As the Left insists on forcing its sociopolitical ideas down everybody’s throats through various mediums including film, television, and art, James Baldwin’s essay, Everybody’s Protest Novel, is as relevant today as ever.
Penned in 1955, Baldwin’s essay takes aim at the famous protest novel, Native Son, written by his friend and former mentor, Richard Wright. Suffused with communist ideals, most of Native Son amounts to didactic slop, as Baldwin rightly points out.
Wright’s zeal to infest his work with overt political tropes effectively ruins the novel. Characters lack dimension and the plot stumbles toward the absurd. Most importantly, it’s bereft of any real sense of humanity. The novel reads more like a political pamphlet or a fictional exercise in communism than a piece of genuine literature.
“The failure of the protest novel lies in its rejection of life, the human being, the denial of his beauty, dread, power, in its insistence that it is his categorization which is real and cannot be transcended.”
Baldwin’s reductive, limiting notion of categorization is what the Left forcefully asserts on all of us these days. The decidedly superficial aspects of ourselves are what must inherently define us now according to the Left — be it our skin color, ethnicity, or sexual preference. We are stripped of the deeper, more essential qualities of our collective humanity.
Worse, these categories exist in a nebulous hierarchy. Only the most fringe are crowned to preside over the rest of us as gatekeepers of what is allowable, particularly in the arts. The evidence is increasingly clear.
GLAAD demands that 20 percent of series regulars on shows be from the LGBTQ community by 2025. The Bechdel testis now a common feminist metric to coerce filmmakers and novelists into artificially representing women in their works. The progressive pull of these groups in Hollywood and elsewhere is staggering in scope and continually evidenced by the films, shows, and novels being thrown at us ad nauseam.
Certainly, if any artist attempts to stray from these measures the specter of Cancel Culture looms over them. Rotten Tomatoes certainly tried to undermine Dave Chapelle’s recent comedy special, Sticks and Stones, by only allowing for negative reviews from supposed critics.
Baldwin’s essay foreshadows the nefarious impact such sociopolitical strictures like virtue signaling and Cancel Culture have not only on artistry but on truth and the very notion of freedom itself.
“Let us say, then, that truth…is meant to imply a devotion to the human being, his freedom and fulfillment; freedom which cannot be legislated…This is the prime concern, the frame of reference; it is not to be confused with…devotion to a Cause…Causes, as we know, are notoriously bloodthirsty.”
Of course, given the nature of higher education these days, it’s doubtful many are even aware of Baldwin’s eloquent and prescient essay. Over the last thirty years, pedagogy has given way to progressive demagoguery on college campuses all across America. Healthy critical thinking is at a premium in academia and beyond.
I’d be remiss though if I didn’t note some information about Baldwin himself. Not only was he a great, complex American writer, he was black. And gay. How about them apples, progressives?