In 2015, James Bartholomew coined the phrase "virtue signaling," the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one's good character. There was a time, not that long ago, when things were different, when the word virtue signified courage and fortitude. Once associated with decency and integrity, virtue is now a dirty word.
Bartholomew, clearly disillusioned by the vacuous nature of virtue signaling, wrote,
There was a time in the distant past when people thought you could only be virtuous by doing things: by helping the blind man across the road; looking after your elderly parents instead of dumping them in a home; staying in a not-wholly-perfect marriage for the sake of the children. These things involve effort and self-sacrifice. That sounds hard!
In 2019, minimal effort and maximum promotion go a long way to keeping one’s social capital balance topped up.
If in doubt, just look to Hollywood, a place where virtue signaling is actively encouraged and rewarded.
Over the last decade, according to a recent report published by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, women across the board — especially women of color — continue to be grossly sidelined in the movie industry. As Sheryl Oh writes, the Hollywood industry is “male and pale.” What’s the solution? The 4% challenge, of course, which was issued in January of this year and spearheaded by the Time’s Up movement.
The mission statement of the campaign is ostensibly simple: commit to working with more female directors and scriptwriters, especially women of color, within the next 18 months.
The “challenge” was initially accepted by directors Angela Robinson (Professor Marston and the Wonder Women) and Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), actress Amy Schumer (Trainwreck), producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson.
The myopia of such a “challenge” is as obvious as it is pernicious. How about working with the best people for the best job, regardless of sex or skin color? After all, the average moviegoer is paying to see quality, not some end product of diversity. Common sense, it seems, simply can’t compete with disingenuous “challenges.”
Again, if in doubt, just look at the recent drama surrounding the new Bond movie, Bond 25. Due for release in April of 2020, this will be Daniel Craig’s last outing as the iconic character. Wise call, Mr. Craig.
The new script appears to be catering to the #MeToo mob. According to various reports, the script writer, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, has decided to take a vastly different approach to the time-tested and much loved character. But don’t worry, folks, Waller-Bridge doesn’t want to change Bond. No, she merely wants to change how the James Bond franchise treats women. In other words, she wants to transform the character.
As Paulina Enck at The Federalist writes, "The iconic and evocative phrase 'Bond Girl' has allegedly been banned from set. The love interest from the previous film, played forgettably by Lea Seydoux, will return as Bond’s serious girlfriend.”
Yes, James Bond, a renowned lothario, is now in a serious relationship. Not only stripped of his bed hopping superpowers, Bond also finds himself stripped of his 007 moniker. Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch is now the proud owner of the illustrious code number. Again, no need to worry folks; Bond is still Bond. He’s just no longer 007 or a sex god, two things synonymous with the character. A bit like saying Superman, minus the cape and the ability to fly, is still Superman.
As Enck notes, Lynch’s casting is clearly “paving the way for a lefty’s dream and a Bond fan’s nightmare: a female-helmed James Bond.”
Slowly but surely, James Bond is being transformed into Jasmine Bond, a feminist vegan with a penchant for Nicholas Spark’s novels and long walks on the beach.
Not to be outdone by the team behind Bond 25, Marvel recently revealed its MCU Phase 4 plans for Black Widow, Thor, Doctor Strange and more at San Diego Comic-Con. One of the new movies announced included Thor: Love and Thunder, the fourth movie in the Thor series.
Unsurprisingly, Chris Hemsworth will reassume the role of Thor. Fans will also see Tessa Thompson reprise her role as the demi-goddess known as Valkyrie. Now, however, Marvel Studios have confirmed that Valkyrie will be the company’s first openly LGBTQ superhero.
In true virtue signaling style, Thor already passed on the mantle of King of New Asgard to Valkyrie in Avengers: Endgame.
Speaking at the recent Comic-Con, Thompson told the audience, "First of all, as new King [of Asgard], she needs to find her queen, so that will be her first order of business. She has some ideas. Keep you posted." Please do, Tessa.
Marvel’s move comes shortly after GLAAD, an American non-governmental media monitoring organization founded by LGBT people in the media, found a substantial increase in minority representation since 2017. The organization found that 18.2 percent of the 110 films distributed by major studios last year featured LGBTQ characters. That comes out to a total of 20 films, a bump from 2017 (12.8 percent, or 14 out of 109 films).
In a statement, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said that studios “are finally addressing the calls from LGBTQ people and allies around the world who want to see more diversity in films.”
Yes, but diversity appears to come at a cost. By stripping the likes of Thor and James Bond of their powers – or, in Me Too speak, their “toxic masculinity” – the movies lose their very essence. Moreover, such a move, especially with Bond, betrays the work of Ian Fleming, the character’s creator.
Instead of making insincere gestures, perhaps Hollywood needs to focus on creating better movies, replete with investable characters and rich storylines. If James Bond can be more or less erased, where does the madness end?