Ten Gloriously Non-Woke Summer Movies
July 1st, 2020 | JH
I used to love the summer movie season.
Just as the leaves were starting to pop on the trees and the sunshine was getting longer and brighter after a typically long, cold Canadian winter, Hollywood would begin to release blockbuster after blockbuster filled with adventure, spectacle, laughs, scares and romance. As a kid growing up in the '80s, I had a front seat to the burgeoning summer movie season. It was a new concept that Jaws in 1975 had created, so the kinks weren’t totally worked out yet. Hollywood hadn’t streamlined their formulas and business models, so the studios were still at the mercy of creative talent that ruled the day.
With COVID-19 shutting down movie theatres and most summer movies being held back until next year; we will miss out on the 45-year tradition of summer movies.
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Since this is a website regarding politics and polemics, I thought I’d combine my movie love with Poletical-style conservatism and recommend revisiting some old summer movies that are not only nostalgically entertaining, but also gloriously non-woke and anti-politically correct.
1. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
This is the least loved of the Indiana Jones trilogy. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were at their creative zenith and this film pushed the envelope so severely that a whole new rating was invented… PG-13.
In this movie, Indiana Jones finds himself accidentally investigating a cult in India that is mining for the lost Sankara Stones. It’s high adventure and brutal horror combined into a fast-paced, exotic thrill ride of a movie that was one of the biggest blockbusters in the summer of 1984.
Even back then, the progressives criticized the film for it’s anti-feminism messaging in the character of high-maintenance showgirl Willie Scott. Kate Capshaw played the classic damsel in distress role without any sense of irony and her feminine hysterics are likely to annoy the Karens of 2020 more now than ever. (Watch for the bedroom exchange between Indiana and Willie in the palace for some very red-pilled education about male/female relations.)
The film was also criticized for racism. This was one entry in which Nazis weren’t the disposable villains and instead we see Indiana Jones killing Chinese gangsters and Indian cultists with abandon. The idea that a white American man can just show up to a foreign problem and use nothing but his fists and his wits in order to sort everything out is executed with no-nonsense verve and by modern standards looks almost designed to annoy leftists with criticisms of “white saviour” movie criticism.
This film was a throwback to the '30s pulp serials of that era, and it now also reflects a throwback to the '80s boomer era. The combination is so contrary to our modern era that it functions as a gloriously subversive piece of entertainment.
2. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
This movie was supposed to be a big summer smash in July of 1986, but audiences at the time weren’t ready for it. It has since gone on to become a cult classic.
Big Trouble in Little China is a wild, martial arts fantasy film with Kurt Russell playing the white saviour hero role. He does so with over-the-top John Wayne flavour, but the running gag is that Kurt Russell isn’t actually the hero of the story. He’s the comic relief side kick… but he just doesn’t know it. Audiences were so conditioned at the time to view the star of the movie as the traditional hero that they didn’t realize that they were watching a send up of the trope. You might think this was a conceit that makes this movie a pioneering woke film, but you’d be wrong. The movie has the confidence to laugh at itself and its conventions while embracing them at the same time.
Asians are depicted as heroes and villains…on their own terms, but this wasn’t appreciated in 1986. The film was blasted by Asian SJWs offended at the cliched and fantastic depiction of Asians. Most of this criticism was likely due to them not getting the meta-text of the film and upon further analysis as time has gone by, people, even the modern progressives… seem to get the joke.
This is a self-aware, pre-woke film that functions as a love letter to cheesy b-movie kung-fu fantasy genres of yesteryear and easily made this list.
3. Forrest Gump (1994)
I remember seeing this movie in June of 1994 and it was a sleeper hit for that summer. Hardly anyone was in the theatre when I saw it and then, a month later, it was the movie everyone was talking about.
It’s a bio-pic starring Tom Hanks about a slow-minded man named Forrest Gump. He comes of age from the 1960s to the early 1980s and finds himself involved with many historical touchstones along the way. He’s got a good heart and a lot of luck and just kind of glides through life while trying to do the right thing. Forrest succeeds by embracing timeless positive clichés and playing by the rules of the system.
The controversy over this film was his relationship with his childhood friend Jenny. Her life journey didn’t turn out the same way. She’s a symbol of the leftist '60s counter-cultural gone wrong. As the National Review put it… “Tom Hanks plays the title character, an amiable dunce who is far too smart to embrace the lethal values of the 1960s. The love of his life, wonderfully played by Robin Wright Penn, chooses a different path; she becomes a drug-addled hippie, with disastrous results.”
One little scene that stands out is an interaction between a Berkley, anti-war SJW and Forrest’s childhood friend Jenny. In a fit of rage, he begins physically assaulting her and Forrest puts an end to it quite quickly. In a later scene the SJW apologizes to her and blames his behaviour on the stress of being an anti-war activist… specifically citing his hatred of Lyndon Johnson. This is classic far-left activism ideology. “It’s the system… mannnn!”
Despite the heavy political symbolism, this movie is a light-hearted, feel good slice of Americana. The anti-progressive messaging stands in stark contrast to today’s themes.
4. Ghostbusters (1984)
This was the biggest comedy of all time and dominated the summer box office back in ’84. The film is ubiquitous on over-the-air television and has been available on Netflix for a long time, so even the most passive movie goer has likely seen it. If you haven’t, give it a look. The comedy stands up and the story is unique. It features Bill Murray at his finest and a supporting cast that was top of the line in comedy throughout the 1980s.
The conservatism in this film is subtle, but essays have been written about it for a while now. The villains of the piece aren’t just ghosts… they’re the government. Ghostbusters is a “going into business” story with EPA bureaucrat Walter Peck making things worse under the auspices of making things better. The mayor of New York is portrayed as feckless and calculating. It’s only the private sector Ghostbusters that can save the day.
"As a kid growing up in the 80s, I had a front seat to the burgeoning summer movie season."
Much of the Ghostbusters comedy is derived from subverting authority. This was a standard bearer for the Saturday Night Live comedians throughout the 80s. The boomer humour is about class and power and how to work within it to your own advantage.
Ghostbusters is very much a cultural product of the Reagan era and it’s a fun fantasy film to boot!
5. Red Dawn (1984)
Red Dawn came out in August in the summer of 1984. It was written and directed by one of Hollywood’s most explicitly right-wing mavericks at the time… John Milius. If you don’t know who John Milius is check out the documentary about him, the guy is hardcore.
Red Dawn came out during the last gasp of the Cold War and imagines an invasion of the United States by Russia and her allies from Cuba and Central America. A band of teenagers start a resistance calling themselves The Wolverines (their school team name) and take on the invaders in the name of freedom!
The violence was record breaking and liberal reviewers were disgusted by the jingoism of it all. The movie is raw and brutal and unapologetic. It’s anti-Communistic, Reagan-era bravado. The remake from a few years ago isn’t in the same league. In fact, if you want to see a huge contrast between old Hollywood and new Hollywood, just watch the remake and the original back to back and spot all the differences.
6. Sixteen Candles (1984)
For the longest time this was a fan favourite for women who grew up in the 1980’s. It features Molly Ringwald as a girl turning 16 and her busy family forgets to celebrate her birthday. There’s some high school romance and a school dance and a big party etc.etc. All the hallmarks of an '80s teen comedy.
Roughly ten years ago, people began to view the character of Long Duk Dong…a foreign exchange student…as wokefully “problematic”. His character is wildly stereotypical and played for slap-stick effect. A gong sound is even featured upon his every appearance. It’s done in a light-hearted manner, but I’ll even agree with the progressives a little with this depiction…it’s wildly racist, but not malicious. Does it matter? No. He’s a funny character and he transcends the depiction he’s given.
Sometime around the #MeToo hysteria started it was decided that the movie also depicted date rape. Molly Ringwald herself wrote a massive analysis of Sixteen Candles for The New Yorker, which is an enjoyable read, but it is indicative of the sort of modern mentality that watching classic movies offers a reprieve from. Anthony Michael Hall’s Farmer Ted nerd-character can hardly be construed as a rapist. The very fact that #MeToo feminism attempts to ret-con this film with this sensibility further undermines the movement’s nature.
It’s a silly, early John Hughes comedy and the lack of modern political concerns gives it an honesty and integrity that you no longer see with teen movies.
7. Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)
This is the third Die Hard film in the series and most people agree that it is the best one after the original. It kicked off the summer movie season back in 1995 and I remember going to a special preview screening of it about a week before it was released. It went on to become the biggest worldwide box office hit that year.
Die Hard With A Vengeance is timely in that it pairs up Sam Jackson (Zeus Carver) and Bruce Willis (John McClane) as unlikely partners during a terrorist attack in New York. This film was made only a couple of years after the L.A. riots in 1992 and the race relations tension between police and black people was worked into the script. At one-point Zeus even asks McClane if he was involved in the Rodney King beatings. The film kicks off with John McClane being forced by the film’s villains to walk through Harlem wearing a placard that says, “I hate niggers”. It’s unlikely you will ever see a scene like this open a mainstream summer blockbuster again.
Throughout the movie Sam Jackson has race at the forefront of his mind, but John McClane has bigger issues at stake. An example of one of their many exchanges…
McClane and Carver are arguing about how to solve a life-threatening problem.
John: I’ll put my foot up your ass, you dumb mother…
Zeus: Say it! Say it!
Zeus: You were going to call me a nigger, weren’t you?
John: No, I wasn’t!
Zeus: Yes, you were! What were you gonna call me?
John: Asshole! How’s that asshole!
The black victimhood status seeking is incessant, and it takes the journey of the entire film to reveal to Zeus that McClane is a white cop who isn’t racist. Throughout the pressures of killing real bad guys and stopping a gold heist, Zeus comes to put aside his own bigotry and learn that the whole world doesn’t operate through the prism of intersectionality. It’s a “moral of the story” that Hollywood discarded by 2008 and it would never be done this way again.
8. Predator (1987)
The original Predator is a classic and launched Arnold Schwarzenegger into the superstar status that few movie actors achieve. The story is simple…an invisible alien hunts it’s prey in the jungles of Guatemala…coincidentally the same location where a band of special forces military guys are rescuing kidnapped hostages.
One thing that stands out is just how unabashedly masculine the movie is. There’s no ironic hedging or hipster flourishes that undercut the drama. These guys are men and it doesn’t occur to them to apologize for it.
They are also a multicultural band of men and have no issue with it whatsoever. They are who they are…a band of brothers. There is no tension or conflict regarding race, religion or cultural differences. Everything is accepted as it is and never remarked upon.
It’s refreshing to see a serious movie with a silly premise pulled off in such a successful fashion. They just don’t make films like this anymore.
9. Rocky 4 (1985)
Rocky 4 ended the Cold War.
There… I said it. I’ve said it before, but it’s usually been as a joke. Go watch Rocky 4 and tell me that Rocky’s speech to the crowd at the end doesn’t move you.
“During this fight, I’ve seen a lot of changing, in the way you feel about me, and in the way I feel about you. In here, there were two guys killing each other, but I guess that’s better than twenty million. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!”
It might be a good idea to watch Rocky 1 through 3 in order to feel the impact of Rocky 4. Nevertheless, Rocky 4 stands on its own as a product of 1980’s cultural heroism at it’s zenith. The jingoism and clear-cut delineation between American freedom and Soviet slavery was cartoonish and simple, but it struck a chord with audiences around the world.
Zero woke politics in this thing. Rocky’s wife fails to support her husband’s decision to fight, but then comes to her senses and supports him, nonetheless. Rocky and Apollo extend their friendship without ever once acknowledging race. Communism is portrayed as corrupt, murderous and inhumane.
The whole thing is enormously cheesy as the entire Rocky (and now Creed) franchises have been known to be, but this film is an extra helping beyond measure.
10. The Dark Knight (2008)
The second in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is usually considered the best of the bunch. The trilogy is a very fully realized piece of work and despite many “think about it too hard and it doesn’t make sense” moments throughout, it stands as a great counter-culture masterpiece.
The second film of the trilogy showcases Heath Ledger as the Joker. And in this incarnation, he is a symbol of unreasonable violence and chaos. The entire film functions as a rebut to the slowly awakening woke culture at the time. Ledger’s Joker is a stand in for radical Islam. Bale’s Batman is a stand-in for George W. Bush. The entire film is a play on the War on Terror. Let me give some context…
By 2008 the War on Terror was being hotly debated. The trampling of individual civil rights in the name of safety and security was weighed against the reality of a violent madness that was a real threat to peace and prosperity. The position of The Dark Knight is that civil rights can and should be trampled in the name of protection, so long as the trampling is done by a man of high character and authority and not a fragile “system”.
Some key bits of dialogue in the film…
Bruce Wayne and his date Natascha, a ballerina from the Russian ballet are having dinner with District Attorney Harvey Dent and his date and colleague/ (Bruce Wayne crush) Rachel.
Natascha: No, come on – how could you want to raise children in a city like this…the kind of city that idolizes a masked vigilante?
Harvey Dent: Gotham’s proud of an ordinary man standing up for what’s right.
Natascha: Gotham needs heroes like you – elected officials, not a man who thinks he’s above the law.
Bruce Wayne: Exactly. Who appointed the Batman?
Harvey Dent: We did. All of us who stood by and let scum take control of our city.
Natascha: But this is a democracy, Harvey.
Harvey Dent: When their enemies were at the gate, the Romans would suspend democracy and appoint one man to protect the city. It wasn’t considered an honor. It was considered public service.
Rachel: And the last man they asked to protect the republic was named Caesar. He never gave up that power.
Harvey Dent: Well, I guess you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain…
The sensibilities of this film are very contrary to what we see today. It’s a plot-heavy, morally nuanced film that functions as a counterbalance to many tropes and clichés that movies of its kind have promoted in the past. It’s also one of the last of its kind. By the time this was released, movies that could make this list began to slowly die out. 2008 was the last good year.
I’m not suggesting these movies are necessarily great films or that all their sensibilities are perfect or celebratory simply due to their non-politically correct takes. It’s simply that since 2008 Hollywood has become progressively more progressive to the point that their woke instincts are destroying film franchises and ruining moviegoing experiences. Audiences are either explicitly watching left-wing propaganda or being exposed to increasingly ludicrous implicit left-wing standards.
Ghostbusters: Answer the Call in 2016 was the real kick-off to the new Hollywood. What had been brewing and bubbling as woke undercurrents in Hollywood since 2008 was fully realized in a reboot of Ghostbusters featuring an all female cast in which all the male characters were dumb. It was a bizarre third-wave feminist approach that ruined the movie and epitomized “Get woke, go broke”. Apparently, it lost $125 million for Sony Pictures, but the culture of wokeness continues unabated.
Woke Star Wars has pretty much ruined the franchise, and girl-power Terminator: Dark Fate has hopefully ended that one. Movie after movie, television series after television series… explicit and implicit politically correct wokeness is asserting itself in heavier and heavier doses. There is still content for traditional or conservative-minded people to enjoy, but it’s becoming more fringe. As the default of our culture becomes more and more woke, the types of content conservatives appreciate requires more searching and awareness in order to discover. If any great discoveries are made Poletical will try to inform you about it.
In the meantime, here is a list of some old summer movies to discover (or re-discover) that are free of woke sensibilities. So if you have a rainy day or an early evening, make some popcorn, pour a glass of something (mixed with something else) and watch how things used to be done in the good old days when the world was less insane and our entertainment didn’t expect us to hate ourselves.
© 2020 Poletical