Why “Woke” Storytelling Falls Flat

Let’s be honest: Race relations in the United States are a dumpster fire. They’ve really always been a dumpster fire (which we didn’t start–thanks Billy Joel) and they’ll probably be a dumpster fire for years to come. Anyone who labors to put out the fire is pretty much doing a good thing. However, some people are running to the action with a bucket and some are bringing an eyedropper. Of so-called “woke” writing, the eyedropper seems to be the norm.

Now, before I start getting hate for being “anti-woke” or something, let’s be clear that being aware of social injustice, racism, classism, and other problems is a good thing. However, when people who’ve just tuned into these problems (and don’t really have a grasp of social systems theory to aid their understanding) try to write about them, it always ends up sucking. There’s a genuine quality to the writing of those who’ve actually lived in a world less fair to them than to others, a kind of reverse empathy that reaches the reader and pulls them into a character’s worldview shaped by the author’s multicultural experiences. Without that genuine quality, though, many readers feel that they are being scolded or lectured by the author, or the would-be-empathetic character comes across as whining and debased.

So, how can a writer actually convey their deepest held moral convictions in a genuine fashion? Simple–don’t. Don’t even try. Just write. What you truly believe will emerge in your writing. Your core values are innate and emerge unconsciously in your art. If you truly believe that the world could be a better place for everyone, then your beliefs will emerge as subtext. Attempts to engineer a worldview that one really doesn’t quite grasp always feel stilted or illusory. Write from your experience and strive to write well; if you write for the sake of beauty in writing, then the truth of your weltanschauung will emerge.

Writing from the soul requires training in the craft and art of writing. It’s not necessary to obtain a fancy degree in order to work on these, but it does require input from other qualified people. The value of a well-qualified critic can’t be overstated. Acquiring different perspectives on writing is a legitimately multicultural experience as every critic is allowed to voluntarily prioritize and reprioritize the domains that define them. The input acquired from others in the writing process serves as the lens of the audience and helps us to understand the basic truth of postmodernism (which has long since been lost, abused, trampled, spat upon, kicked, chewed up, spit out, re-devoured, regurgitated, sanctified, deified, vilified, blasphemed, and terrified with its politicization): nobody can see every possible context in which art exists. (And again, fuck you, Foucault, you bastardizing bastard)! So, getting good feedback from people versed in the art and craft of writing is a vital step in keeping true to your own moral worldview while finding resonance with others’.

The world has enough sanctimonious drivel in it, already. Writers should stay true to themselves and just strive to write well.

2 comments

  1. I find most ‘woke’ messages in media like movies or tv to be corny. George Romero made his living dead series with cultural messages in them but they didn’t appear as “agenda-driven drivel”. It’s in this shadowy message that a person can first enjoy the zombie mayhem and later, at a point in time, can realize the message the director was trying to give. It can make you appreciate the movie even more. I think when you want to make a story with a message containing, political or civil issues then it’s best to not let it overshadow the good shit about a film.

    I kind of had a big issue with Stranger Things season 3 and where the character Erin comes out of the closet to Steve. I don’t care about the gay shit but you don’t need to dedicate a scene fifteen fucking minutes of boring dialogue! Do it with class folks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. The scene was forced, the acting felt wooden, and it was unbelievable. It was also an example of the “lesbian as fap-fodder” trope that is popular in spec-fic TV. Admiral Caine and #6, anyone?

      Liked by 2 people

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