And the author’s essential contention is that the movie isn’t PC enough, in essence. That Paul should have been black, that the Fremen shouldn’t have borrowed so much from real-world desert cultures, and so on, because that’s the way Herbert wrote the book (and which the author describes as mistakes).
Am I off in thinking that this borders on the parodic? It just seems so… extra. Of all the criticisms of the movie that likely can be leveled against it, this seems to be both completely out of left field, as well as finding a problem where none really existed.
Is this an example of perhaps legitimately being too PC or woke?
I would say yes but the problem here is where to draw the line?
As with most opinions people have there is a continuum and it probably is a bell curve if we plotted it out with a few people on each extreme and most people somewhere in the middle(ish).
That said, I think that review is ridiculous. Either the author is out on the fringe or is a journalist trying to be “edgy” and “woke” and drum-up controversy and clicks. Her editors should have a talk with her (better yet, her editors should not have let that be published as it is).
I think your OP is an example of oversimplifying a complex analysis of this movie and its place within a larger context.
For example this is not “Paul should have been black”:
Take, for example, Villeneuve’s inability to envision anyone but the French-American actor Timothée Chalamet as Paul: “We were like, ‘who should play Paul?’ And we both said, ‘It’s Timothée Chalamet.’ It has to be Timothée … There was no plan B,” the director further recalled to Nerds of Color . But there’s no reason Paul had to be a white character, a casting decision that emphasizes the never-fully-subverted colonialist undertones of the story.
And this is a more complex thing than "there shouldn’t have been so much borrowing from real-world desert cultures.
Likewise, while Herbert used the language and culture of the Middle East as aesthetic inspiration, Villeneuve’s Dune veers uncomfortably close to Orientalism with its superficial borrowing of Islamic dress, language, prayer, and musical influences. There are no Middle Eastern actors in any of the principal roles, and while the cast is on the one hand impressively diverse, that “one-ethnicity-fits-all casting” — as critic Hanna Flint has put it for SyFy Wire — doesn’t absolve the film from the fact that it borrows from Arab Islamic culture without following through in its casting choices. Further, if the Fremen are to be ethnically diverse in their appearance — Zendaya, who is Black, plays the Fremen woman Chani, while Spanish actor Javier Bardem plays the tribal leader Stilgar — it gives even less credence to Villeneuve’s insistence that a white man had to play Paul.
And more importantly though I don’t know how big a thing this writer’s central tenet is or if it’s worth analyzing the movie in that light, but leaving it out when attempting to start a discussion about the piece is disingenuous.
However you feel about it, though, Dune is a complicated book. It’s this thorniness that’s allowed it to be co-opted by white supremacists and neo-Nazis like Richard Spencer, and “Villeneuve’s film adaptation [is] highly anticipated on white nationalist sites such as Counter-Currents and the Daily Stormer ,” according to Jordan S. Carroll, writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Their affection for the book depends on a wilfully selective interpretation:
Even without that context the analysis seems pretty middle of the road wokeism.
Anything can be too PC or woke for anyone. It’s just that everyone’s boundary is different. Some can tolerate only a little bit of wokeness. Some can tolerate a huge amount of it. But ultimately everyone will hit a breaking point.
My thinking is more that the author of the piece is ginning up outrage and a problem of wokenness where none actually exists. This isn’t questioning the original literary portrayal of the Oompa-Loompas as being some sort of black pygmies from Africa, or questioning the casting of a white actor to play a character of mixed or other race.
This is just finding a problem where one doesn’t necessarily exist, which is what I object to. Sure, there’s no reason Paul Atreides should be white, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t be either. Same for nearly every single other character in the novels, and in the latest adaptation, quite a few aren’t the usual northern European white people- Zendaya (Chani), Jason Momoa (Duncan Idaho), Javier Bardem (Stilgar), Dave Bautista(Rabban), Sharon Duncan-Brewster(Liet Kynes) and Oscar Isaac (Duke Leto Atreides) make that pretty obvious.
I think this is one of those things where we can’t just draw a line in the sand. We’ll have to judge things on a case-by-case basis and it’s likely we won’t all put the line down in the same place.
I’m curious. Did Villeneuve insist that a white man had to play Paul or did he insist on Chalamet?
The most common complaint I hear about Dune is that it’s a white savior story. I don’t really agree with that assessment, it’s not like we’re really given a lot of information about what “race” the Freeman are by 1960s American standards. But for a moment let’s say, yes, Dune is a prime example of the white savior trope. So what? Does it fundamentally change anything about the story?
And to make that claim requires you to ignore the argument being made. They specifically argued that it was a problem because the story has colonialist undertones. You could, of course, argue that Dune doesn’t have those undertones. Or that these undertones are not made worse by casting a white actor. Or many other arguments on the merits.
But, instead, you seem to be ignoring the actual argument being made in order to attack the person as being “too woke” and “ginning up outrage.” You go straight for the ad hominem.
The article is offering up a critique that the author clearly believes. Perhaps it is flawed, but calling him “too woke” or “too PC” doesn’t actually address those flaws. Those terms tend to be used as way to shortcut any actual debate on the merits of the arguments.
That’s why I would say the answer to the question in your title is “no.” Sure, there are arguments that many would call “woke” or “PC” that are genuinely flawed, but the flaw is not that they are “too woke” or “too PC,” and those terms do nothing to further the conversation on the actual (potential) issues.
Sure it’s possible for a viewpoint to be “too PC” or “too woke” to suit somebody’s personal opinions, and as noted by other posters, everybody’s going to have their own line where they consider that “wokeness” crosses the line into “too”.
But this part of the OP just strikes me as weird:
Did you just ignore this entire part of the review where the reviewer is describing a problem that does really exist?
Nobody is saying that enjoying the Dune books (which the reviewer is frank about “enjoying immensely” herself), or the new movie adaptation, makes you a racist or a fascist.
The review is just pointing out, with reason, that the original Dune story grew out of a mid-20th-century mindset that was steeped in assumptions about white European-descent protagonists and “exotic” “tribal” cultures, which has facilitated its appropriation by racists and fascists. A film adaptation that contradicted more of those assumptions could move beyond that mindset in interesting new ways.
You may not agree with that assessment, but I don’t see any constructive point to merely attempting to “cancel” it by pre-emptively declaring it “too PC” or “too woke”.
The book has been out for 55(ish) years. There is plenty written and critiqued about the book.
When a movie is coming out based on a book I do not want a re-hash of 50+ years of commentary on the book being fascist or racist or whatever. I want to know whether the movie was a good adaptation of the book it is based upon.
Sure the writer can and probably should mention aspects of the story so people who have not read the book can decide if they would like it. Not whether the director should “frustrate fascist readings.” I do not think that is the director’s job in this case.
I think most fans want a faithful adaptation of the book to the movie screen and not a director filtering it for fascist this or that. If you find the source material distasteful then don’t see the movie (e.g. I disliked Atlas Shrugged the book so I did not see the movie).
I’m not sure that its either. It is a race conscious commentary on the book and movie, pointing out her concerns with the racial narrative of the source material (which includes how it is being used as a polemic by white supremacists) and then lamenting that it wasn’t updated to reflect today’s understanding of racial sensitivity. She doesn’t say that this makes it a bad movie, or that people shouldn’t see it. She just provides some issues to think about.
This isn’t remotely what I think of when I think of too woke. Nothing is being canceled, no one is being called a racist, no online mob is being riled up. She’s just laying out her thoughts in an opinion piece.
To me, a review of the movie “Dune” a week or so before the movie comes out should be a review of the movie and not a critique of the source material. If a critique of the fascist underpinnings of “Dune” is what they want to do then they should clearly label it as such.
I’m also not really convinced on the whole fascist thing but then I am not a fascist and I am not current on what things they have co-opted.
We watched The Birth of a Nation in my American Culture course as undergraduates. But the instructor selected that movie because it was highly influential both culturally and artistically. We specifically went over how the director and white actors in blackface portrayed African Americans. I’m a little curious as to why Professor Shang didn’t provide any context for why he picked Laurence Olivier’s version of Othello.
Moving away from Dune for a moment there have been some ridiculous woke complaints about movies. There was some furor over Matt Damon’s casting in The Great Wall back in 2017 with accusations of portraying his character as a white savior and an example of a white actor taking a role that should go to an Asian actor. These criticism were made by people who didn’t know much about the story nor did they know, or perhaps they didn’t care, that the primary production company was Chinese and they wanted Damon for the role.
Yeah, I never quite understood that. I mean, if someone from anywhere else was to take Texan/Western stuff (cowboy boots, hats, starched jeans, etc…) and wear it in a way that wasn’t ridiculing or demeaning, I’d be flattered. I mean, in many ways it’s a huge compliment that they would find your native dress attractive enough to wear it themselves. I figure I have as much claim to it as anyone, being part of a family that’s been in Texas since shortly after independence and before statehood.
I do find it a bit amusing when this sort of stuff actually happens in the real world actually, but I would find it flattering if these guys wore this stuff out and about in normal life or to formal events. (I also think they’d be pretty well floored if they went to Fredericksburg and found what amounts to a little German town out north of San Antonio)
Well, that’s because in the Cult of Woke such complaints aren’t based on good intentions or intellectual consistency. They are tools used to manipulate by provoking a Pavlovian response in dangerous mobs, real and virtual, in order to silence others.
I just want to point out that the negative reaction wasn’t just because of the dress, it was because of the poses the girl was striking while wearing the dress.
And the initial social media comments weren’t from strangers that were offended by her dress, they were made by a fellow student that had a social history with the dress wearer.
I think it was a little bit of an overreaction but I think the story was generally misrepresented, as are many of these stories. No one really had a problem with a non-Asian selling bone broth (another high-profile tale of “woke), they had a problem with the names of the products, which made sexualized jokes of foreign words and phrases