Michael Matteo: Wokeness is a slap in the face to us all

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

As a kid, I used to enjoy watching the Academy Awards with my family.  It was a time when it was fun to predict who would win best actor, picture or other awards, and those who were nominated understood that they were actors, not political extremists.  Those were the days of celebrating the acting talents of actors like George C. Scott, Jack Lemmon, Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and Sally Field etc. The shows were entertaining and popular.  As time passed, the Academy Awards became unfunny, platforms for egotistical, self-serving, pompous, woke hedonists who would fly their private jets to Hollywood and then lecture Americans about climate change, or dip into their 200K+ Oscar gift bags, while making average Americans feel guilty about homelessness and poverty.   These, among other reasons, is why ratings have plummeted for an event that used to be welcomed into a majority of American homes. 

At the most recent Academy Awards, we all saw Will Smith slap Chris Rock in the face because Smith didn’t like a joke that Rock made about Smith’s wife, Jada. (and even this Jerry Springer tactic, didn’t do much to boost ratings). This incident is a microcosm of wokeness, and the confusion of those who embrace this warped philosophy of emotional outbursts.  Initially, Smith laughed at the joke, and moments later he reacted, walked on stage and slapped Rock in the face.  Some people have made the claim that Rock’s joke was inappropriate, but most have agreed that Smith’s reaction was inappropriate.  However, in the woke world, how many times have speakers been attacked or threatened with violence because of something that someone found offensive? How many professors or teachers have been threatened with being disciplined or actually fired due to comments that they made, which someone construed as hate speech?  How many television shows or movies have been canceled because someone, somewhere crawled out of their safe room and maintained their low tolerance for someone else’s words was greater than someone’s right to speak without constraints?  

We’ve all seen videos the Tik Tok freaks rant and rave when they feel that someone is not conforming to the behavior that they demand.  This is the same lack of control issue that resulted in Smith slapping Rock.  It is this lack of self-control that highlights woke behavior, which is all about giving in to raw emotions and the idea that temper tantrums are an acceptable form of dissent.

I am a published, produced and award-winning writer who grew up with the comedy of George Carlin, Don Rickles and Richard Pryor etc., and learned many years ago that “comedy is cruel.”  Think about the things most people laugh at, and you’ll realize that jokes are at someone’s expense.  How it’s written is what will make it funny or not, but in today’s woke world comedy is constantly under scrutiny, and identity politics determines what is deemed by the woke to be humorous or canceled, just ask Dave Chappelle.  

Throughout my writing career I’ve written books, stage plays and screenplays. Last year I had the unpleasant experience of having a comedy screenplay critiqued by a woke producer whom I submitted a script for production consideration.  I seriously question this producer’s ability to judge what is funny as he employed his personal hypersensitivities to make a conclusion about my screenplay.  My script, titled: That Time of the Month, is a comedy that has been optioned 3 times, and was promoted on VH1’s, Stevie J. and Joseline Go Hollywood, for a year, but wasn’t produced due to issues between Stevie J. and Joseline.  The producer who critiqued my script said, “Your misogynist is too misogynistic!”  He requested that I make the lead character less misogynistic, and I refused. Was Scrooge too miserly? Was King Kong too ferocious?  Was Hannibal Lecter too hungry?  That Time of the Month is a script about a misogynist who has ignored the female component of his psyche, and a magic spell causes her to come alive and switch places with him, taking over their body when the moon is full. She employs the same tactics that he has used to manipulate women throughout their life together on his male friends to get even with him for a lifetime of being ignored.  The script is a commentary that we all have male and female characteristics, which I believe is very timely given all the issues in today’s world.  This producer obviously doesn’t understand the importance of character arcs and that it is important for characters to be on an extreme spectrum, so that when redemption occurs it is emotionally satisfying to an audience.  If Rocky Balboa was a top contender and not such an underdog, would it be as meaningful for him to go the distance against Apollo Creed in Rocky?

This experience illustrates why there are so many bad movies being made.  When a Disney executive discusses committing to more gay characters, instead of saying, “We need more quality scripts with engaging conflicts and well-written characters,” this is what is wrong with the entertainment industry and hopefully people will voice their disapproval by refusing to see woke films and TV shows.  Hollywood types love to use the words, diversity, inclusion, equity (more appropriately the acronym is DIE, not DEI), yet they’re the least inclusive group on planet earth, and most production companies keep the doors of their studios tightly locked to prevent newcomers from diluting their monopoly.  

The woke are extremely active in their beliefs that it’s okay to censor, cancel and shout down what they believe to be offensive.  They will not hesitate to insist that their personal pronouns are used or they will whine, shout or even resort to violence to stifle someone’s right to free speech, which is why those in that Hollywood audience may have been shocked and disapproved of Smith’s actions, but applauded when he cried and apologized.  

Hollywood now employs rigid standards and character quotas for films to be considered as nominees for awards.  This formulaic way of determining what will and will not be produced, may guarantee “diverse” characters, but it won’t necessarily yield a good movie or script. However, in a world where diversity is more important than merit, it fits the woke narrative quite well.  

Wokeness is the inability to logically argue a position and relies on raw emotions, which was put on display at this year’s Academy Awards.  Many years ago I worked on a film that I co-wrote, and had a conversation with Charles Durning, a fine actor of yesteryear.  He told me, with contempt in his voice, that today’s actors were not actors, they were “celebrities.”  Perhaps this is the reason why Will Smith was not escorted out of the award ceremony, which surely would happen if an average person slapped someone at an awards event for their job.  However, that is celebrity privilege, which is a subject for another editorial.  

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