The United States faces many problems, such as collapsing banks, closing hospitals, and radioactive waste contaminating elementary schools. While there are people trying to solve these problems, many politicians and pundits are focused on culture war battles over what often seem to be imaginary problems. While it is easy to lose track of the current battles of the culture war, I think there is still a war on woke and pugilism against pronouns.

While a rational person might respond to this with outrage that so much effort is being wasted when so many real problems exist, it is rational for the right to focus on these fights rather than on solving actual problems. Solving real problems is usually hard and fighting made up fights is easy. Also, seriously addressing the real problems most American face would risk the ire of their financial backers, rejection by their base, and put them at odds with their professed ideology.

While I thought that the right had largely moved on from the fight over pronouns, it turns out that I was wrong. On April 9, 2024 the governor of Idaho signed a law forbidding teachers from referring to a student by a name or pronoun that doesn’t align with their birth sex, unless the parents consent. So, the pronoun war continues, at least until the right needs to rebrand the fight.

While the pronoun war is largely a conflict manufactured by the right using a straw man and nut picking (treating the most extreme or unusual members of a group as representative of the group), there is a tiny bit of truth buried deep under all the hyperbole. There are some cases in which people do appear to be acting in extreme ways about pronoun usage and these can be weaponized to “argue” that the left is looney about pronouns. But, of course, this is fallacious reasoning. At best, it establishes that a few people exist who appear to be acting in extreme ways about pronoun usage. Pronouns are, of course, also linked to the culture war over gender.

To be fair, some people can seem to be engaged in pompous virtue signaling about pronouns and this can be annoying. This is analogous to the stereotype of vegans or people who do cross-fit annoyingly telling everyone. Posturing is annoying. But tolerating annoying behavior by having a proportional response is part of being an adult. As such, the right thing to do is politely tolerate such mild virtue signaling. But what about cases in which a person is serious (and not just virtue signaling) about their pronouns? My view of this is shaped by the “Mikey Likes It” commercial for Life cereal.

While my name is “Michael” I usually go by “Mike.” But, as you have probably guessed, people have called me “Mikey.” I do not like that. This is because when people use “Mikey” they have usually been trying to insult or provoke me. I respond by politely saying that I do not go by “Mikey. If they keep pushing it, it just becomes ever more evident they are doing it to provoke me. People have said they do not understand why I am taking offense at being called “Mikey” and even say that they can call me whatever they want. The pronoun wars reminded me of how much I disliked being called “Mikey” by people trying to mess with me when I was younger.

Looked at philosophically, my view is that my name is my name and I have the right to decide what name I will respond to. It is not up to other people to decide. This is especially true when they are misnaming me with malicious intent and are trying to insult or provoke me. While I don’t think this is a serious offense, it is still a hostile action, motivated by malice or cruelty.

When people insist that they be called by their chosen pronouns, I get it—I think of people trying to insult or provoke me by calling me “Mikey.” Their pronouns belong to them and thus they have the right to refuse to respond to pronouns they do not accept. People attempting to impose pronouns on them are most likely trying to insult them, be cruel, or provoke them—and hence are to be condemned in their misdeeds. But wait, someone might say, isn’t forcing people to accept your pronouns forcing them to accept your values?

When made in good faith, there is an interesting issue here of whether accepting a person’s pronouns entails accepting a specific value system about identity. To use an analogy, if I accept that King Charles should be called “King Charles”, would I thus be embracing the values system behind the British monarchy? On the face of it, I would just be accepting that that is what the British call him rather than accepting a political theory. But it could be argued that using the word “king” entails accepting that he really is a king and perhaps even that his kingship is legitimate.

On the one hand, it can be argued that expecting people to use one’s preferred pronouns is like me expecting people to call me “Mike” rather than “Mikey.” I am not forcing people who believe that “Mikey” is correct to adopt my world view about my name; I just expect them to respect my name when they talk to me. If this is too much for them, they can just call me “Michael.” Likewise, if a person has “they” as their pronoun, no one is forced to accept whatever world view might lie behind that choice—the other person can either use “they” or avoid pronouns if they have a sincere commitment against using pronouns in ways they do not want to use them.

On the other hand, one could argue that using a person’s preferred pronouns is to endorse or at least tolerate certain values. For example, a person might use “she/her” and someone talking to them might have a conceptual scheme in which that person is a “he/him.” As such, if they use “she/her”, then they would be respecting the other person’s pronoun choice at the expense of their own professed belief. Likewise, if a person had a sincere belief that “Mikey” is the correct short form of “Michael” then they would be respecting my choice at the expense of their own professed belief. Going back to the king example, it could be argued that referring to Charles as King Charles is to accept that he is a legitimate king and perhaps to endorse monarchy.

As another example, imagine that Sally is divorced and changed her name from Mrs. Sally Jones back to Ms. Sally Smith. Now, suppose Sally is talking to Ted at the DMV.  Ted sincerely does not believe in divorce, he believes a married woman must go by “Mrs.”, and that a woman must take her husband’s name. Sally is trying to get a new driver’s license as Ms. Sally Smith. Because of Ted’s beliefs about marriage, he refuses to refer to her as “Ms. Sally Smith” and refuses to issue her a new driver’s license.

His belief is profound and sincere (and based on his religion, if you’d like to add that), but it would be absurd to say that he has the right to refuse to accept her choice because he has a different conception of marriage. Likewise, one could say it would be absurd for someone to just impose pronouns on people based on their conception of proper pronoun use. Even if this is based on sincere beliefs. After all, it is not Ted’s beliefs that should decide how Sally refers to herself.

A person could be both respectful of the other person and act in accord with their beliefs by not using pronouns. If the person asked to use pronouns they disagree with sees it as an imposition, then they would need to accept that applying pronouns to a person who disagrees with them would also be an imposition. Consistency would require that they do not impose on others if they would not wish to be imposed upon themselves.

In closing, I obviously don’t think that people should be able to use the right to choose their pronouns and name to engage in identity theft. I also do not think that people would identify themselves as attack helicopters or whatever—I say this to show that I am familiar with the rhetoric used in bad faith “debate” over this issue. It does no more harm to use the pronouns that people wish to use than it does to use the name they prefer. If it is asking too much to do this, then the easy fix is to simply not use pronouns.

Smoking ZeppelinThanks to the endless culture war, those who want to keep up with the political language need to learn the definitions and re-definitions of terms and phrases. Recent examples include “critical race theory”, “DEI” and “woke.” This essay focuses on “woke.”

For some folks on the right, the word “woke” seems to mean everything and nothing. An excellent example of this is the governor of my adopted state of Florida. What does DeSantis mean by the term? It seems to mean whatever he wants it to mean. But “woke” has a long history that predates the latest battles of the culture war.

In the beginning,  “woke” meant “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination.” Through use, the term gradually expanded to include broad areas of identity politics and social justice. While originally seen as a positive term, “woke” has been forcibly redefined in increasingly negative ways.

Around 2019, started to be used ironically to mock people for insincere performative activism and virtue signaling. The negative definition became “to be overly politically correct and police others’ words.” While somewhat vague, this definition has a set meaning. However, “woke” has been subjected to a rhetorical modification to make it mean everything and nothing. This can be traced back to Christopher Ruffo redefining “critical race theory” in March, 2021: “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.  We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

It is notable that he did this in public, on Twitter (now X) and you can still see the tweet (assuming Musk has not destroyed X). He told everyone he was presenting disinformation about CRT without any concern that this would undercut his efforts. This seems to imply he thinks that his audience is in on this dishonest redefinition. This is like a con artist Tweeting that they are running a con; this only makes sense if they think the marks do not care or will happily go along with it.

What Ruffo did is create a Balloon Man. This is a variant of the Straw Man fallacy in which the target is redefined in an excessively broad or vague manner. This expanded definition, the Balloon Man, is taken to include a wide range of (usually) bad things. This Balloon Man is then attacked, and it is concluded that the original is defective on this basis. This Balloon Man redefinition of “critical race theory” proved successful but it was soon engulfed by the term “woke.” That is, critical race theory is usually now presented as but one example of what is “woke.”

This move could also be called creating a Zeppelin Man. Zeppelins are airships that contain multiple inflated cells, so they can be seen as being made of multiple balloons. As a rhetorical move or fallacy, this would be a matter of making a term that has been made into a Balloon Man part of another term whose meaning has also been redefined in an excessively broad or vague manner. A fallacy would occur when this Zeppelin Man is attacked to “prove” that the original is defective. For those who are aware that the term is now a Zeppelin, using it in this way is an act of bad faith. But it has numerous advantages, many of which arise because the vagueness of the definition also allows it to perform other rhetorical functions. Redefinition also involves other rhetorical techniques. This is all done to weaponize the term for political purposes.

A key part of the redefinition of “woke” involved the rhetorical device of demonizing. Demonizing is portraying the target as evil, corrupt, dangerous, or threatening.  This can be done in the usual three ways: selective demonizing, hyperbolic demonizing, or fictional demonizing. Selective demonizing is when some true negative fact about the target is focused on to the exclusion of other facts about the target.  Hyperbolic demonizing involves greatly exaggerating a negative fact about the target. Fictional demonizing is simply lying about the target. For example, “critical race theory” (which now falls under “woke”) originally referred to a law school level theory about the impact of race in the law. But, in addition to being made into a Balloon Man, it has also been demonized as something awful. Likewise for the other terms that now fall under “woke.”  The defense against demonizing is to critically examine such claims to see if they are plausible or not.

Some on the right have also been scapegoating wokeness by blaming it for problems. One example is the bizarre efforts of some conservatives to blame the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank on wokeness. As would be expected, no serious person gives this any credence since the bank collapsed for the usual reasons . Presumably this is intended to misdirect people from the real causes (a red herring) and to “prove” that wokeness is bad. Americans should feel both insulted and offended by this latest attempt at deceit. After all, even the slightest reflection on the matter would show that the idea that a major bank failed because of wokeness is absurd. As such, unless these people think that their base is onboard with their lies, they must think their base is ignorant and stupid.

Some of what is included under the redefinition of “woke” includes dog whistles. One version of the dog whistle is to use coded language such that its true (and usually controversial or problematic) meaning is understood by your intended audience but not understood by the general population. This is like how slang terms and technical terms work; you need to know the special meanings of the terms to understand what is being said. Another version of the dog whistle is a form of innuendo. A word or phrase is used to suggest or imply something (usually negative). If you do not know the special meanings or the intended implication, you are excluded, often intentionally so.  For example, “Critical Race Theory” has been assimilated into “woke” but the phrase is now a dog whistle.

Interestingly, the term “woke” itself functions as a dog whistle. Since anyone can technically be woke, someone using the term as a dog whistle has plausible deniability if they are called out. That is, they could claim that since a straight, white man can be “woke”, the term “woke” cannot be a racist dog whistle. In some cases, a person could be making this claim in good faith, thus providing cover for those making it in bad faith.

The dog whistle aspect of the redefinition is a critical part of weaponizing “woke.” After all, making something into a dog whistle means that:

 

  • Your fellows know what you mean, and they approve.
  • Your foes know what you mean, and they are triggered.
  • Critics can seem silly or crazy to “normies.”
  • In can have plausible deniability that “normies” will accept.
  • Can onramp “normies.”

 

The vagueness and demonizing enable the term “woke” to refer what could be called a universal enemy. This is a rhetorical technique of broadly defining something in negative ways so that it can serve as an enemy for almost anyone. If the universal enemy is successfully created, then the term can be effectively used to persuade people that something (or someone) is bad simply by applying the term. If pushed enough, this can also be a form of begging the question by “arguing” that something is bad by defining it as bad. If people see “woke” as whatever they think is bad and they think that something is woke, then they will think that it is bad with no proof needed. A defense against this technique is to recognize  that if “woke” just means “bad”, then it is effectively vacuous.

The vagueness of the redefinition of “woke” also allows for assimilation of anything that expresses criticism of “woke”, whether the critic agrees with the redefined term. For example, someone might create content that is critical of “woke” defined in terms of performative activism or virtue signaling. This person might believe that people should be alert to injustice and discrimination, but their content can simply be assimilated and used as “evidence” that “woke” is bad. One common tactic used to assimilate is headlining: using the title of something that seems to support what is being claimed.

The vagueness of the redefinition of “woke” allows it to function as a weasler—a rhetorical device that protects a claim by weakening it. Attacking such a vague definition is like attacking the fog with a stick—it is so diffuse that there is nothing solid to hit or engage with. If the critic does manage to have some success with one aspect of the term, the user of “woke” can simply move on to another aspect and claim victory because the critic cannot possibly engage everything that falls under such a broad redefinition. The defense against this is to recognize when the definition of a term is so vague as to be effectively without meaning. While pointing this out to the person using it in bad faith is unlikely to deter them, you would at least show that you have not been deceived by them.

In closing, the redefining and weaponization of “woke” is a clever move by the right in terms of crafting a rhetorical weapon to use in a campaign of deceit and division. However, polls show that most Americans have not accepted the redefinition of “woke” and see being woke as positive. While the use of “woke” seems to have dropped off from its peak, it is still employed. But, just as “political correctness” before it, the term will fade away and be replaced by a new term that just means “what the right does not like.”

Being nerdtastic by nature, my nerd sense picks up disturbances in nerd culture. One of the loudest types of disturbances is when people express outrage at gender and race swapping involving established characters. For example, when word that there would be a non-white Spider-Man, social media erupted with rage about wokeness. But are such criticisms automatically bad?

On the face of it, there can be reasonable criticisms of such swaps. One common criticism is that the swap is motivated by a desire to pander to a specific audience and this pandering should be condemned. A problem with this criticism is that while pandering could result in a worse work of art, pandering does not entail that the work is therefore bad from an aesthetic standpoint. An obvious problem with this criticism when it focused only on swapping is that what is labeled derogatorily as pandering is likely to be an attempt to appeal to a target audience. Those who bash works for pandering via swapping generally do not bash works that have white male characters (and actors) selected to appeal to a target audience. As a specific example, it would seem odd for most critics to bash the Top Gun movies for pandering to an easily identified target audience. And I certainly would not attack Top Gun for doing this. After all, if you want people to watch your films or read your books, you do need to appeal to your audience. Naturally, if efforts to appeal are done badly and harm the work, then this would be a reasonable criticism but this has no necessary connection to wokeness.

Another common criticism is that such swapping is the result of laziness and that new characters should be created instead of swapping existing characters. There is usually also the criticism that the swap is made to cash in on an existing intellectual property and not due to a good aesthetic reason, such as meaningfully exploring the swap. This criticism does have some bite but is more a criticism of the way capitalist media companies operate rather than proof that wokeness is killing art. Companies certainly engage in this practice, since they can churn out more content dressed in an established IP without the effort and risk of creating new characters. But to be fair, this does make good business sense. At least until the audiences become exhausted with the companies milking their IP. Once again, there is no necessary connection to wokeness.

A third common criticism takes us into the matter of aesthetic identity of fictional characters. In metaphysics, the problem of personal identity is the challenge of determining what (if anything) makes an entity the same person across time, distinct from all other people and things. This is a difficult problem because you need to work out the metaphysics of personhood and identity. In the case of aesthetic identity, the problem is a bit less daunting. For in-world identity of characters, this is settled by author fiat. For example, if a person is a soul in a fictional world, whatever body has that soul is the same character. But this does not settle the matter of aesthetic identity in the real world, which is the problem of sorting out what makes a character the same character. I think the easy and obvious answer is that aesthetic identity is a social identity: being the same character is a matter of the audience accepting the character as the same. But, of course, people can make good faith rational arguments about why people should or should not accept a character as being the same. As an example, Batman has changed over the years and there have been heated fights over the various actors portraying the character in the movies. But Batman is generally accepted as still being Batman, despite these variations. In the case of Batman, a gender-swap could probably be criticized in a good faith manner. After all, Batgirl and Batwoman are already established characters. In the case of Black Panther, swapping in a white or Asian person could be criticized because of the centrality of Black Panther’s blackness in the character. That is, a white Black Panther would not be the same character. That said, someone could make a good story looking at a female Batperson to explore what would be different if Bruce Wayne had been Betty Wayne or what impact having a white person as the Black Panther might change. In any case, valid aesthetic criticisms of swapping would seem to have no meaningful connection to wokeness or lack of wokeness.

I was a bit reluctant to voice my agreement with these criticisms since they are often used as dog whistles for racism and sexism. But they are used in this manner because they do have merit in their proper context. This raises the question of how you can discern the difference between a good faith criticism of swapping on aesthetic grounds as well as criticisms of capitalism motivating companies to make lazy efforts to milk their intellectual property and bigoted attacks on works using the swapping criticism as a dog whistle. This can be challenging, but there are often cases where the critics lay out their explicit sexism and racism.

 

A good example of this is the Battlestar Galactica (BSG) reboot. These days, some have gone as far as to claim that BSG was the last non-woke sci-fi series and now the Kara Thrace (Starbuck) character is well-liked and rarely attacked by the anti-woke folks. But back in the day, BSG was attacked for being a “social justice” show and Dirk Benedict, who played Starbuck in the original series, attacked the decision to cast a woman in the role of Starbuck. While this reboot aired in 2003, Benedict’s criticism will sound quite familiar today:

 

The best minds in the world of un-imagination doubled their intake of Double Soy Latte’s as they gathered in their smoke-free offices to curse the day that this chauvinistic Viper Pilot was allowed to be. But never under-estimate the power of the un-imaginative mind when it encounters an obstacle (character) it subconsciously loathes. ”Re-inspiration” struck. Starbuck would go the way of most men in today’s society. Starbuck would become “Stardoe.” What the Suits of yesteryear had been incapable of doing to Starbuck 25 years ago was accomplished quicker than you can say orchiectomy. Much quicker, as in, “Frak! Gonads Gone!”

 

And the word went out to all the Suits in all the smoke-free offices throughout the land of Un-imagination, “Starbuck is dead. Long live Stardoe!”

 

I’m not sure if a cigar in the mouth of Stardoe resonates in the same way it did in the mouth of Starbuck. Perhaps. Perhaps it “resonates” more. Perhaps that’s the point. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is this…

 

Women are from Venus. Men are from Mars. Hamlet does not scan as Hamletta. Nor does Hans Solo as Hans Sally. Faceman is not the same as Facewoman. Nor does a Stardoe a Starbuck make. Men hand out cigars. Women “hand out” babies. And thus the world for thousands of years has gone’ round.

 

 

While I disagree with what Benedict wrote, I do “respect” that fact that he did not hide behind dog whistles and openly presented his views of women. Someone could, of course, make a good faith criticism of the character change, since the original BSG had female Colonial Warriors, including Viper pilots such as Serina and hence there would seem to be nothing gained by the swap. But Benedict’s “criticism” is not made on aesthetic grounds, but on the grounds that the swap is part of a broader conspiracy to emasculate men and that, apparently, women should be limited to making babies and not piloting fighters. While anti-woke critics often appeal to “realism”, realism is against this sort of “biological realism.” In the BSG series, Battlestar Galactica is leading a refugee fleet of the last known human survivors of the Cylon attack. As such, humanity is in dire straits and needs everyone to participate in the fight. This situation is an even more extreme version of what happened in the real-world during WWII: women had to step into “traditional male” roles, such as factory work and even enter combat. This shows, beyond all reasonable doubt, that women can do such “men’s work” as well as men. Ironically, realism is on the side of “the woke” and this sort of attack is sexism and a denial of reality.

In closing, while there can be good faith criticisms about swapping, the claim that “wokeness” is killing art by forcing aesthetically bad swaps has no merit. There can be aesthetically bad swaps and swaps that can be justly criticized as lazy efforts to milk an IP but these do not arise from “wokeness.”  While some “anti-woke” critics might be operating in good faith, Benedict’s example illustrates what seems to drive much of the criticism: bigotry.

 

In America’s ongoing culture war, the right has largely embraced the idea that wokeness is a grave danger. While wokeness is seen as a general threat, there is a special focus on the damage that it is supposed to be doing to artistic media, such as movies and video games.

While The Barbie Movie did not fit the “go woke, go broke” narrative, Ben Shapiro claims to have “destroyed” the movie in a 43-minute review.  Given that the movie was a remarkable financial success that seems to have been sincerely enjoyed by millions of people, it is unclear what this destruction amounts to—but his review does serve as an example of the woke war and the movie is apparently a major battlefront in this war. Nerdrotic and the  Critical Drinker also provide examples of critics focused on wokeness on media. While some might be tempted to dismiss these criticisms as bait for a right-wing grift, I will consider the hypothesis that wokeness is causing the claimed harms.

An obvious problem is that the right uses “woke” as a catch-all term for everything they dislike. This seems to be intentional, as shown by the redefinition of “critical race theory” by Christopher Rufo: “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think “critical race theory.” We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.” While this tactic is useful in right-wing politics, such a vague definition impedes addressing whether wokeness is damaging to media. After all, without having an adequate definition one cannot in good faith say whether it is causing the alleged harm. That said, a look at the criticisms of “woke” works reveals some common threads and these will serve as a focus for the discussion. But first, the matter of aesthetic judgment needs to be all to briefly addressed.

In Hume’s works on aesthetics, he notes that while tastes cannot be disputed, some aesthetic judgments are absurd and ridiculous. Roughly put, a person likes what they like and dislikes what they dislike, and it makes no sense to claim they are wrong. But claims about the quality and merits of works or art can be disputed rationally. While this dichotomy can be disputed, it does provide a good frame for the discussion.

If the critics who claim wokeness makes works of art bad (or worse) are merely expressing their dislike of the woke works, then they cannot be disputed. After all, if they do not like a movie because they think it is woke, then they do not like the movie and it would be absurd to try to dispute them. While one could try to convince them to reconsider, this is analogous to trying to argue someone into liking a food they detest. But if this is all there is to the claim that wokeness is making art bad, they are just telling people they dislike wokeness and this is not a meaningful criticism of the work itself, just as a child making a face and spitting out food is no meaningful criticism of the food—it is a mere expression of dislike. Naturally, this could also be performative in the hopes of imitation—that others will dislike the works they dislike. But this is also not criticism and does not show that wokeness is making artistic works bad beyond in any sense beyond their dislike. They could also simply be taking an ideological stance—woke art is “bad” because it is accused of expressing an ideology, they claim is bad. But this is not an aesthetic criticism of the work but of its alleged ideology. As such, a meaningful claim that wokeness makes art worse (as art) requires showing that the wokeness a work has a negative impact on its aesthetic qualities. There are those who do attempt to make this case.

Put in oversimplified terms, one causal argument is that wokeness causes art to be bad as art, or at least worse than it would be without the woke influence. When looking at the alleged causal connections, one must consider whether the wokeness is what makes a work of art bad. After all, a bad film set in London would presumably not be bad because it was set in London; but for other reasons-so a causal connection would be needed. That is, it needs to be the wokeness that causes the harm, not just the fact that a bad work happens to be woke. We would not say that comedy makes a work bad just because there are bad movies that contain comedy.

The causal claim cannot be that wokeness is a necessary condition for badness, since this would claim that if art is bad, then it is woke. There is an abundance of bad art that is not woke.  There does often seem to be the claim that wokeness is sufficient to make art bad, that if art is woke, then it must be bad. But someone with a more nuanced view could claim that the relation is a matter of causal influence—that a woke work is more likely to be bard art, although there could be good woke art. As nuance is usually lost in the culture wars, it does seem that most critics of wokeness see it as a sufficient condition for badness. But how does wokeness allegedly make art bad?

One general explanation is that the emphasis on ideology comes at the expense of the quality and aesthetic components of the work. What occurs, presumably, is that when those in charge must choose between making an ideological point and something that improves the aesthetic quality of a work, they will choose the ideological point. For example, the plot might contain forced and implausible events included to make a statement, even when doing so damages the story. As another example, a character arc might be abruptly terminated or abandoned because it would lead to a message contrary to the ideology that the work is intended to present.

On the face of it, this seems to be a good explanation of how “wokeness” could harm a movie. However, it is actually just a statement of the obvious: if aesthetic decisions are made on the basis of considerations outside of aesthetics, this will tend to lower the aesthetic quality of a work of art. While this would apply to a “woke” ideology, it would also apply to non-ideological concerns like costs or the desire to include product placements. For example, while an expensive special effect might make for a better movie, that effect might be cancelled due to the expense, thus making the work worse than it would have been.

It must also be pointed out that this applies to ideologies on the right. A good recent example is Lady Ballers. While “the left” has been critical of its anti-trans ideology and sexism, an analysis of the work as a work of art lays bare the problems that arise when ideology is chosen over aesthetic considerations.  Critics of God is Not Dead have also made similar points, noting that the antagonists are carboard caricatures created in service of the film’s message.

As such, the “anti-woke” critics are right that putting ideology over aesthetics can harm the aesthetics of a work; but this applies to all ideologies—even their own.  As such, while “woke” ideology could harm a work of art, this is not unique to “wokeness” but is simply a statement of the obvious fact that making aesthetic decisions based on non-aesthetic considerations can lower the aesthetic quality of a work. At best, the anti-woke critics could claim that some works might have been harmed by choosing ideology over aesthetic considerations—but this hardly shows that wokeness is ruining art. Rather, it just states the obvious: bad aesthetic decisions lead to bad works of art, regardless of whether the cause is ideological, budgetary, or a lack of talent.