This is not a political website, I am not a political writer, and this is not a political article. If I had to summarize what it’s about, I’d say it’s about our current experiment of evacuating decency and kindness at a societal level. Heads up, the results are not going so well, and it will get worse as long as we continue down this path.
In thinking about what Disney news and rumors to cover today, it becomes obvious that the entire conversation in the western world has moved since the events of yesterday. I want to discuss with you, in a sane way – because that’s not what you’re getting in the mainstream media / press – what is culturally happening, and what it means for the future of entertainment.
For the past several years, we experienced peace like we had not enjoyed since pre-9/11. We had no new wars, the economy was rolling, and people who worked hard were climbing the socioeconomic ladder with any luck. Yes, people hated President Trump, and yes there was a soft culture war based around postmodernism taking place that had been growing since about the mid 2000s. Much of the time, that culture war is what we’re forced to cover in entertainment journalism and blogs. But much changed with the pandemic. And all our squabbles about “destroy the past if you have to” in Star Wars seemed quaint compared to the destruction of our present by a virus from a nation that openly operates concentration camps and slave labor.
In the midst of the pandemic, fissures began to break open within the different tribes of our society. Black Lives Matters protests rose up, rioting began to take place, and many people watched as American cities were burned, looted, and vandalized. It’s hard to pretend it’s not real when cities look like they’re preparing for a hurricane with plywood covering windows everywhere. Rental and home sale statistics show that an exodus occurred throughout 2020 of people leaving cities and particular regions of the United States. Throughout our history, Americans have always had proverbial town squares to go to… places where we could stop talking about politics and just have commonality with one another. Those watering holes were likewise stripped away from us — sports were made to be explicitly political, movie theaters were closed, and entertainment companies took to lecturing everyone about human rights while they simultaneously did everything in their power to cozy up with the worst human rights abusers on the planet if they had money to give.
The mass media was all in favor of the peaceful protests, and the “mostly peaceful” protests that often turned into flaming riots. But for the first time, yesterday, a different political faction protested in a violent way, this time not burning down cities, but instead taking over the Capitol building in Washington D.C. The establishment and the mass media have all condemned them as seditious and treasonous.
What if we all did something today, however, that helped us to think more clearly? What if we step back and look at where we are, how we got here, and where we’re going.
Throughout the country, rightly or wrongly, we have stripped people of their liberty, chosen who moves into poverty and who moves into wealth, and picked tribes that will be held in high esteem and those that should be shunned. We have turned our entertainment into chess pieces in the culture war so that ordinary people can’t even enjoy the things they loved. We have allowed both sides of the political spectrum to believe that they do not have a voice unless they riot. We have decimated discourse. An article such as this might not even be allowed on social media, and certainly would never be published in the mainstream press. And yet it’s just the sort of article that we should all be reading.
The problem is that no matter which political or ideological side you are on, there’s no doubt you have grievances. In a well-functioning society, those grievances have pressure release valves in which you’re allowed to vent your frustrations and seek change through democratic processes. In our current society, BOTH sides of the political spectrum are unable to obtain resolution. And out of a bloodlust for hatred, the establishment elites, the corporatists, and the people who run the country are not interested in deescalating the situation. By all appearances, violence worked in getting a political change after months of carnage… so now the other side is participating in it. It’s indicative of a huge problem, one that can’t be solved until both sides starting treating each other as infinitely valuable human beings, and that doesn’t seem forthcoming. For those of you wishing that yesterday was our rock-bottom wakeup call, I’m afraid we haven’t reached that point quite yet.
So what does this mean for entertainment? I’m an entertainment writer who specializes in Disney, Walt Disney World, Lucasfilm, etc. This website is about Disney Parks primarily. Well, unfortunately it means that we’re likely to see further politicization and injection of ideology into our forms of entertainment. I haven’t heard yet a single person of national renown call for unity between Black Lives Matters and Trump supporters. I have not yet heard a single person of national renown begin the campaign that we have more that unites us than divides us. All I hear is the opposite. As opposed to other times in our nation when we have sought to heal our pains, the better voices have gone silent. Is it bad that I long for the days after September 11th, because we came together as sisters and brothers rather than despising one another?
Does this continued culture war and strife make an already heavily damaged entertainment and tourism industry less likely to recover? I think so. How do you make a movie or a series nowadays when half of your viewers want traditional storytelling and the other half view that as a relic of a flawed and hateful past? Entertainment is in a war for the soul of the narrative we should espouse, and nobody seems willing to compromise.
I am concerned we will soon watch as entertainment continues to splinter into tribalism. We see it at Lucasfilm already. We see it in video games. And whereas in the past we have debated entertainment, I fear we are now moving into a time in which you will be told what types of narratives are okay to watch, to listen to, to read… because in a full-blown culture war, authoritarian ideologies will be on the rise. They already were. If you thought the contempt for people groups you saw in entertainment before was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
I’ll have new information on Disney World tomorrow, hopefully with details about a new “Project Invigorate” that is being rolled out internally. But for today I felt it important to write with a heavy heart that the culture war we’ve been witnessing in sports, entertainment, etc, is breaking out into full-blown conflict. At some point, we need to start breaking down tribalism and treating every individual with kindness, both in our entertainment and in our nation. But the powers that be seem not to have yet deemed that worthwhile, and I fear the near future for it.