the existing subculture scenes for their own clout and aesthetics for their online profiles. There is a definite rise of gentrification and with influencers, marketing has soared and capitalism with it as people spend a large portion of their day scrolling on various social media platforms. It is evolving and becoming more relevant in the grand scheme of things as we see these rising influencers infiltrate other creative hubs such as films, music, and television. The desire for more fame, money, and success are driving these new celebrities into other spheres aside from the social media world, indicating that not only are they here to stay, but are paving the way for a new route for other people to follow in order to attain the lifestyle of a celebrity that everyone desires.

The residents of Los Angeles push back against gentrification and many are bothered by the new wave of influencers joining the scene, but the best change that could come from those coming into the city would be to enter it respectful of those who have resided there and be mindful of the culture capital having a significant history. Appreciation of the places they go and not simply using the beautiful aspects of Los Angeles for their own gain and advantage online would be a step in the right direction to correcting the harmful over-saturation of this group. The values of influencers and upholding an authentic, mindful brand is steadily increasing as the more original influencers who were not mindful of that are being called out and canceled. That will hopefully provide enough inspiration for these newer, upcoming influencers to not make the same mistakes and have an authentic, responsible presence online that is mindful of the power that comes with a following and fame.

Works Cited

Fry, Naomi. “‘Fake Famous’ and the Tedium of Influencer Culture.” The New Yorker, February 2021.

Hund, Emily Ann. “The Influencer Industry: Constructing and Commodifying Authenticity on Social Media.” Thesis / Dissertation ETD, ScholarlyCommons, 2019, pp. 28–30.

Kadekova, Zdenka, and Maria Holiencinova. “Influencer Marketing as a Modern Phenomenon Creating a New Frontier of Virtual Opportunities.” Communication Today, 2018.

Leggate, James. “TikTok ‘Content Houses’ Take over Luxurious LA Mansions.” Fox Business, Fox Business, June 2020.

Mecava, Aridan. “LA Influencers Compete Over Exclusive Urban Space.” Pop, 2018.

Ruiz-Gomez, Alexandra. “Digital Fame and Fortune in the Age of Social Media: A Classification of Social Media Influencers.” ADResearch ESIC International Journal of Communication Research, vol. 19, no. 19, 2019, pp. 08–29., doi:10.7263/adresic-019-01.

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Call-out vs. Cancel Culture: How Streaming Services Handle Problematic Content

In light of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, many people in positions of power in the entertainment industry have begun to modify the content shown on a multitude of streaming platforms. With ongoing protests demanding justice for Black individuals who have suffered from systemic racism and who have lost their lives because of the color of their skin, some networks are beginning to cleanse their libraries of their racist past. Movements like the #MeToo movement called out high-profile actors and directors in Hollywood such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Bill Cosby who were accused and convicted of sexual misconduct. This movement has also caused many networks to modify and question their partnership with known actors and directors. With cancel culture being so new, prevalent, and influential in our society today, these streaming networks are reconstructing their libraries and calling out old problematic shows, people, and films that were once deemed appreciable and loved by society.

In an article from The Hollywood Reporter titled “ Racist, Sexist … Classic? How Hollywood Is Dealing With Its Problematic Content,” Rebecca Keegan introduces numerous ways that Hollywood is modifying, addressing, and taking accountability for its complex history and content. She writes, “For traditional studios launching new streaming services and trying to attract 2021 audiences, their libraries are precious resources, assets to draw viewers saturated with entertainment options via the powerful forces of nostalgia and brand recognition. But these decades-old archives also are minefields of racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of bias that were publicly acceptable in the eras in which the content originally was produced.” As we get older, we tend to want to regress to earlier memories of our childhood and often enjoy the feeling of nostalgia for its comforting, warm, familiar memories. These memories frequently revolve around movies and TV shows that we may have grown up watching. It is not until we get older where the innocence fades. We are confronted with our problematic society’s harsh realities and how these depictions of minorities, cartoons, and all other characters we’ve grown up watching are offensive in nature.

Selected episodes on classic shows such as Community, 30 Rock, The Golden Girls and even the Disney classic Dumbo were all removed from their platform because of their portrayal of blackface and stereotypes. Sweeping the issue under the rug and permanently removing the episode on all platforms does not change the fact that the network ever made the episode in the first place, nor does it alter the fact that these episodes were once deemed publicly “acceptable” in our society.

Filtering these episodes and keeping them “offline” denies people the ability to look back at the time and contextualize a moment in history. Although many streaming networks are unquestionably pulling out episodes and trying to erase them from existence, many other networks have adopted a more accountable approach towards dealing with these specific episodes.

Keegan quotes screenwriter John Ridley, who wrote in the Los Angeles Times calling for WarnerMedia to remove Gone With the Wind from its two-week old streaming service for the sentimentalization towards slavery as well as its stereotypes towards African Americans. Ridley says, “At a moment when we are all considering what more we can do to fight bigotry and intolerance, I would ask that all content providers look at their libraries and make a good-faith effort to separate programming that might be lacking in its representation from that which is blatant in its demonization.” Shortly after the article was published,  HBO Max decided to remove the film from their streaming service.

What was very influential of his op-ed in the  Los Angeles Times was that he was not  “canceling” anyone or anything. The article kindly asked these platforms to check their shows, movies, services and take a moment to consider what it means to be showcasing problematic content without addressing the issues. Instead of automatically canceling, it was more a “call out” for these networks. This op-ed was not blaming or shaming anyone or anything; rather, it asked these networks to hold themselves accountable for the content being produced and published.

Unlike other platforms that have removed their problematic content entirely, HBO Max eventually reposted Gone With The Wind without addressing the issue at face valueJacqueline Stewart, a host on TCM, was hired to briefly introduce the film for its problematic nature, sentimentalization of slavery, and racial inequality that the film depicts right before the movie begins. Christy Haubegger, WarnerMedia’s chief enterprise inclusion officer and head of marketing and communications, says, “Our approach is to confront and contextualize our history.”

The great thing about cancel culture is that it has been highly influential in calling out racism, sexism, and many other types of wrongdoings. People are often quick to disregard anything that may be problematic, even if produced when it was “acceptable.” WarnerMedia has assembled a group composed of historians and advisers from outside the company and representatives from various Warner divisions to examine its archives and continue to edit and acknowledge its problematic history and content to hold themselves accountable without erasing or sweeping anything under the rug.

Although we as a society cannot change the fact that at one point, these films were deemed acceptable and unproblematic to many people, it does not change the fact that they are wrong and that they happened. Keegan quotes Ben Mankiewicz, a TCM host, “Nobody’s canceling these movies, our job is not to get up and say, ‘Here’s a movie that you should feel guilty about for liking.’ But to pretend that the racism in it is not painful and acute? No. I do not want to shy away from that. This was inevitable. And welcomed. And overdue.” There are many things that simply cannot just be “disregarded,” instead of cleaning out and burning down these libraries and pretending it never existed or happened, meaningful conversations can come and teach future generations to come and learn what was there before them.

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Conservative Creatives: An Untapped Market or a Greater Social Divide?

The recent firing of Gina Carano rekindled the ongoing conversation on conservative creatives in Hollywood. Fellow actors and creators such as Jon Voight and Nick Loeb have not been shy about their opinions, which have led to recurring criticism from the rest of the entertainment industry. Many believe that outspoken conservatives don’t really have a spot in Hollywood and are either shut down or fired to avoid discourse. Yet, the question of missed profits and markets has been raised.

The results of the recent election proved that there is a potentially large market for content created by conservative creatives as well as the response from the release of multiple films that would fall under that category. Big names like Ben Shapiro are willingly giving creators the platform they need to distribute and it’s only a matter of time before they make their way onto streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix. While this may make it seem like there is a strong need for more of this content, will it ultimately just widen the political divide that is already so vast? 

Gina Carano has quickly gone from being a part of one of the biggest TV shows to what most would consider blacklisted in Hollywood. She was fired a little over a month ago for a string of social media posts in which she gave her viewpoint on certain topics. These included posts in which she compared being conservative in America to being Jewish in Nazi Germany and tweeting about needing to “fix the system” amid claims the election was rigged which can be found in an article by Lee Brown. Now, the only places you can find news on her are directly from her Twitter account, fan-based blogs, or more conservative-leaning websites like Deseret.com.

Many speculate that Disney will not rehire the actress, which has influenced other companies to turn their backs as well. Some have been critical of the company’s decision due to their “uncanceling” of other controversial creators in the past. Regardless, this decision appears to be more final. Rather than receding into the shadows, Carano has instead chosen to become a content creator. Hollywood Reporter article dives into the budding partnership between her and Ben Shapiro, head of The Daily Wire, and has agreed to help produce it. While it’s unclear what it’ll be about, the other projects that have been acquired or backed by the platform can help to give viewers a good idea of the direction it might take. 

Recently, The Daily Wire distributed the film Run Hide Fight (2020), which focuses on a teen girl who tries to survive a shooting at her high school (ironically, this is the same slogan used by the government to educate people about what to do if they are part of an active shooter event). The film premiered at Venice Film Festival in 2020 and is now available for free on the platform. The Daily Wire claims that it had a successful launch but it’s curious to see if the projects they distribute will be exclusive to the platform or attempt to go elsewhere. This speculation is based on the content of the film as well as the people behind it. An article from The Daily Beast goes into the torrid pasts of the producers for the film who have either been arrested for sexual assault or knowingly turned a blind eye. Due to this, it doesn’t seem as if this project is the best one to help The Daily Wire break into distribution in modern Hollywood. Yet, the question is, is modern Hollywood their target? 

 In Siegel’s article, she comments about how various sources have said that Amazon will most likely push back against this type of content being shown through its streaming service. Regardless of this, other films mentioned in the article, The Plot Against the President and Roe v. Wade, are currently available to stream through the platform. Nick Loeb in Siegel’s article touches on taboo topics by saying, There’s only two things you cannot be in Hollywood: pro-Trump and pro-life.” Each movie focuses on one of the two. All three films didn’t have the biggest marketing campaigns which might have meant that they either expected the backlash or just wanted to reach directly to their target audience. On the other hand, a film like The Hunt could be considered just as controversial but for different reasons. 

The Hunt (2020) caused quite a stir when it first released trailers which in turn caused its release date to be canceled and rescheduled. The film is about a group of wealthy elites who kidnap and hunt down others for fun. An article written by Rachel Greenspan for Time goes into the layers of controversy that surround the film, the main one being that it seems to pit the political right against the political left. In the main trailer that dropped, the wealthy “elites” are being portrayed to come off as liberals while those being hunted are seemingly normal people. Yet, an earlier Hollywood Reporter article leaks lines from the screenplay that calls them “deplorables” which was a term coined by Hillary Clinton when describing those who were voting for Trump. This was one of the two reasons the movie was highly talked about. The other being that the trailers debuted right after several mass shootings took place in El Paso and Dayton. When comparing this film to the earlier ones, it seems as if this one was purposely trying to make a splash. If this is the case, is the more liberal side of Hollywood worried about what the conservative side could try to create?

Just to play devil’s advocate, there is a possible place for media created by conservative creatives. While our country is moving toward becoming a more progressive union, there is an argument for Hollywood to try to be accepting of the fact that 70 million people voted for Trump at the last election. While this may seem like an outlandish idea, there is seemingly a market that is both creating and wanting to see these films put out there. Countless creators have seemingly been “canceled” by most but have found a new home where they can freely express their thoughts and still be in films and on tv. The “quieter” marketing techniques of Nick Loeb’s and The Daily Wire’s distribution help to keep each of these films from blowing up on social media and creating the same stir that The Hunt did. This in turn helps to keep the political divide from getting any bigger than it needs to be. Regardless, the opportunities for these films should not create a safe haven for those who should be held accountable like the producers for Run Fight Hide

Gina Carano has found a new home with Ben Shapiro and maybe other “fallen stars” will gravitate in that same direction.  Will this “new” type of media seep into the mainstream or stay in front of the audience it was intended for? Will the ideas for these project become more political and edgy if these creatives are allowed that? Rather than closing the general political divide, will this create a new one within Hollywood? It will be interesting to see what Gina Carano creates and if this event turns the tides when it comes to the type of content coming out of Hollywood.

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cancelculture film oscars

Set Up for Failure: Pandemic Frustrations Directed at Oscar Equity Change

As the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic passes and calls for racial and social justice are at the forefront of daily conversation following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, we’ve all had to readjust our understanding of the world we live in. One such entity is the film industry. Yet this reassessment of equity has predated the cataclysmic events of the past year. Hollywood has been having this conversation with itself since 2015 after the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, coined by April Reign, went viral. 

The award show ran by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The Oscars, is self-accredited as being the voice of film excellence for Hollywood and the global film industry. In a March 23rd article published by The Hollywood Reporter, “Will the 93rd Oscars be More Than Just a Footnote?,” writer Gregg Kilday quotes Hollywood publicist Stan Rosenfield, “With Oscar winners, they never say what year, or what the weather was like that night, who might have also been nominated, or who was the host — just the words ‘Oscar winner’ will be uttered and printed for the rest of their life.” While I use this quote outside of its original context, it supports my point that perceived success in Hollywood and the Oscars are intrinsically linked. To win that golden statue is viewed as being the ultimate achievement, but the controversial nature in which films and their respected filmmakers are nominated cast doubt on its legitimacy. The conversation of representational equity hit its fever pitch when South Korean filmmaker, Bong Joon Ho spoke on this in his Best Picture acceptance speech during the 92nd Oscars for his 2019 masterpiece of a film, Parasite. “The Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local.” Though technically false [Best Foreign-Language Film as a category was introduced in 1956 but has been criticized as tokenism]  Ho, a non-white, non-American, Korean speaking filmmaker, used the platform of his historic award sweep to point out the long-existing discontinuities between what the Oscars say they are and what they actually are: a global exporter of cultural Americentrism that has since fallen out of vogue.

While Parasite (2019) made history as the first non-English film to win Best Picture and Ho did as well as he tied the record for wins in one night Walt Disney has held since 1954. The 92nd Oscars were still criticized for underrepresenting large swaths of groups in the film industry: women as directors specifically. The Academy could no longer hit snooze on their wake-up calls for equitable change. Thus a set of story and production criteria targeted at closing the gap in representation was put in place. From 2024 and on, films must meet two of the available four “standards” to be considered eligible for a Best Picture nomination (there are no such criteria for any of the other contested categories).

Though the direct influence of these new standards over the industry was placed on the backburner, the Academy still made strides by inducting a more diverse member base as well as conducting implicit bias training as a means to supplement their goal during the transitional phase. Sadly, it came at a time when filmmaking as a medium has been irreparably affected like so many other things. The COVID-19 pandemic has stunted the industry’s productivity and diluted any energy to make new content with these standards in mind and fall back on what makes money. As Hollywood historian Carla Valderrama said as a guest speaker to a class of Emerson Los Angeles students, “As it is now, if you didn’t write a superhero story, don’t expect a call back” (March 29th). The near-totalitarian power superhero movies hold over Hollywood is without a doubt a limiting factor other films must face in pursuit of being greenlit, though the Academy rarely acknowledges superhero stories outside of achievements in technology. So its pervasiveness as a genre is rendered moot in the larger conversation of representation in the top categories of the Oscars but is ongoing in Hollywood.

In the entertainment business, the show must always go on and with the help of further changes to distribution eligibility, this year’s Oscars has the most diverse nomination pool in the award show’s history. Yet, some industry insiders are still anxious about the overall success of the show. Due to new social distancing policies brought on by the pandemic, this year’s show is going to be vastly different than those before it. Most prominently and in a similar fashion to the Golden Globes, The Oscars’ broadcast on the 25th of April will be synchronized between two locations in Los Angeles and a varying amount of international locations as well.  While the Academy has the benefit of learning from mistakes made by the Golden Globes, in regards to production and broadcast, they still face the likely probability of an unknown number of technical issues arising during the show. Traditionally, Oscar mess-ups hold but an inconsequential impact on the world outside the film industry: late-night talk show hosts end the Ellen selfies and La-La Land mess-up skits; Twitter’s trending list refreshes; the Kardashians are caught doing anything. The world’s eye drifts away from Hollywood once again only to return the next year, but this is no normal year.

For the most part, the industry has celebrated the change. Stephanie Allain, one of the producers of the 92nd Oscars was quoted as saying, “…The last time two Black women were nominated in the best actress category was in 1972, when Cicely Tyson for Sounder and Diana Ross as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues both got the nod. So we must celebrate every moment of acknowledgment.” Diverse nominees can be found in almost every category this year.  A positive example of the Academy making their new stance on representational equity so public, as they should have a long time ago. Not all of Hollywood would agree with Allain and some may say it limits an artist’s ability to express a story the way they want to (though one can be eligible with a female editor and diverse cast of extras with no change to the larger story).

Gina Carano, the current martyr of conservatism and avid user of hate speech on Twitter, made similar charges against Hollywood following her swift and total termination from Disney. Obtuse as Carano is, this assertion was tactfully made to fan the flames of the sycophantic base she exists in now and further the false existence of a liberal cabal actively censoring conservative ideas in Hollywood. Ironic when one acknowledges conventional conservativism, before the election of 2016, originated in Hollywood where GOP superstar Ronald Reagan was a well-known actor and the head of the Screen Actors Guild before his career in politics.  The concept of correlation not being the same as causation is lost on a lot of people still today, and the negative sentiment normally reserved for production issues compounded by pandemic fatigue could be misconstrued as another example of progressive overreach into the film industry and another battle of the “culture war” being waged in American minds.

Given that deliberate misinformation permeates six times faster than genuine news on social media, as stated in the 2020 documentary The Social Dilemma, a disregard of Owen Egan’s idea “that Information Cascades break after new, conflicting, information is introduced” (Oscar Buzz and the Influence of Word of Mouth on Movie Success, pg. 57), a collective group of aligned consumers could present enough of existential threat with a “reverse cancel” boycott of subsequent ceremonies. Possibly forcing the hand of the Academy to rescind their new goals of a better Hollywood in exchange for continued high viewership numbers. 

It’s impossible to say what will happen until the day of the event, but as America slowly addresses the vast systematic inequities within its culture and the push back against such addressing increase. One can only hope a tumultuous regression of acceptance and understanding people have fought so hard for in an industry I’ve come to love and appreciate remains just a possibility, cooked up, in an anxious mind.