Glass Onion sparks ‘woke’ debate as Ben Shapiro takes aim at film’s politics

Eve Edwards

Following Ben Shapiro’s 17-post-long Twitter thread condemning Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, some viewers are curious to know about why some are dubbing the film ‘woke’.

WARNING: Minor spoilers from Glass Onion to be discussed throughout

“Glass Onion is actively bad. I will discuss first the actual writing of the movie followed by the politics of it. Both suck,” Shapiro wrote on Twitter after watching the film. Glass Onion, the second in the Knives Out series, premiered on Netflix on December 23, after a minor theatrical release.

As Ben Shapiro reflects on the politics and storytelling of Glass Onion, we take a look at how ‘wokeness’ is woven into the script.

Madelyn Cline as Whiskey and Dave Bautista as Duke stand on a port harbor in Mediterranean with luggage behind them
Cr. John Wilson/Netflix © 2022

Exploring the history of ‘woke’ leading up to Glass Onion

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who follows politics and media who has yet to come across the word ‘woke’.

The current political landscape in the United States is greatly influenced by the word. ‘Woke’ is currently used by the left-leaning to symbolize progressiveness, whereas it has been used by those on the political right as a condemnation. To say someone on the left is ‘woke’ is often seen as an insult, a synonym of a ‘snowflake’ in many ways.

Linguist and lexicographer Tony Thorne explains to the Independent that the phrases ‘woke’ and ‘stay woke’ began appearing in the 1940s in African American Vernacular English (AAVE). It “literally mean[s] becoming woken up or sensitized to issues of justice,” Thorne explains.

As ‘wokeness’ has become a well-known term on social media, some now are applying it to other industries such as film and music to assess how politics weaves into media.

Glass Onion centers on ‘woke’ and ‘anti-woke’ characters

It is apparent from the get-go that Glass Onion is a product of its time. Work started on the sequel in early 2020 and in the time since, discourse surrounding the ‘woke’ left and ‘anti-woke’ right has dominated the media.

When it comes to Glass Onion, the characters explore what it means to be ‘woke’ in this day and age. There are those such as Miles Bron (Edward Norton), Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), and Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) who stick to anti-woke narratives and tropes. Bron is a billionaire ‘tech bro’ with an overarching arrogance. Cody is a men’s-rights Twitch streamer with whom viewers have allegedly drawn parallels with the likes of Joe Rogan and Andrew Tate.

“Everything is so woke these days it’s out of control,” Kate Hudson’s Birdie Jay says in the film. Birdie Jay has her fair share of controversies throughout the film as we see her defiance of Covid-19 lockdown rules and reliance on sweatshops for her clothing line.

Viewers split over favorite Knives Out film as politics comes to the fore

The overt addressing of ‘wokeness’ of Glass Onion is what some viewers are taking issue with. As a result, some viewers are favoring the first film in the Knives Out series.

One disappointed viewer tweeted in frustration on the Glass Onion script arguing that it heavily relies on buzzwords such as “woke,” “crypto,” “NFT.”

“Someone said they liked Knives Out but not Glass Onion because the latter is ‘woke’ and I’m like did you even see Knives Out? Both films share the same politics,” one viewer tweeted.

“Think it’s really funny that the people criticizing Glass Onion for being “woke” are the ones being made fun of in the movie and they’re missing the joke,” another added.

Rian Johnson speaks on the writing of Glass Onion

Writer and director Rian Johnson has been candid with his intentions for Glass Onion and the Knives Out series.

Speaking about the writing process for Glass Onion, which took place throughout 2020, Rian Johnson told The Atlantic: “This is a whodunit set in America right now.”

“The whole movie, for me, is a bit of a primal scream against the carnival-like idiocy of the past six years,” Johnson added. The film is set during the Covid-19 pandemic, taking place in summer 2020, and openly addresses the politics and policies of the time.

It’s not the first time Johnson has weaved ‘wokeness’ into a film, as he reportedly contributed the idea of a “woke ewok” into Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker.

You can stream Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery on Netflix now.

Edward Norton as Miles, Leslie Odom Jr. as Lionel, Kate Hudson as Birdie, Kathryn Hahn as Claire, and Madelyn Cline as Whiskey stand in room filled with paintings in Glass Onion
Cr. John Wilson/Netflix © 2022.