Don’t bother tuning in to today’s woke tv

Fictional comfort shows today seem to be made up of more news than comfort. The media is trying way too hard to be ‘woke’.

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Ansley Morris

2021 seems to have been the year of spinoffs, but are they living up to their originals?

Ansley Morris, Associate Editor

One of the defining hallmarks of the 21st century has been numerous groups fighting for equality and acceptance, whether it’s standing up against racism, speaking out for LGBTQ+ rights, increasing diversity in workplaces, and all points in between.

The media has played a huge role in both aiding and abetting in this process. Not only do we see these issues playing out in the news, but they have spilled over into the television shows we watch as well. So much so, in fact, that it feels like many popular shows out there are focusing more on trying to be ‘woke’ instead of on the actual plot and production itself.

The word “woke” can be defined as being alert to social injustices. And while it’s important to be aware and accepting, it’s being taken to an extreme in places where it isn’t needed. In shows such as the Gossip Girl spinoff series on HBO Max, the plot and engagement misfires in comparison to the original series, partly due to the fact that the show seems to be focused on checking all the right boxes in regard to wokeness. To me, it feels like the creators are injecting social injustices about race and sexuality for effect, and it’s not working out so well.

Die-hard fans of the original Gossip Girl series (such as myself) were ecstatic to tune into the spinoff but were most likely disappointed to discover the painfully flat, predictable, pandering plot in comparison to the drama-filled original. The original is filled with sometimes ridiculous but always engaging drama. The characters were compelling, there was crave-worthy fashion, and you’d always find a plot that keeps you coming back season after season.

The reboot is filled with tacky designer fashion and a lack of real tension between characters, leaving a void where the drama should be. The show has failed to bring intriguing plot and relatable character development to the screen, but it has certainly succeeded in appearing engaged in social justice.

One of the main plotlines follows the relationship between the main character, Julien, and her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Obie. In one episode they were participating in a protest that brings their extinguished flame back into the light. But, I couldn’t help but feel the plot was focused more on the protest than the actual drama of the human relationship between the characters.

For an episode or two after the protest, the fallout with the characters facing consequences from the company he was protesting continues, and it’s just as prevalent as any other plot development in the show when it shouldn’t have been. Sure, we see events like this protest happening in real life on the news, and while it was a good idea to integrate that into the plot, it shouldn’t have been as large of a part of the story as it was.

Equal representation of all races, genders, and sexualities is something that should be happening in media, but so is making what we’re watching actually feel real and interesting, especially in this era where we’re stuck at home with our screens. So, where’s the balance?

In a piece in Deadline, Caroline Frost reported that “A specially commissioned survey revealed that 62% of the viewing audience believes political correctness has gone too far.” Clearly, I’m not alone.

What we need is a more natural integration of these ideas instead of it feeling like they’re being thrown in our faces in tv shows. This creates a feeling that implies the people in media creating these shows automatically assume viewers don’t know what’s going on or are opposed to it when that’s not the reality.

The over-exaggeration of the representation of people who may not have had equal representation and acceptance in the past moves away from the goal of equal representation that we’re hoping for in the real world. In my view, the emphasis on minorities in these shows is actually counterproductive as the artificial portrayal continues to single them out instead of just a normal person like everyone else.

Our society is so influenced by what we see online and in the media, which is also why we’re so quick to judge a specific group or person. Frost’s article goes on to say, “The best thing to do is to present a range of views so someone can make their own judgment, to trust people to hear a range of perspectives and come to the one that rings most true with their own experience.”

I used to love taking a break from hours of homework or from a stressful day to sit down and watch an episode of one of my favorite shows, but now I feel like I’m sitting down to continue to watch essentially the same material I see on the news. What we need is for films and tv shows to provide an escape from the insanity of politics in the news, whether it’s funny comfort shows or cheesy teen dramas.

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