Hollywood is bankrupt.

Not of money, but of ideas.

And morals.

Ben Shapiro highlighted this in a recent video, in which he pointed out that nearly all of 2023’s most anticipated films are either sequels (John Wick Chapter 4, Creed 3, Fast & Furious 10, Dune part 2, Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse, Indiana Jones 5, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3), spinoffs (The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes), reboots (Transformers: Rise of the Beasts), remakes (The Little Mermaid), or about already popular franchises (Barbie, The Super Mario Bros. Movie). This week, Disney further proved his point when it announced three upcoming films: Zootopia 2, Frozen 3, and Toy Story 5. These will be accompanied by the previously announced Mufasa, a Lion King spinoff, and Inside Out 2.

The obvious truth is that new ideas have become too risky for Hollywood. Why risk telling an original story when stale, endlessly rehashed franchises are certain to bring in just as much money? Movies no longer have the same cultural impact they once did because they lost the wherewithal to “wow” an audience. In an age of CGI, showing theatergoers something they have never seen before is nearly impossible.

So, today, instead of “wowing” with a sense of wonder, Hollywood banks on shocking with gratuitousness. Profanity, violence, and sex are all on the rise in cinema to the detriment of actual substance.

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Many have noted that an overreliance on swearing, for example, has replaced the tight scripts of Hollywood’s Golden Age. One writer asked of a particularly profane film that included 569 f-bombs: “If a movie dedicates that much time to profanity, how much time is it dedicating to true dialogue? How much time was given to truly moving the plot forward with the words they use? Was the profanity necessary, or just filler because the writers couldn’t think of a better word?”

The point is: films prior to the 1980s did not – and, in fact, could not – rely on obscenities, gore, or sexual material to captivate an audience. If they wanted to be successful, they had to actually be good.

They had to tell a new story.

This is why 1939 – widely considered Hollywood’s greatest year – is simply incomparable to 2023. Or 2022. Or any year in recent memory. In 1939, Hollywood produced Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, The Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, Stagecoach, and “an unprecedented number of great films.” Not just fun films. Not high-grossing but forgettable films. Great films.

What Hollywood did not do in 1939 is drop a bunch of half-baked sequels and remakes. If the entertainment industry was run then as it is today, we would expect to see Mr. Smith milked, Stagecoach turned into a decades-long franchise, and The Wizard of Oz developed into a “cinematic universe.” That there is no Gone With The Wind 5 says a lot about the Golden Age’s originality. Just as 1939 films were great in their own right, so would subsequent films have to stand on their own merits.

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What eventually corrupted this model was not Hollywood running out of ideas, but Hollywood turning its back on traditional American values. When “woke” became the predominant religion of the culture, filmdom fell in line. All new ideas had to be imbued with at least a baseline nod to wokeness or run afoul of Hollywood’s liberal activist donors.

But pleasing liberal Hollywood came at the cost of running afoul of a far more salient group: audiences.

As it turned out, the general public was not all too pleased with the new religion of woke, and it showed at the box office.

Watching a new movie became more of a risk for theatergoers who knew the film might lecture them on politics. This, in turn, made producing new movies more of a risk for studios. One of Disney’s only original features in 2022, Strange World, for example, lost the studio $100 million. Two other major tentpoles, Amsterdam and Babylon, both boasting impressive casts, “collapsed” in their box office debuts.

This costly crisis has put Hollywood at a crossroads between giving up on new ideas altogether and giving up on wokeness.

Unfortunately, it seems they have opted for the former.

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Those who argue that virtue signaling does not fully account for Hollywood relying exclusively on nostalgia and name recognition to sell tired, hackneyed cash grabs fail to grasp the true nature of “wokeism.”

Wokeness is, indeed, a new religion. It seeks to prop up new standards and tear down the old ones. It is both moralistic and licentious.

Woke says film cannot celebrate America but can spew anti-Americanism. Woke says film cannot glamorize competence but must elevate victimhood. It disallows “insensitive” jokes but reeks of indecent language. It would never praise the nuclear family but regularly applauds LGBTQ sexuality.

This religion is so all-encompassing, we cannot comprehend how radically changed Hollywood would be without it. Wokeism, at this point, runs in their blood. It rolls like a river from Hollywood Hills.

What may look like a bankruptcy of new ideas is actually a dogged determination to insert wokeism into everything the industry does. Audiences have not rejected ingenuity; they have rejected liberal proselytization. 

Ultimately then, this is the crux of the issue: Hollywood, left-wing enforcers, and the American public are engaged in a three-way battle. No matter what, Hollywood must offend one side. Either it will offend those activist elitists who finance their movies or those they must convince to watch their movies.

Either way, things do not look pretty for as long as wokeism reigns supreme.

Jakob Fay is a staff writer for the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance.

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