The Double-Edged Sword of Cultures Time Delay
As consumers when we shop for our food we understand where it comes from and the process it took to get to the grocery store. It makes sense that if the produce was freshly harvested (especially if you shop at a farmer’s market), the fresh meat and vegetables we buy are, well, fresh. For dry or canned food, we understand it is not fresh and most of us don’t even think about when the food was produced. Still, we understand that it was produced at some point.
Why do we treat mainstream culture as if it is the former, as though it is freshly produced?
A painting may have been recently made, and there was a time, long ago, when musical albums took only weeks to record and a few months later they would be available at the music store. But today, especially when it comes to mainstream cultures such as films and TV series, these products take years to conceive, produce, put together, and be released. Oftentimes an additional year may pass between the completion of a film before it is released, mostly due to the cycle of seasons or release windows.
On June 10th, 2022, Matthew J. Peterson, founder of the American Mind and the New Founding, tweeted his experience of the newly released (May 27, 2022) Top Gun: Maverick (TG:M), and the range of replies to his tweets perfectly encapsulate the question above.
The apparent lack of overtly woke ideology in this film was hailed by many who replied that this was a sign of the decline of woke influence in Hollywood, that studio executives were finally getting back in touch with common sense, or that things were starting to move in that direction.
From the looks of it, and this is not the only example, these folks fell into a trap. They thought this piece of culture was somehow created yesterday, with the purpose to counter the current narrative.
Let me dispel this notion.
The development of TG:M started in 2010 when Paramount made offers to Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer, the director, and producer of the first Top Gun movie. By 2012, the development was so advanced that Scott had a finished script in hand and began scouting locations with Cruise.
Unfortunately, Scott took his own life later that year, but the development went on as multiple writers contributed to the screenplay in the following years. Production began in May 2018, and principal photography was done in April 2019.
Knowing this, how can one believe this film is in any way a response to current events?
Mainstream culture is a time capsule
Films and television shows as mainstream culture have an overall gestation period of at least two years, and as previously mentioned, their release is often further delayed due to marketing considerations. So when you watch a newly-released film and you find it pushing woke ideology and its cultural claims and narratives, this wokeness is a reflection of the creator’s ideology, activist mindset and political outlook from 2-3 years ago. It is essentially “old woke”.
Thus, mainstream cultural items are ideological time-capsules, where creators and artists pour in their hopes and dreams into their work, knowing full well they will have an impact a few years down the road.
Take for instance the show Upload, which was released on Amazon Prime on May 1, 2020. The show was ordered by Amazon in 2017, green lit in January 2018, and production took place in the Spring of 2019. Right into the introduction of the first episode we see this shot:
Perhaps this poster was a last minute idea from the production designer, or perhaps it was baked in the script, who knows. Think about this shot, the show is set in 2033, and this poster commemorates a past election, and yet, it was conceived in 2018, two years before the show aired.
Since it aired in May 2020 and Harris became VP the following November, this is quite the prediction, not to mention this ticket can happen in 2024. Assuming this poster had an impact on the 2020 election is far-fetched, but the synchronicity is astonishing regardless, and a clear testament of the creators political and ideological leanings.
A few Tweeters who replied to Matthew’s Peterson’s post about the new Top Gun movie, mentioned the pristine diversity in the cast of TG:M, as if all the boxes were checked. That checklist may have been created and used as far back as 2017, when casting occurred. Perhaps TG:M is not overtly woke on screen, but it appears that Paramount injected their DEI framework (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) into the process from the get-go.
The double-edged power of time delay
We all have films, books, and songs that had a profound impact on our lives at one point or another. The power of culture is undeniable, on individuals as well as society at large. This is a deep emotional influence as culture lets all of us face our problems and reality through the eyes of characters, bringing a kind of proxy objectivity, by enabling us to project our struggles and aspirations onto them, or recognize human challenges reflected by them. This is a power of tremendous potential.
Mel Gibson spent a decade of his life trying to get The Passion of the Christ going. After years of pitching it to no avail, he decided to fund it himself and released it in 2004. Now imagine if you are a Christian who has had doubts about your faith for awhile and then you watch this film. Let’s suppose this film had a profound impact on you and completely rekindled your faith. This film was ten years in the making, what affects the viewer, watching it in the theater, is a piece of culture that’s conception is essentially 10-years past.
Unfortunately, the power of culture is a double-edged sword.
Now suppose you are woke and your faith in its dogma is waning. One Saturday night, you turn on Netflix, and you elect to watch a film which turns out to be woke and, just like the previous example, it re-indoctrinates your faith in your beliefs. You may not be aware of the cultural time-delay phenomenon, but, given the times we now live in, you believe this film was made for you and you watched it at precisely at the right point in time.
Again, that's “old woke” influencing and reaffirming your ideological beliefs, and perhaps you're not the only one experiencing this? Remember, this film may be available on Netflix for years to come, granting the “old woke” narratives the power to influence more people in the future.
What about the filmmakers, or production team? They have their film out there (doesn’t matter which platform), they are enjoying a successful career, which no doubt validates their beliefs. And now they are in the midst of preparing their next film, slated for release in 2024 or beyond, and they are injecting it with their latest woke narratives.
Will it repeat the cycle and influence the doubters as their previous one did, or worse, reinforce the true believers? Or will it promote even more extreme political views than their last film? What if the filmmakers are less woke now? What if they are tired of being contrived propagandists and just want to tell stories, to express themselves culturally in an honest, more natural way? If they’re writing their script today, it will likely be a few years before their new story is seen by viewing audiences.
Now, let’s say TG:M is a sign to come. If this is true, it will take a few years for us to see the cultural tide turning, but as long as studios and networks continue to enforce DEI frameworks we shouldn’t expect too much in the way of improvement. It may be that Top Gun: Maverick was an anomaly, a cultural artifact from over a decade ago, and the personal influence of a megastar like Tom Cruise was enough to make a movie without having to bend a knee to the mandarins and commissars of the DEI bureaucracy.
Or perhaps the movie’s success will serve as a reminder to studios, networks, producers, directors and creators, that contrived ideological propaganda is fake culture, and the public eventually grows tired of being treated like sheep and cattle.
Either way, there are numerous film and television scripts working their way through a process to eventually be produced. So, always keep the cultural time-delay in mind when you consume mainstream culture because, when it comes to the ideological political propaganda of our time, you are already witnessing “old woke”, which has already become entrenched in the cultural establishment, and if you feel things are really woke now, wait until you see what they have in store for us in the future.
The occasional non-woke story might just be a sign of a project that took so long to produce, it was created before woke ideology took over our cultural institutions. Or it could be a sign of cracks appearing in woke hegemony, that people are growing tired of being preached at and propagandized by identity politics.
If so, we are still a ways from being out of the woods of woke ideology. But if we want to restore cultural freedom, and free expression to our cultural industries and creative culture, the best thing we can do now is vote with our money, and purchase and support culture made by free-thinkers.
If we want to take back cultural freedom for everyone, we need to support the success of free cultural expression by supporting non-woke creative projects, and sustain that support through the multi-year process from conception to release. It isn’t impossible, it isn’t rocket science, it just takes a commitment to free expression and a little patience.