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Hollywood movies often take great pains to recreate the past, from precise period costumes to the minute details that make history come to life.
Lately, though, woke storytellers are more interested in era-shattering diversity measures than letting us escape into the history books.
The famed “Hamilton” musical got creative, using diverse casting to make a statement about the nation’s founding and its unfulfilled promise. Now, TV shows and movies routinely embrace diverse casting choices and woke platitudes that fly in the face of historical accuracy.
The 2022 comic mystery “See How They Run” features an interracial couple in a story set in the 1950s. Such couples were certainly rare at the time due to chronic racism.
We’ve come a long way since then, thank goodness, and while interracial couples are commonplace today they weren’t decades ago. Plus, the on-screen couple in question (Reece Shearsmith, Pippa Bennett-Warner) were having an affair, so they’d be even more interested in drawing less attention to their connection.
So why cast a black actress like Bennett-Warner in the role? Diversity! (Even though it takes us out of the time period in question).
Later, the head of police says that women will be the future of the police force. This is 1953, mind you, a time when such a progressive bon mot was rather unlikely.
Another example? The 2021 charmer “Jungle Cruise.” Dwayne Johnson plays a burly (what else?) captain trying to steer Emily Blunt through dangerous waters. That film took place in the early 1900s, a time when the culture didn’t look kindly on gay people.
Tragic, but true.
Yet when a supporting character, played by Jack Whitehall, tells Johnson’s character that he’s gay, the rugged seaman salutes the news by raising a glass to his bravery.
The most recent example is downright hilarious.
Paramount+ extends the “Grease” franchise with “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies.” The new series follows the feisty gals showcased in the 1978 film. The era, of course, is the 1950s, complete with greasers and other callbacks from that decade.
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John immortalized the songs and sights from the hit movie musical. Now, it’s time to meet the Pink Ladies who gave way to Stockard Channing, Didi Conn and Jamie Donnelly.
The musical series, set four years before the events in “Grease,” plays out like a high school story staged last week.
The Daily Mail shared details of the new show.
Family favorite tunes will be re-sung alongside new musical numbers including one about white supremacy, while the 1950s student population at Rydell High School will be re-filled with a varied mix of LGBT and black high schoolers unseen in the 1978 hit.
Fox News shares more about the “update.”
Its stated purpose is to explore “sexual orientation, gender expression and racial identity.”
CNN, naturally, cheered the new series’ perspective.
Audiences should be given a chance to absorb the series’ resurrection of the show’s original setting and narrative about the mid-20th-century ahead of the rise of feminism. Especially in the wake of reproductive rights being rolled back, this production is as revelatory for audiences who watched “Grease” in the theater as those just discovering why “Grease” is forever the word.
Creativity always matters. Storytellers shouldn’t be restricted to defined narratives along the way. The “Hamilton” example proves it, as does the stand-out performance by Rege-Jean Page in the first season of “Bridgerton.” Page’s character is a mixed-race figure, and his career-defining turn, plus the tale’s romantic sweep, made the choice a winner.
Making arbitrary decisions to woke-ify stories, not to enhance the film or show but to score Identity Politics points, is yet another sorry sign of the times.
Christian Toto is an award-winning film critic, journalist and founder of HollywoodInToto.com, the Right Take on Entertainment. He’s the author of “Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost Its Soul” and a lifelong Yankees fan. Toto lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, two sons and too many chickens.
Follow Christian on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HollywoodInToto
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