The latest debate taking right-wing media by storm has nothing to do with Trump or DeSantis or two renegade Justins from Tennessee, but a mustached, Italian plumber.

Last week, Universal Pictures released The Super Mario Bros. Movie to record-breaking box office success. And guess what? It wasn’t woke!

Needless to say, conservatives were euphoric.

No same-sex kiss scenes? No gushy gay romance plotlines? Not a single LGBTQ+ love song? It seemed almost too good to be true!

The largely plotless film simply meanders, video game-like, through the fantastic world of Mario, steering clear of needless political controversy. And why not? Who needs leftist propaganda in a movie about plumbers fighting a giant dragon-like turtle anyways?

No wonder parents were relieved. Conservative families immediately did a victory lap, hailing the film as a great win for traditional values.

Others, however, were unimpressed. Not necessarily with the movie itself but with conservatives’ overly rhapsodic response.

Sure, the film was non-woke, but that does not make it anti-woke, they argued. The fact that we are so ecstatic simply because a kids’ movie is not bad, proves we’ve set a pretty low bar. So desperate to watch something — anything — that does not make a mockery of our values, we accepted apolitical as a political achievement.

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“Unpopular opinion but it’s a bit cringe for conservatives to be championing Super Mario as some kind of anti-woke manifesto,” tweeted Matt Walsh.

In a lengthy series of posts, author Spencer Klavan agreed. “The idea that conservatives would celebrate Dungeons and Dragons [another recent video game-based film] or Mario as un- or even anti-woke is in fact a total victory for wokeness,” he argued. “It shows how thoroughly they’ve managed to set the terms of the debate.”

“I quite liked D&D,” Klavan continued, “but it features an axe-wielding girlboss who ground-pounds bruisers twice her size while hapless dweeb Chris Pine looks on in soyful appreciation. Mario re-writes the damsel in distress as a warrior princess at the helm of vast armies. Ten years ago conservatives would have pointed to both of these movies as standout examples of obnoxiously preachy, in your face feminism. Now they’re celebrating because Luigi isn’t trans. We’re begging for scraps at this point.”

“I will surely be taken to mean by this that I never want to see “strong female characters” or whatever, which is obviously not what I’m saying (though I don’t particularly think women need role models in “strength” of the reductively physical, manly kind meant by that phrase). A real conservative movement in this realm, though, would mean demanding and creating stories in which damsels really are in distress, and men really are inspired to save them by performing feats of heroism. That should be *the baseline*. Anything else is just [a] temporary concession on the part of a movement that does not really intend to compromise or to grant us even small victories in anything but the shortest possible term….”

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“I will add once again: D&D was well done. Mario looks fine. It’s not about either movie in itself. It’s about the idea that either represents a return to some pre-woke “normal.” If it feels that way, that only represents how thoroughly such a “normal” has been taken from you.”

In other words, the fact that Mario feels like a win for conservatives just goes to show that we are living in the left’s world. And as Klavan said, we’re begging for scraps. The left has dozens of explicitly political movies to its name, and we are relegated to celebrating the occasional entry that is not as bad as the others.

This does not mean we cannot enjoy Mario. No doubt it is refreshing to finally have a movie we can safely take our kids to watch. It is also encouraging to see that movie trounce box office records. We must realize, however, a single non-woke movie only feels like a win because we are so used to losing. In a world where woke is the norm, anything less than that feels refreshingly conservative. But the ball is still in the left’s court.

Most of us can remember a time when all kids’ movies were as genuinely family-friendly as Mario is. We didn’t think anything of it at the time. No one hailed The Lion King or Toy Story as “conservative” and “anti-woke” by nature of the fact that Simba wasn’t gay and Woody wasn’t trans. We knew then that the absence of leftism did not automatically equal conservatism.

Oh, how times have changed. 

The Overton window has shifted. Yesterday’s norm is now a distant, laughed-at memory. And as the left mercilessly wrecks our culture, we are reduced to putting video game movies in our trophy case.

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