Thursday, September 15, 2022
The death of nuance
I would like to point out that in the latest "woke vs. racist" battle, about the life version of the Little Mermaid, I am all for having a black mermaid. If that surprises you, it is probably because of the exhausting tendency of the culture wars to lose all nuance. I put "woke vs. racist" in quotation marks because that is the extreme version which the media often project. They pretend that there are only 2 camps, and you are either in the one or in the other. There is no middle ground. It isn't even possible for somebody to like or dislike a film with a black actor for other reasons than being either woke or racist. I find that extremely poor reasoning.
Note that I also am all for black hobbits. Having seen more of it, I still think that The Rings of Power is an extremely poor product given the $1 billion production cost. The character of Galadriel combines a bad script with bad acting to create one of the worst "heroes" I have ever seen in fiction. But I am obviously not upset that Galadriel is a woman. Nor does it upset me that the series has a woman as a main character. I just believe that somebody should have the right to say that this isn't very good television, without being directly put into the "racist" drawer of a "woke vs. racist" dispute. And I think there is some evidence that Amazon is using a variety of unfair tactics, from buying good reviews to suppressing bad reviews on websites they own to claiming that every bad review comes from a racist / sexist.
I am a strong believer in there being an objective truth. I am a fan of Akiro Kurosawa's Rashomon, so I am very aware that the same objective truth can be perceived very differently by different people involved. But the reason I am open for black mermaids and black hobbits is that mermaids and hobbits are fictional, so objective truth isn't an issue here. Much of human history does have objective truth to it, even if obviously some of that truth has been lost and is now unknown. If people want to argue whether Shakespeare was gay, they can do so, but the answer is probably that we will never know. We do know however what the skin color of nobility in England was during the Regency period; that makes a representation that directly contradicts that objective truth problematic, and at least requires some sort of warning label to tell people that this isn't historical truth that is being shown here. Human history *is* racist, humans have discriminated against other humans on the basis of their origin pretty much universally for as long as we have historic records of. That calls for the rather difficult approach of explaining not only how things were, but also why they were wrong; it would be wrong to take the easier way out and pretend that our past was one in which diversity was always universally welcomed.
But hey, that is far too much nuance for most of the people who are involved in the culture wars. It is so much easier to just classify every work of art as either woke or racist, and every critic of these works of art as respectively racist or woke. Because why would we need more than two opposing concepts to describe the totality of human history, human creativity, and human thought?