For those worried about the so-called “woke mind virus,” it’s tough keeping track of all the stuff you’re supposed to hate and boycott. Naturally, there will always be major figures and brands at top of mind — Let’s go Brandon! Down with Bud Light! — but it’s a big world out there, and you never know what seemingly safe product could turn out to be infected with [whispering] socially progressive values.
No industry is more dangerous for the conservative culture warrior than film and television, largely based in Hollywood, that bastion of liberal tyranny where your acting career might implode just because you said that identifying as a Republican is like being Jewish during the Holocaust. One option for cautious consumers is to stick with trusted right-wing media brands, like the Daily Wire, although there’s only so many times you can rewatch My Dinner with Trump and Fauci Unmasked. What if there were a way to sort through mainstream releases to see which are compatible with your reactionary worldview?
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Well, now there is: “Worth It or Woke,” a three-month-old website offering “Red-Pilled Movie Reviews,” is the brainchild of James Carrick, the only critic currently writing there. He describes himself to Rolling Stone as “a passionate film enthusiast with [a] degree in theater and philosophy.” Seeking an alternative to the review-aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes — which merely tallies positive and negative takes on movies from a broad range of publications but has been accused of leftist leanings — Carrick has established a format in which the political bent is out front and center. His site declares: “The Oscars suck. The critics’ scores suck. Guess no more. We’ll let you know if it’s Worth it or Woke.”
Red-Pilled Movie Reviews
— Worth it or Woke? (reviews) (@worthitorwoke) May 5, 2023
According to Carrick, the site is resonating with conservative filmgoers and experiencing “rapid growth.” He has plans to bring two more contributing writers aboard in the coming weeks.
“The disparity between critic and audience scores, as well as relentless accusations of bias by conservative readers, highlights the flaws in the [Rotten Tomatoes] system,” Carrick claims. “Mirroring the ‘wokeism’ that increasingly permeates the work of filmmakers, many critics artificially reward activism over quality. Consider that films will no longer be eligible for Academy Awards if they fail to meet race, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation quotas,” he says. (The Academy has no “quotas,” only recently updated representation and inclusion standards that, according to President Janet Yang, would not have disqualified a single past nominee. Despite improved diversity, white people are still proportionally overrepresented by the awards show.)
Aside from evaluating films on an aesthetic level, Carrick explains whether its “woke quotient (woketient) is distractingly high, tolerable, or not there at all,” with each movie receiving a rating of “Woke,” “Woke-ish,” and “Non-Woke.” You can probably figure out which ones he likes to recommend: from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 to The Pope’s Exorcist to Elvis, almost every title to attain a “Worth It” recommendation to date has also been deemed “Non-Woke.” A rare exception is the “Woke-ish” Everything Everywhere All at Once, which managed to impress Carrick despite his annoyance over Stephanie Hsu playing a lesbian character. Elsewhere, however, he can’t tolerate such queerness, and recently took issue with the gay subtext of an Apple+ kids’ TV show based on the book series Frog and Toad.
I don't think it's necessary to review this particular "children's" program. I'm comfortable marking it as #woke sight unseen. Why these jokers can't comprehend straight male friendships is beyond me.https://t.co/jpI0l3oX2b
— Worth it or Woke? (reviews) (@worthitorwoke) May 1, 2023
How, exactly, does Carrick decide if something is “woke”? He offers an overwrought definition of the much-abused term: “the quality of ultra/radical-progressivism, characterized by the active eschewing of objective truth as well as traditions and societal mores that have been tried and tested for generations in lieu of nonsensical beliefs that defy logic and substantive supportive objective data.” Meaning, I guess, that we need confirmation on whether Frog and Toad are actually fucking before we interpret their relationship as a romantic one.
“A ‘woke’ rating (49 percent or lower) indicates a strong emphasis on activism over narrative,” Carrick further explains to Rolling Stone. “Conversely, ‘non-woke’ ratings (90 percent or more) signify a focus on traditional values and narratives that align with conservative ideals. Films falling between these ranges (termed ‘woke-ish’) represent a mix of elements.”
But more revealing than this muddled attempt to quantify wokeness are the notes Carrick includes in the “Woke Elements” section of each review. In a mildly positive column on John Wick 4, he gripes about “intersectional casting.” In Fast X, he didn’t like how “spindly-armed Charlize Theron and 5’5″ Michelle Rodriguez can dominate hand-to-hand combat against fully armored men twice their size.” The horror-comedy Renfield is fully “woke” in Carrick’s estimation, partly due to perceived misandry: “Every man is either a moron, disgusting beta male, dirty cop, evil murderous henchman, or a centuries-old blood-sucking vampire.” Then you have Air, based on the story of Nike pursuing an endorsement deal with a young Michael Jordan, which Carrick graciously separates from his feelings about the brand itself, reporting that the movie contains no wokeness: “Yes, Nike as a company is a total woketastophe, and, if I were critiquing them this movie would be 100% woke,” he writes. “However, I’m not critiquing the company.” Makes perfect sense.
There are some surprises here: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret earns an endorsement as a “well-maid [sic] movie” due to its positive depiction of prayer — with the caveat that Carrick is only recommending it to women, because “it will most likely make men miserable and uncomfortable.” Meanwhile, his efforts to elevate certain fare as “Non-Woke” results in amusing ironies. Reviewing the World War II action-revenge thriller Sisu, in which a lone Finnish miner butchers Nazis by the dozen after they steal his gold, Carrick laughs off the notion that it could be the slightest bit woke. Yet “anti-wokeness,” as an ideology opposing social justice, is transparently allied with white supremacy. Depicting Nazis as villains whose gory demise should be celebrated is a baseline woke position — it’s certain anti-woke crusaders, like Tucker Carlson or radio host Jesse Kelly, whose ideology aligns with fascism.
But maybe someone who gripes about a nonbinary character in a Transformers cartoon and rails against “the fascistic Leftists at Disney” isn’t totally equipped to face these political realities. And, to his credit, Carrick can admire a film even when he strongly disagrees with its morals. “We recognize that a film’s quality may extend beyond its ideological viewpoint and we highlight all exceptional movies,” he says. “For example, we highlighted The Menu, a deeply woke film that nonetheless beautifully showcases the talents of Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, and Hong Chau.”
Yes, it’s almost as if “wokeness,” however you define it, doesn’t determine whether a piece of entertainment is good or bad, and shouldn’t be used as the primary barometer of artistic achievement. Of course, were he to acknowledge this fact, Carrick would have to throw out the woke-o-meter system and reconstruct his website from the ground up. What a twist ending that would be.
It's definitely become a challenge to find quality and engaging programing.https://t.co/xOyVltzMNe
— Worth it or Woke? (reviews) (@worthitorwoke) May 19, 2023
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