Charlie’s Angels, Elizabeth Banks, and the Righteous Stupidity of Woke Cinema

Hollywood hasn’t learned that “going woke” really does mean “going broke”.

he Beast of Creative Poverty rears its wretched head again as audiences are punished with yet another reboot of a reboot, this time in the form of Charlie’s Angels.

But not only is the film more evidence of the lack of artistic ingenuity in Hollywood; this film cares less about entertaining as wide an audience as possible, and more about forcing a simplistic woke message on the few people who watch it, waving its feminist freak flag a little too vigorously to compensate for mediocrity.

Let me begin by stating that there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a feminist or with feminism or progressive politics in general. But its relation to “wokeness” — the trend of obsessing over Social Justice and viewing everything through the lens of identity politics — is undeniable.

For the blissfully uninitiated, “wokeness” is a fad that’s championed by countless folks in academia, legislation, the media, the tech sector, and the entertainment industry, which means that much of the content we consume and interact with has been infected, to some extent, with a doctrine that celebrates victimhood as virtue and the collective as fundamental.

he film — directed and co-written by Elizabeth Banks, who also co-starred in it — is the third attempt to bring the story of three tough, tenacious female secret agents to the big screen, following two other films from 2000 and 2003, which were based on the hit 1970s TV show of the same name.

This version of the “Angels that belong to Charlie” has garnered some controversy since its release, not for its middling reviews, but for the numerous statements made by Banks regarding her movie and its flagrant womanist motives.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Banks states that she never set out to make a political film, that her original goal was to simply make an action film with women in the leads.

“I’m not making any grand statements. I happened to make an action movie about corporate malfeasance that also happens to star women and everyone’s like, ‘What a political statement!’ And I’m like, ‘Is it?’ If they were all men and it was the exact same story, it wouldn’t be very political, would it? I wanted to make a broader, appealing movie rather than something actually political.”

This is a genuinely admirable approach to making female-centric films; focus on the plot, character, and overall craft of filmmaking, and your audience won’t care about the gender of the lead.

And in an action film, there’s ample opportunity to tell a rousing story about women who are every bit as complex, flawed, funny, and tough as their male counterparts in the genre, and to transcend the stereotypes that the film industry frequently relegates to female characters (“the love interest”, “the damsel in distress”, “the girl who’s just looking for Mr. Right”, etc.) and still make it appealing to practically everyone.

“It was important to me to make a movie about women working together and supporting each other, and not make a movie about their romantic entanglements or their mother saying they don’t call enough. When I’m at work, I don’t talk about those things. I get on with my job. It felt important to do that for the Angels, to treat them with the respect their skill set demands.”

However, in that same interview, Banks completely undermines her original comments (something that the interviewer altogether failed to notice in her glowing opinion of Banks) when she flatly states that she loaded the film with “sneaky feminist ideas”.

“Little things, like, ‘Don’t forget to smile!’”

(This is a too-obvious reference to the contemporary feminist idea that telling women to smile is sexist.)

Instead of making female-led franchises the exception, Banks opted instead for the supposedly safe path of taking an existing property, giving it a modern polish, and delivering it to an audience that, it’s assumed, wanted this film to be made in the first place. If she wants female-led action movies to have the same allure as male-led action movies, Banks could’ve done better than give her leading ladies the stale leftovers from not one, but TWO bygone eras.

It should go without saying that women deserve their own franchises, but why not set out to prove that women can carry film series that aren’t cynical Hollywood cash grabs?

No, Banks is ostensibly content with the idea of female filmmakers being just as creatively bankrupt and lazy as male filmmakers, which, I suppose, in a weird way, is a win for feminism.

“You’ve had 37 Spider-Man movies and you’re not complaining! I think women are allowed to have one or two action franchises every 17 years — I feel totally fine with that.”

While her point that some long-running franchises are welcomed by the masses has some merit, there’s still no avoiding the awkward fact that audiences are generally pretty weary of the endless remakes, sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and other attempts to milk cash cows, much like Banks’ own Charlie’s Angels.

Which flopped.

Horribly.

Instead of reflecting on the possibility that her film just wasn’t what audiences wanted or focusing on what she could do better next time, Banks makes the dubious generalization that Charlie’s Angels’ failure is because men aren’t interested in watching female-led action movies, treating Charlie’s Angels as the great white hope of gynocentric cinema.

“Look, people have to buy tickets to this movie, too. This movie has to make money. If this movie doesn’t make money it reinforces a stereotype in Hollywood that men don’t go see women do action movies.”

This claim is hilariously false.

What about The Hunger Games, Divergent, Resident Evil, and Underworld franchises that all starred women in leading roles, collectively made hundreds of millions of dollars, and lasted for years? The original, and most lucrative, Alien and Terminator films? The latest Star Wars films?

If anything, her claim demonstrates an outright lack of consideration for the men (of which there are many) who favor quality storytelling over token casting and filmmaking-as-activism.

But don’t expect any hand-wringing or scripted apology from Banks for her crude pronouncement; it’s the woke fashion to blame men for the lack of female success in a given industry, you see.

She doubles down on this shit-brained assertion when referencing the recent critical and box office achievements of comic book films with women in the leads, like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel.

“They’ll go and see a comic book movie with Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel because that’s a male genre. So even though those are movies about women, they put them in the context of feeding the larger comic book world, so it’s all about, yes, you’re watching a Wonder Woman movie but we’re setting up three other characters or we’re setting up ‘Justice League.’”

But if Banks “knew” that men don’t watch female-led action movies, why did she make one in the first place? And what about all of those male-led action movies that tanked at the box office? Remember 47 Ronin? Neither does anyone else.

Banks, in true woke form, is eager to make clear that her goal in filmmaking is not about achieving artistic excellence or cultivating her latent originality, but merely putting more women in positions of influence and riches.

“…we need more women’s voices supported with money because that’s the power. The power is in the money.”

Such is the clarity of tunnel vision of the Cult of Wokeness, that rotten mongrel creed of good intentions, bad philosophy, and too much social media.

ut perhaps I’m too harsh on Ms. Banks.

Elizabeth Banks is certainly talented and ambitious, with a strong impulse to not settle for anything less than what her instincts and muse guide her to — a powerful combination characteristic of some of the greatest artists.

But that’s not the problem.

The problem is that she, like many top names in the film industry, adhere too fervently to the Cult of Wokeness, the dogma that prioritizes immutable characteristics like race, gender, sexuality, and others over character, talent, and background.

There’s a victimhood hierarchy that operates within wokeness, a pecking order in which members of oppressed groups compete for attention and the right to point to the bigotry directed at them by providing only the smallest fragment of evidence for it.

There are more male film directors than female directors? It’s probably because of sexism.

Not enough gay characters on that TV show? It’s probably because of homophobia.

Why aren’t there more autistic film producers? Ableism, that’s why.

Banks is in the business of making films, but by making everything about solving society’s ills, she abandons her post as an artist and takes up that of a propagandist; it’s not about the craft, it’s about the agenda. Again, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with holding the most hemorrhaging of bleeding heart liberal values, but by weaponizing her position to advance her political views, Banks’ work transforms from escapism into something to escape from, a gross bastardization of the final purpose of art.

Simon Kinberg — someone I respect as a producer, less so as a writer, and not at all as a director — had this to say when his female-led comic book action movie, Dark Phoenix, flopped with critics and audiences:

“It clearly is a movie that didn’t connect with audiences that didn’t see it, it didn’t connect enough with audiences that did see it. So that’s on me.”

Instead of blaming the audience or the industry, Kinberg owns up to his creative failure, demonstrating a modesty, grace, and wisdom that is lacking in the Hollywood devotees of woke ideology.

While it may be tempting to believe that the frustrating yarn of Elizabeth Banks and her Angels is only a rare case of a warped Weltanschauung gone amok, as someone who has his finger on the pulse of the culture war, I can confidently and soberly tell you that this is a mania that shows little sign of simmering down.

But that’s a rant for another time…

If you hate wokeness as much as I do, then check out my other articles tackling that very target:

I cover art, culture, film, comedy, creativity, books, and more at https://medium.com/the-reckless-muse

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