Out of Frame


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Video essays that explore the intersection of art, culture, and big ideas written & produced by FEE's Director of Media, Sean W. Malone.

Woke Outrage: Great Marketing for Terrible Movies

November 19, 2020

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There’s something problematic we need to address… the very nature of things being “problematic” and how manufactured controversy is used to market otherwise mediocre cinema.

Nowhere is this more perfectly expressed than the recent HBO Max movie, ‘The Witches.’ In the film, a dark fantasy comedy based on a Roald Dahl novel, Anne Hathaway plays a witch with claw-hands and a few missing fingers. A few angry tweeters were angered that Hathaway’s character bears some resemblance to people with split-hand syndrome (yes, really).

Here’s the kicker, that film would have gotten very little attention if it weren’t for the “controversial” Hathaway hands. It’s unbearably boring, the characters are terrible, and the effects are garbage. By being outraged at something minute like this, we’re giving media and filmmakers undeserved attention.

But this isn’t to say we shouldn’t be sensitive or seek to correct historically racist and grotesque depictions of minorities and underrepresented backgrounds, like Mickey Rooney’s Japanese landlord character in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ It is only to say that we shouldn’t be upset at actors playing characters with different backgrounds in an artistic way, which is what acting is all about!

Marketers will only respond to what’s working, and if we continue to be perpetually aggrieved at the slightest things, we’ll be creating a system and incentive structure that might make the problem worse. Sometimes the best (and easiest) thing to do is to change the channel or not consume something we dislike. Instead of being outraged, we should simply choose not to take the bait.


Produced by Sean W. Malone
Written by Jen Maffessanti & Sean W. Malone
Edited by Paul Nelson
Asst. Edited by Jason Reinhardt


--The Witches ‘Controversy’--



--Other ‘Controversies’--





--Actors Playing Different Backgrounds--




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