Political correctness hurts profits

The entertainment giant shifted from featuring sexy models to promoting diversity, highlighting individuals with Rubensian features, models with disabilities, and transgender individuals. While this move aligns with societal changes, it has not been without consequences for the business. Four years ago, Victoria's Secret boasted revenues of $7.5 billion; however, this year, projections indicate a decrease to $6.2 billion.

Over the course of several years, political correctness has evolved into a global phenomenon, significantly influencing various aspects of life. Its most rapid expansion, however, can be observed in the realm of show business, encompassing film, fashion, publishing, and advertising. Corporations within these industries are engaged in a race to demonstrate their commitment to being the most “woke” or involving “pride” – labels that signify progressive ideals. Despite the seemingly compact and stable nature of this message, discernible cracks are emerging.

The ongoing battle on the frontline of the culture war is showing signs of fatigue. The products emanating from these endeavors are characterised by their mediocrity and predictability, but more critically, they are proving to be financially unsustainable. This lack of profitability poses a serious threat to the viability of the entire concept. Consequently, some progressive corporations are cautiously extending an olive branch, signalling a willingness to forge a new understanding with their customers or clients.

Sorry Winnetou, business is business

A few days ago, the renowned Victoria's Secret brand, celebrated for its women's lingerie, officially joined the evolving landscape of corporate shifts. Traditionally, every teenage girl aspiring to a modelling career harboured dreams of joining the exclusive cadre of “angels” associated with the brand. Esteemed catwalk stars, including Heidi Klum, Karolina Kurkova, and Adriana Lima, all served as influential role models. However, a notable drawback emerged: these role models were perceived as being too distant from the average individual, demanding sacrifices that seemed unrealistic.

Up until 2018, Victoria's Secret fashion shows were synonymous with extreme femininity, or simply put, a celebration of sensuality. Then, in response to the #MeToo movement highlighting harassment issues and revelations about the company's connections to Jeffrey Epstein, a notorious paedophile, Victoria's Secret underwent a transformation, declaring itself an “advocate for women”.

The shift involved moving away from the conventional notion of sexy models to embrace diversity, featuring individuals with Rubensian body shapes, models with disabilities, and transgender individuals. As noted by the left-leaning British newspaper, The Guardian, this strategic pivot was seen as a means for the brand to atone for its perceived shortcomings and rebuild its reputation.

However, after a few years, shareholders at Victoria's Secret began to observe a worrisome decline in their financial portfolios. The colloquial saying “get woke, go broke,” often used when companies, in an attempt to stay current, adopt left-wing ideologies instead of aligning with customer preferences, began seeping through the cracks. Astonishingly, just four years ago, Victoria's Secret boasted revenues of $7.5 billion. Today, projections indicate a decline to $6.2 billion. Consequently, the company has decided to revert to a more “sexy” styling, recognising the imperative to realign with the tastes and expectations of its customer base.

Nevertheless, Victoria's Secret's challenges might persist, as indicated by reports from left-wing publications suggesting that customers have not fully embraced the brand's transformation of a few years ago. Adding to the complexity, columnists caution the corporation against hastily reverting to its previous style.

In a twist reminiscent of the old communist joke, the company appears to be adopting the stance of “Sorry Winnetou, business is business,” prioritising the preferences of its female customers over progressive slogans. This strategic shift reflects a pragmatic approach, acknowledging that, in the realm of business, aligning with customer tastes takes precedence.

How to silence a culture war?

Another giant grappling with the challenge of navigating propriety is The Walt Disney Company media conglomerate, this time within the film industry. In an effort to quell the impact of this trend Disney has expressed its desire to “mute the culture war”, acknowledging the need to escape from an unfolding un-fairytale situation.

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A few years ago, the corporation proudly positioned itself as a trailblazer in matters of diversity, championing LGBTQ+ pride and taking a stand against racism. Embracing a rainbow policy, Disney extended its influence beyond its industry boundaries. However, a significant obstacle emerged in Florida, governed by Ron DeSantis, a conservative congressman and a 2024 Republican presidential candidate. The roots of the dilemma traced back to a 1967 agreement between local authorities and the Disney brothers, ensuring substantial tax payments for Disney's Orlando parks while the state government refrained from meddling in its operations.

Former Disney president Bob Chapek, a prominent advocate for progressive causes, stirred controversy by challenging the established agreement, vehemently opposing a bill that prohibited the inclusion of gay pride or sexual identity content in schools. Governor DeSantis, unyielding in his stance against corporate interference, threatened administrative actions, including a comprehensive review of technical infrastructure at Disney parks. “We are a government of laws, not a government of individual men or even a government of ‘woke’ corporations based in California,” DeSantis was quoted as saying.

  In response to the escalating conflict, Chapek was ousted from his position as Disney CEO, replaced by former CEO Bob Iger. The latter expressed a desire to deescalate the culture war, a move widely interpreted as a retreat from political correctness. While the precise motives behind this declaration remain unclear, the undeniable consequence was a drastic 40% plunge in the shares of the fairytale giant on the New York Stock Exchange within a few months. Although never publicly revealed, financial concerns appeared to be the primary catalyst for the ousting of the former CEO.

Snow White wants power, not a prince

Disney now faces the challenge of reevaluating its recent productions, which are laden with attempts to “rectify historical injustices”. It remains perplexing why the entertainment giant is refraining from introducing new characters, opting instead to reimagine classic tales by Johann Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. The revamped portrayals of the Little Mermaid and the upcoming Snow White significantly depart from the familiar renditions we have all come to know and love. Originally depicted with white skin, the protagonists are now portrayed by actresses with entirely different complexions: Halle Bailey and Rachel Zegler respectively.

Zegler, discussing the iconic 1937 Disney version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was unequivocal. “I just mean that it’s no longer 1937,” the actress said.

“She’s not going to be saved by the prince and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love,” the 22-year-old star said. “She’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and the leader that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave and true.”

The announcement stirred a social media uproar, drawing criticism even from viewers of colour who found it absurd for political correctness to dictate that a girl with a different skin colour should assume the role of “a princess as white as snow.” Zegler's statements, in particular, faced harsh backlash. A TikTok user using the pseudonym CosyWithAngie posted a video describing the actress's remarks as pseudo-feminism, emphasising that not every woman aspires to leadership or desires power.

The film's initial leaked details added fuel to the fire. In their fervent battle against stereotypes, the creators of the new version of the classic initially indicated a willingness to revamp even the seven dwarves, with rumours suggesting replacements that reflect various races and genders. However, a recent studio photo release indicated that the number and gender of the dwarves remain faithful to the original, with their characters brought to life through computer graphics.
The latest version of 'The Little Mermaid'. Starring Halle Bailey in the lead role. Photo Image Capital Pictures / Film Stills / Forum
However, it's also worth noting that the premiere of Snow White has been postponed from March 22, 2024, to March 21, 2025. The official explanation cites actors' strikes in Hollywood as the contributing factor.

Perhaps, by the time of the remake's release, Snow White will find herself in an era where the values of the original resonate once again with the majority of the audience. Multiple generations of children have grown up with these values, and the version from 85 years ago demonstrated that it's possible to captivate teenagers for more than just a few minutes.

Efforts to attract a new audience don't always have to be avant-garde. Anheuser-Busch, the manufacturer of the Bud Light beer brand, learned this lesson the hard way, witnessing a $5 billion drop in its stock value. This downturn was largely attributed to the inclusion of transgender actress and influencer Dylan Mulvaney in advertising. Evidently, younger beer drinkers were not enticed by the presence of the 'trans' artist on the can. Instead, it seemed to alienate existing consumers who perceived such a marketing move as scandalous.

'Harry Potter’s Mother' has been cancelled

Nevertheless, some celebrities defy the prevailing narrative and find themselves labelled as provocateurs within the gender community. One such individual is JK Rowling, the acclaimed author of the Harry Potter series, one of the most popular book series in recent decades. Rowling has in the past openly expressed her disdain for what she perceives as the fanciful and artificial language surrounding gender. She critiques the politically correct tendency to blur the distinctions in the definitions of male and female, going so far as to mock the use of terms like 'menstruating people' to refer to women. Rowling's stance has provoked strong reactions, particularly within the thriving transgender communities in the UK. Once beloved as a writer of unbridled fantasy, she is now accused of being a homophobe and spreading hatred.

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The author often shares the correspondence she receives from her accusers, revealing a disturbing trend where some – purportedly fighting against hatred – express violent wishes for her demise, ranging from murder and bombings to rape and arrest. The latter might become a reality, given that the Labour Party in the UK is reportedly working on legislation targeting the intentional misuse of pronouns when referring to transgender individuals, as reported by the Daily Mail. In the UK, such a violation could be classified as a hate crime, punishable by up to two years in prison. JK Rowling, however, has boldly stated her willingness to face imprisonment if it helps shed light on what she perceives as the escalating censorship within politically-correct circles in the UK.

Many critics, indignant about Rowling's perspective, argue that censorship is an insufficient deterrent. Instead, they advocate for a concept known as cancel culture, a form of infamy that, while not universally applauded, is justified by numerous progressive academics and columnists. They see cancel culture as a purportedly healthy form of cultural boycott and annihilation, aimed at enforcing the principles of social justice.

Nevertheless, cancelling the person who brought Harry Potter to life is proving to be a formidable challenge, especially considering that her new books continue to be published under her name and enjoy significant commercial success.

– Sławomir Cedzyński

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by Roberto Galea
Main photo: Until 2018, Victoria Secret shows were regarded as extremely feminine or, to put it bluntly, sexy. Photo by Lionel Hahn/ABACAPRESS.COM/PAP
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