By Arnold Ahlert
“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” ―John F. Kennedy
In 1941, a movie called “Sullivan’s Travels” was released. It was the story about a Hollywood film director yearning to make a socially relevant drama instead of the “shallow” comedies for which he had become famous. Ultimately, he discovered that being able to make people laugh — and taking their minds off their troubles — was a great talent to possess. Its release date was December 29, 1941 — as in 22 days after America was dragged into World War II.
The bet here is that virtually no one under the age of 40, or perhaps even 50, has ever heard of this movie, much less watched it. And if they did, much like so many other Hollywood classics that were made in the early years of the industry — movies loaded with creativity, humor, action, and drama — many of them would undoubtedly be offended by something that didn’t measure up to their “superior” sense of morality.
The statues toppled by angry and oh-so-self-righteous mobs last summer were emblematic of a cancer that has afflicted this nation for quite some time. A contemptible combination of political correctness, an expanding cancel culture, and the burgeoning sense that history must be erased in order to “purify” the nation — all reinforced by the entire entertainment industry, public schools and colleges, virtue-signaling corporations, professional sports, and even many of our religious institutions — has transmitted a singular message across the proverbial fruited plain:
Either conform to progressive dogma, or you will be “un-personed” — in every Orwellian manifestation of the term.
The first and foremost casualty of such a society? Creativity. And perhaps no field of entertainment has made that clearer than comedy. A number of comedians, including Chris Rock, Pete Davison, and Larry the Cable Guy, have made it clear that performing on college campuses has become a fool’s errand because the entire premise of comedy — making fun of something or someone — is a bridge too far for today’s monolithic-minded, hypersensitive snowflakes.
Monolithic-minded snowflakes who nonetheless take great pride in their commitment to “diversity,” in all its searing irony.
Perhaps the best insight into their mindset was expressed by comedian David Deeble in a 2018 article for Ricochet. “We’re at a point now where if you still have a sense of humor you’re considered part of the problem. So no, I have no interest in returning to the college circuit — and just as assuredly I won’t be missed. It’s not that today’s college students have no sense of humor. It’s that no one wants to be the first one to laugh [italics original].”
Why? Because laughter represents an escape from the ideological gulag that apparently must be maintained at all costs. And nothing is better for that maintenance than the politicization of everything.
Thus, it doesn’t matter whether you listen to a pop song, watch a TV show about buying and selling real estate, or tune into an NFL, NBA, or MLB game. Sooner or later the virtue-signaling, along with a seemingly unprecedented level of insipidness, will become apparent. While classic Warner Brothers cartoon characters are canceled for being offensive, “WAP” (“Wet A** Pu**y”) is nominated for Song of the Year, even as the most progressive publications are forced to use the same asterisks to obscure its title. The real estate show overwhelmingly presents same-sex couples as buyers and sellers. The professional sports leagues lecture us about “systemic” racism, even as they take billions from Chinese enslavers.
Hollywood? Beginning in 2024, movie-makers will have to conform to a series of diversity standards set by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences if they wish their films to be allowed to compete for a Best Picture Oscar award. For on-screen representation, at least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors must come from “an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.” Thirty percent of secondary or minor roles must include actors from at least two of the following “underrepresented groups”: “Woman, racial or ethnic groups,” LGBTQ+, or people with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The “main storyline” or “subject matter” of the picture must also center on those underrepresented groups, and the same criteria apply off-screen and includes the casting director, cinematographer, composer, costume designer, director, editor, hairstylist, makeup artist, producer, production designer, set decorator, sound person, VFX supervisor, and writers.
When the standards were announced, The Washington Post gushed about how 73% of the Best Pictures over the past 15 years “would have met the criteria without altering any casting practices or crew hires.” In other words, more than a quarter would have been eliminated, wholly irrespective of artistic merit.
Does anyone seriously believe holding story-telling hostage to enforce diversity will improve creativity? Now add in demands made by the industry’s Chinese communist masters whom, like our “woke” sports leagues, Hollywood increasingly accommodates. Soon, Hollywood “creativity” will be indistinguishable from a Venus Paradise coloring set that contains colored pencils and pages that have numbers correlating with the color that should be used. That hundreds of potential story choices will no longer qualify for create-by-quota movies?
The inevitable vapidness will again be promoted as a triumph of diversity.
A poll taken last year by the libertarian think tank Cato Institute revealed that 62% of Americans are afraid to speak their minds. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary is changing the meaning of words to accommodate “woke” political sensibilities. Classics of Western and American literature, including Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare, are being removed from college curriculums, and Dr. Seuss is being canceled, all for the “crime” of being offensive. Every bit of it, and so much more, is about narrowing the range of thought.
Narrowing the range of thought is the essence of totalitarian control.
There’s a reason American entertainment dominated the planet for decades, despite our nation being one of the youngest in the world. It was because people were encouraged to be both creative and competitive in the best senses of the words. People who created seminal works of entertainment translated into hundreds of languages for all the world to enjoy. People who put creativity at the top of the list when pursuing their dreams of achieving greatness.
Today, greatness is on the verge of being completely replaced by the institutionally approved mediocrity that enforced homogeneity truly represents.
I have always been big fan of movies. For the first time ever, I cannot name a single picture nominated for an Oscar this year. As a lifelong musician, I have also played, created, and listened to pop music both for enjoyment and out of curiosity about its ongoing development. I find today’s pop music increasingly puerile and rife with faux emotionalism — when it’s not busy promoting blatant pornography and/or violence. Modern TV is a series of reality shows that has no relation whatsoever to reality — especially when one remembers that every “intimate” moment is being captured by a film crew.
Unless there’s a sea change, American entertainment will soon be no better or worse than that produced by the most oppressive regimes in the world. It’s what conformity ultimately engenders.
Pretty soon, no one will be laughing — first or otherwise.