Today: Apr 21, 2024

Woke has lost all meaning – OPINION

Ali FernandFeatures Editor

If you have been on social media lately, you probably have seen someone complaining about something becoming “woke.” This is a term that has been used for years typically by younger progressive groups. It simply was used to describe someone who is aware of social issues. I remember seeing and using this word since I was in high school. It was simple and even became a running joke in left-wing circles. 

Now the word has been totally overused by right-wing pundits. When the trailer for the live action “The Little Mermaid” was released, we saw singer and actress Chloe Bailey as Ariel teasing the classic “Part of Your World.” When I saw the trailer, I thought that it just looked bland and was not particularly excited for another Disney remake. However, right-wingers felt outraged about how they made The Little Mermaid “woke”. I immediately knew what they meant by this. They were mad that a movie once starting a fake cartoon mermaid who was white is now being portrayed by a black actress. 

I have quite a few criticisms of this. First, this has been an issue for the past couple of years any time a black actor plays a character who has been typically portrayed as white. I once had a conversation with someone about Zendaya as MJ in the recent Spider-Man trilogies. They said that they agreed with the criticisms that Zendaya did not look enough like MJ in the comics or other adaptations of Spider-Man. I immediately called this out because it was quite dumb to want a perfect adaptation of a comic for the movies and the comment was just racist. They then tried to walk back by saying that they just wished they gave her red hair in the movies.  

This brings me back to The Little Mermaid because in this adaptation, Chloe Bailey’s Ariel has red hair just like the original cartoon. You would think this would have fixed the criticisms I have noticed in past instances. However, people are still mad that she does not look like the original. So, I am left to conclude that people are mad about this adaptation because she is black.  

Anything involving a person of color is immediately coined “woke” by right-wingers. Though this also happens with women and queer people. The most ridiculous instance I have seen is the now famous Tucker Carlson segment about “woke M&Ms.” Now this segment is hilarious but knowing that millions of people watch him and take him seriously makes this concerning. He has claimed that the M&Ms are woke because they removed the high heels from one of the female M&Ms. This is hilarious because he was just mad that a fictional piece of candy was no longer attractive to him. He revisited this by talking about plus sized lesbian M&Ms. It seems ridiculous, but people genuinely believe this is the downfall of society.  

This woke panic is once again displaying American politics and its focus on “culture war” issues. Specifically, conservatives hyperfocus on social issues, pinning grievances that they have onto minorities. We are seeing this right now with trans people. Legislation is being passed to make their existence difficult with the justification being to protect children and women’s sports.  

However, all of this means nothing. Getting mad at the existence of trans people, queer people, women, and people of color will never fix any of the genuine problems being observed. Complaining about a black character is not going to make Disney remakes good. Complaining about trans people is not going to solve issues regarding the safety of children. Complaining about women is not going to solve whatever men think women are doing to them. These are simply vulnerable scapegoats to blame the world’s problems on when the issues being observed go much deeper than something being woke. 

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