News and Analysis

The Pop-Culture Stories That Will Shape The Entertainment Industry in 2022

With the hopes that Covid would retreat and the world largely return to normal failing to pan out, 2021 proved to be another highly unstable year in entertainment. But viruses weren’t the only thing causing earthquakes throughout the industry. Several major stories over the last 12 months have the potential to shift the tectonic plates under Hollywood’s feet in ways we haven’t fully felt yet.

Here are the top five 2021 stories that will continue to cause 2022 aftershocks.

The Implosion of Time’s Up

Few cultural developments have managed to shift the balance of power in Hollywood as quickly and completely as the MeToo movement. Suddenly, the casting couch quid pro quo and predatory tactics that had been an accepted practice for decades were costing the most powerful studio executives in the business their jobs (and in some extreme cases, their freedom.)

Never mind that the movement grew so extreme comedian Aziz Ansari was raked over the coals for being a boorish date and TV host Chris Hardwick was ousted from the pop-culture site he founded based on the dubious word of a spurned ex-girlfriend. It was a crusade built on a righteous quest for female equality and justice. Until it wasn’t.

The revelation that Time’s Up, the MeToo group founded and supported by the world’s most famous actresses, was more committed to the Democrat party than protecting women from sexual harassment has unmasked Hollywood hypocrisy like few other stories before it. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shonda Rhimes, Eva Longoria, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, and numerous other A-listers said nothing when the news broke that top Time’s Up leaders compromised the group’s mission by helping to protect alleged predators like former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and major Democratic fundraiser Russell Simmons because they were political allies.

In fact, since the group’s entire board of directors resigned, the founding celebs have said very little on the subject of sexual harassment or Hollywood’s gender-based power imbalance.

On the surface, that hasn’t stopped recently accused men like “And Just Like That” star Chris Noth from losing gigs, but look closely and you’ll notice how measured his female co-stars were in their public statements about the allegations against him, saying only that they are “deeply saddened” and “support” the women who came forward. HBO, the streaming platform that made him Mr. Big, has said nothing at all.

It’s likewise probably not a coincidence that some of the men brought down by the MeToo movement, including James Franco and comedian Louis C.K., are starting to feel bold enough to address the accusations that had them sitting on the sidelines for the last few years.

That’s not to say that accusers won’t continue to come forward, but the verbal support they receive from corner offices and women in the spotlight will likely be far more subdued. And when they do speak, regular viewers at home will be much less likely to put any stock in their words.

Dave Chappelle, J.K. Rowling, and Gina Carano Mount Woke Resistance

From the implosion of “The Bachelor” franchise to Mike Richards’ short-lived tenure as “Jeopardy” host, the pattern of cancellation has largely held strong in recent years — target says or once said something that offends some privileged group, target issues groveling apology, target is banished from public eye despite mea culpas.

But in 2021 a few significant cracks in cancel-culture’s armor began to appear. One of the prime examples came in February when Disney famously fired actress Gina Carano from hit Star Wars series, “The Mandalorian.” Carano refused to follow the script of trying to preserve her career by begging forgiveness for sharing political opinions that differ from the majority of her industry. Instead, she immediately looked for alternative routes to success, announcing a partnership with The Daily Wire.

A few other, high-profile names joined Carano with their own private rebellions against wokeness’ iron grip on Hollywood. When a handful of trans employees and sympathetic allies at Netflix announced a walkout over comedian Dave Chappelle’s jokes in his special “The Closer,” many expected the legendary stand-up to offer some sort of conciliatory statement, if not an outright admission of guilt. Something along the lines of Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos’ comments that he “screwed up” by not acknowledging the “pain” trans viewers felt over the jokes would certainly have been the norm.

Instead, Chappelle doubled-down by immediately booking a new comedy tour with fellow iconoclast Joe Rogan and adding new bits to his latest set that further taunted the trans activists for their failed attempts to silence him. The five-time Emmy winner’s actions may have even emboldened Sarandos. Less than two months after Chappelle belligerently asked “am I cancelled or not,” Netflix included him on a new company-branded comedy tour.

Despite numerous attacks over the last year that included doxing her by revealing her home address on Twitter, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, too, shows no signs bowing to the mob. Though HBO declined to interview her for the 20th anniversary special celebrating the story and characters she created, she has refused to ap≥logize or backtrack from her belief that women are a real, biology-based class of people and that a man does not become a woman simply by saying so.

Rowling, of course, has what we might call forget-you money. But her example of courage, along with the few others in entertainment who refuse to bend the knee to woke enforcers, will embolden others to join them in the year ahead.

Spider-Man’s Rise and Eternals Fall

While there’s no question that Disney as a company tends to follow the cultural zeitgeist of the elite Left, the executive suite still cares very much about making money. Because of this, while the studio is happy to incorporate some woke themes into its products and workplace practices, it tries to walk the fine line of doing so without alienating mainstream audiences. Nowhere has this been more apparent than its treatment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

While we can only speculate what drives him, Marvel head Kevin Feige has made it clear that he wants much more LGBT “representation” in the next phase of the MCU, along with more storylines that parrot Left wing talking points about the United States being a nation hopelessly mired in systemic racism and toxic masculinity. Marvel’s success had been so resounding pre-Covid, Feige and the producers and writers working under him made it clear they felt they had the upper hand in the rumored power struggle over the issue with Disney CEO Bob Chapek. They’d won the right to go woke.

Except, once Feige was able to make the MCU as left-wing as he wanted, audiences began tuning out. The Marvel film promoted more on the basis of diversity and representation than any other, “Eternals,” tanked miserably at the box office, as did the Disney+ streaming show “Hawkeye” after several previous series like “Loki” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” were advertised on the basis of incorporating queer characters and racial justice themes.

Compare this with the overtly non-woke “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which is breaking pre-pandemic records and is Marvel’s first bona fide success since the pandemic struck.

The contrast between “No Way Home’s” performance and that of other recent Marvel films like “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” and “Eternals” will likely give Chapek and other leaders at Disney serious pause. Feige’s plans to form Phase Four of the MCU around lesser-known non-white, non-male, non-straight heroes (while race-, gender-, and sexuality-swapping characters in already established properties) could hit a roadblock going forward.

Streaming Stocks Stumble

Speaking of Disney, a related story that could have major implications for the streaming game in general was the company’s astonishingly poor financial performance in 2021.

After announcing in the fourth quarter of its last fiscal year that subscriptions for the Disney+ streaming platform fell far below expectations, hitting the slowest period since it launched, the stock fell precipitously from an all-time high early in the year. As the Motley Fool reported, the company’s share price is down “15% year to date, badly trailing the S&P 500’s gain of 26%.”

Other streaming giants like Netflix, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime also experienced a slow down in new subscribers as the industry has become more crowded and audiences seem less interested in binge-watching.

Streaming executives are pointing to Covid-related production delays, but if the trend continues, it will be hard not to blame the content, especially as Netflix managed to score a late-year boom thanks to the massive success of the Korean drama “Squid Game.”

For Disney, a lot will depend on how its upcoming 2022 slate of original series perform. As noted above, the Marvel-related shows it especially banked on to draw audiences haven’t performed as well of late. And time will tell whether the various Star Wars series remain as popular after the company’s poor treatment of a beloved star like Carano.

Netflix would seem like something of a model for how the Mouse House can right the ship. While the streaming game may have many more competitors now, the power players can still win if they offer products mainstream audiences want to watch, not the ones coastal elites think they should watch.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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