‘In the Heights’, the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical about life in the Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City, was supposed to be ‘the movie of the summer’.
The film marketed itself as a celebration of diversity, and shamelessly boasted about its Latino writer (Miranda), Asian director (Jon Chu – ‘Crazy Rich Asians’) and minority cast.
The film was aggressively promoted by Warner Bros., and projected to rake in anywhere from $25 million to a staggering $50 million on its opening weekend, even though it was simultaneously being released on the streaming service HBO Max.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to blockbuster status… the movie embarrassingly underperformed. Despite rave reviews, it made a measly $11 million and came in second at the box office to ‘A Quiet Place II’ in its third week in theatres. It also fell flat on HBO Max.
Who would have thought that a rap-heavy musical that only has relentless diversity as its calling card – and which features no stars, but sells itself as the musical equivalent of a two hour, 22-minute neo-liberal lecture on immigration and the DREAM Act – wouldn’t attract hordes of regular people to theatres or HBO Max?
Welcome to life in the Hollywood bubble.
The most hysterical thing about the ‘In the Heights’ situation, though, is that in a delicious bit of irony, despite its supposed diversity bona fides, the film has come under attack from wokesters for its lack of ‘Afro-Latinx’ representation.
During an interview, Felice Leon of The Root challenged director Chu and cast members Melissa Barrera and Leslie Grace over the “white-passing” and “light-skinned” cast and the lack of “black Latinx” actors in featured roles, and her criticism attracted much attention and support on Twitter and the media.
What makes this all so funny is that Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose artistic talent at writing insipid raps and insidiously sappy tales is inversely proportional to his oversized ego, only became a cultural icon/pet of the establishment because he hungrily and wantonly embraced diversity, most notably with ‘Hamilton’.
The same is true of director Chu, a filmmaker of gargantuan limitations whose only claim to fame is that he made a derivative rom-com (‘Crazy Rich Asians’) but did it with an all-Asian cast.
With ‘In the Heights’, Warner Bros., Miranda and Chu were all trying to pander to the woke in order to line their pockets. So to see these proud politically correct poseurs squirm as they are hoisted by their own petard is, pardon the pun, in the heights of comedy.
As this glorious feast of woke cannibalism played out, Chu and Miranda both tried to assuage their attackers while barely concealing their own fury at being called before the tiny Torquemadas of Twitter as the newest woke inquisition raged.
Chu responded to the criticism by saying “…when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get people who were best for those roles…”. Uh-oh! That is a terribly ‘white’ answer and sounds an awful lot like embracing meritocracy and not diversity.
Melissa Barrera, who plays Vanessa in the film, also had an uncomfortably ‘white’ answer to the lack of dark-skinned cast members too. Barrera said, “In the audition process, which was a long audition process, there were a lot of Afro-Latinos there. A lot of darker-skinned people. They were looking for just the right people for the roles, for the person that embodied each character in the fullest extent…”
I’m sure that Mr Chu and Ms Barrera’s new-found touting of meritocracy will quickly transform into a vigorous playing of the diversity card the second it works to their advantage.
As for the Patron Saint of Diversity, Lin-Manuel Miranda, he originally replied to the uproar with a detached defiance saying, “it’s unfair to put any undue burden of representation on In the Heights”, which is woke-speak for ‘I am King of diversity: how dare you question me?!’
Of course, the mealy-mouthed Miranda later changed his tune when the tide against him continued to rise, writing an embarrassing Twitter tome which started by his stating that he wrote ‘In the Heights’ because he “didn’t feel seen” and ended with his tail firmly between his legs as he pledged “I’m dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community.”
The lessons in all of this nonsense are two-fold. First, the film is ‘get woke, go broke’ made manifest. Touting diversity instead of quality and entertainment as a main selling point for a movie, particularly a musical, is a sure-fire way to turn off regular people, especially older ones, who are usually the audience for this kind of project.
Secondly, a business plan that puts placating the woke on the top of its list is doomed to fail. ‘In the Heights’ is a corporate woke Frankenstein’s monster with its Latino writer, Asian director and minority cast, and it still wasn’t enough for the woke. Nothing will ever be enough for the woke.
And if you like this ‘woke eating their own’ story about ‘In the Heights’, wait until December. That’s when the paleolithic woke pandersaurus himself, Steven Spielberg, premieres his remake of the Latino-themed musical ‘West Side Story’. It’s guaranteed to be fervently woke but like ‘In the Heights’, not nearly woke enough to satiate the ever hungry woke beast.
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