Despite my general distaste for trendy buzzwords, “woke” never bugged me to the extent of, let’s say, “synergy”, or “logos”. (That’s “Logos“, not the plural word for “logo”.)
I can tell when a new word’s gonna go the distance, and when it’s gonna burn out. Want to know how I know?
I’ve been alive for going on nigh to fifty years, and I’ve been an intellectual thrill-junkie almost the entire time. So I have this crazy thing regarding culture, called wisdom.
That, and an eidetic memory that an elephant would envy. (Eidetic comes from the Greek word “eidos”, meaning “that which is seen”. Holy shit, how much has this site taught you already?!) So, I can cite precedent like a motherfucker to back up my points.
Woke is a joke. If your purpose is predicated upon opposition to a political party or politician, or even a political idea, expect everyone, including your supporters, to abandon you within four years. Depending on the intensity of your “wokeness”, it could take a fraction of that time.
If you are an artist, you should already understand that it’s more a hindrance than a benefit to put overt politics in your work. Politics plus art equals propaganda, which is a whole other can of ball parks. Some people think a red shirt with an illustration of infamous murderer Che Guevara is art; some people think a red hat with a Trump slogan stitched onto it is an indication of a potential murderer. Then in fifty years, no one remembers what all the fuss was about in either case.
That’s not art. That’s propaganda. Its intent is not to enlighten the human soul, but to aggrandize the soul’s persecutor. And before you argue, there’s a world of difference between propaganda and “making a statement in art”.
You can look at Picasso’s Guernica and feel the shattering terror of its depicted incident, without knowing the political fine print behind it. The horrified faces are clearly readable, and Picasso’s proprietary style is perfectly suited for portraying literally twisted agony, like the woman at far left keening in grief over her dead child. Note the contrasting expression of resigned serenity on the face looking in with the lantern, right of center.
What I’m saying is that this is a goddamned masterpiece and I can ramble on about it all day, without even getting into its brutal inspiration. This is a sterling example of “political art”.
In our current lives, bad examples of political art are everywhere.
Think of it like this; comedy is one of the Arts. Some comedians do impressions, and they don’t always do good ones. Some comedians impersonate anybody, especially if they’re prominent in politics. If you’re going to impersonate a prominent politician, you better make it funny, otherwise… what exactly are you doing?
So if an artist creates a portrait or otherwise flattering likeness of a young person they’re only aware of thanks to CNN… is it art?
See where I’m going with this?
In truth, I blame Shepard Fairey for the lion’s share of the problem, because of his “HOPE” saturation campaign for Obama, but at the same time, I’m thankful, because now an entire generation is wise to that kind of shit. The Overton window has never been wider, thanks to Internet memes. Compare your current self to yourself just two years ago, in regards to what you know, what you believe and whom you trust. Pretty freaky, yeah?
You even know what the Overton window is. You’re a regular 21st century regular, ya cheeky devil. You don’t give yourself enough credit.
This is why “woke” never works. Every time a studio tries it, the audience sees right through it and rejects them as hypocritical. Because social justice is so arbitrary and impermanent, it’s a fool’s errand to cater to its self-appointed torchbearers. And as far as “SJWs” go, the one thing you can bank on is that they don’t spend money. All they do is complain.
For the sake of argument (and word count), let’s say you’re still an advocate of “woke” as an adjective and a concept. What if I told you- stay with me here- that I existed long before you were born, and I saw with my own eyes the last time people really went overboard with this kinda shit.
And that not only did “woke” not work, it buried the ethos for decades. Would you believe me?
Because it’s true. All of it.
Sometime in the mid to late 1960’s, a man made a movie about outlaw bikers. He wrote and directed this indie feature under a pseudonym, and played the protagonist; a half-Indian Green Beret Vietnam veteran named Billy Jack. The man was Tom Laughlin. The movie was titled The Born Losers.
Pictured above is Elizabeth James, the female lead in The Born Losers and 75% of the appeal of the film. Her cute face and exquisitely nubile body go a long way in selling the overall experience, which, as was the style of the time, also features raping and Nazi bikers literally swapping spit. Three other young girls show as much skin, and one actually does a strip tease in front of her favorite stuffed animal.
I’m telling you, that’s why The Born Losers was commercially successful enough for a sequel. But Tom Laughlin, God love him, he thought it was all thanks to his half-ass half-Indian.
Well, he was half-right.
Now, as I said, mentioning Billy Jack nowadays is gonna get you a bunch of blank stares, but Laughlin’s movies weren’t just pioneering in the independent sense; they were also the first American movies to depict Eastern martial arts. As such, even people who’ve forgotten Billy Jack remember The Ice Cream Shop Scene.
That’s the one where he just goes BERSERK.
Those guys that Billy Jack finally beats up after nearly talking them to death? Those are local racists. He beats them because they degraded his friends from the Freedom School, by dumping flour on them to “make them white”. You know, flour, what ice cream shop doesn’t dispense heaping scoops of it in their dining area, is what you should be inquiring. Ask the old duffer who looks like Lorne Greene, maybe he knows.
The lead racist is Bernard Posner, son of the vicious white Boss Posner, whom we see attempting to poach wild mustangs with his vicious white friends in the opening of Billy Jack. Bernard likes to drive girls out to the lake in his Corvette and rape them at knifepoint; he later goes on to rape Billy’s girlfriend Jean, played by the not-at-all-mistakable-for-an-actor Delores Taylor, Laughlin’s real-life spouse. This leads Billy Jack to kill Bernard by caving in his chest with his foot.
The “Ice Cream Shop Scene” is where every disparate element of the concept of Billy Jack coalesces in perfect harmony, and I’d be lying if I didn’t call it the high watermark of the character. Laughlin’s screen magnetism is so acute, his calmness so genuine, you don’t even notice that he is very obviously not anything even in the same universe as a “real Indian”.
You don’t even notice when his hapkido instructor puts on his denim outfit and doubles for him. Not at first glance, anyway. This is an artifact from a time when movies at home meant they had to be aired on one of three TV channels. What you saw on the big screen, in a theater, was what you believed.
If you’re one of the no doubt many people that I’m introducing to this stuff, and you’re watching the attached clips, you’re probably thinking, “WOW, this is great! How is it that I’ve never heard of all this before?”
Simple. Because Tom Laughlin went against what the audience expected of him, while preaching about the evils of the white man, in a self-created role of an American Navajo.
Oh, also Billy Jack killed two cops. While on the stand in the laughably turgid Trial of Billy Jack, he devotes huge chunks of courtroom time to a mendacious account of the My Lai Massacre that makes Jane Fonda giving VC handjobs look like Uncle Sam waving Old Glory. Billy Jack chose to desert, alongside the only black soldier, rather than participate in a scene that would make your average Vietnam vet’s brain burst.
There is of course a traditional climactic fight scene in Trial, but because these are Billy Jack movies, the fight doesn’t happen at the climax. There’s still a riot and a whole bunch of weepy wrong-headed bullshit to trudge through. I’ll put it this way; the kid who threw the rock at the cop, kicking off a riot in which several people were killed, leads the sing-along of “Give Peace A Chance” in the church at the end.
By the way, if you actually watched Trial, you’d notice right away that it starts off with statistics of school shootings. Including not only Kent State, but the made-up Freedom School with its made-up riot, featured later in the film. And this is from 1974.
At no point, even when he’s killing people, are we in the audience expected to question or not identify with Billy Jack. There is no grey area or redemption; the bad people become worse until Billy Jack has to kick them to death. The problem lies with the fact that “bad people” includes anyone who has a problem with how Billy Jack does things.
The only time we’re shown who the villains are in Billy Jack movies is when they poach, rape or murder. They goad Billy into action by hurting people he loves, destroying his property, or oppressing him for clearly being an Indian. The rest of the details we get from narration (provided by Elizabeth James, or Laughlin’s small wooden wife), filling us in on the Freedom School’s quack syllabus of “Yoga Tennis” and “Yoga Improv”.
There’s actually a scene in Billy Jack where the old white people who run the town hold a meeting where the students from the Freedom School are allowed to speak. We’re supposed to root for the young hippie crowd (which includes Howard Hesseman) as they piss all over decorum, insult and berate the board, and use children to trick them with a quote from Adolf Hitler.
They literally do the “ha ha, you liked a Hitler quote” bit with the old folks, and they aren’t immediately told to get fucked. You think shit’s changed in the past 40 years???
Look at those smug faces. I mean the kids- the girl reading the quote is Tom Laughlin’s daughter. The impossibly condescending woman is Delores Taylor, Laughlin’s wife.
You tell me, as I show you clips from an ancient movie you probably never heard of before today. How well does this work?
Show this to ten people, out of context, and see who they root for. I’m no psychic, but I’m willing to bet you’ll find ten people who tell these little shits to go fuck themselves.
The villains on the board? Those are past-middle-age actors, for whom this was a real job. Those kids and hippies? They either worked for free, or were related to the director. They didn’t go on to become or change shit. And yet here they are, telling these grown folks how life should be lived, while visibly oozing contempt and hatred from every pore.
Meanwhile, no one gives a flying fuck about any of this. We’re just waiting for Billy Jack to beat someone again.
That’s the end result of “woke”. Whatever you dress it up as, soon as people can get that on its own, you’re dust in the wind. You’re dressing the bitter pill up with cheese, when the dog just eats the cheese and coughs up the pill. After all, the cheese is food, and the pill is medicine.
You need food to live. You only need medicine when you’re ill.