Film & TV

Graduate Together and Booksmart Pander to Obama and LeBron’s Knucklehead Progeny

Torrey Pines High School graduating student Phoebe Seip (center) and her sisters watch at their home in San Diego, Calif., as former President Barack Obama deliver a virtual commencement address to millions of high school seniors, May 16, 2020. (Bing Guan/Reuters)
Media indoctrination continues apace, instilling narcissism and groupthink in young adults.

Booksmart, the critically acclaimed girl-power comedy, featured the most egregious high-school commencement speech ever sponsored by mainstream media until former president Barack Obama’s spiel on last weekend’s all-network broadcast Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020.

Both the film and the telecast are products of media indoctrination, the none-too-subtle political programming that eludes notice — and alarm — by posing as cultural remedies. Graduate Together, a one-hour spectacle, pieced together shelter-in-place videos of teens whose high-school commencement exercises were cancelled because of the COVID-19 restrictions. And the teen flick Booksmart pandered to the same adolescent group-think, using comedy tropes familiar from Animal House, Porkys, American Pie, and Superbad.

This style of coercion results from new marketing cynicism. Pretending to console students for missing out on what Obama listed as “proms, senior nights, graduation ceremonies, and, let’s face it, a whole bunch of parties,” Graduate Together used the media’s stock methods of flattery and condescension, turning isolated web-cam and video-conference teens into temporary celebrities alongside actual showbiz and sports celebrities, going for that uniquely Millennial feeling of solidarity: instant fame.

Trouble is, that false sense of community (you too can be a Jonas Brother or one of Broadway’s lesser-known Platt brothers) is predicated on thinking alike, sharing the same political perspectives that are relentlessly propagated by movies, TV shows, and media events that push a rote liberal agenda.

Graduate Together made this dread fact unavoidable as its faux celebrations led up to Obama’s climactic smiley appearance as the ultimate commencement celebrity speechifier. Obama was billed as if he was still the actual, functioning president of the United States.

Mainstream media won’t let liberal wish fulfillment die. That’s why Graduate Together felt like acid-reflux of Booksmart, a movie distinguished only by its unprepossessing cast (Beanie Feldstein as a high-school valedictorian encouraging Kaitlyn Dever as her closeted lesbian BFF), representing Teen Vogue’s recently woke ideas of politically correct adolescence. It opens with Feldstein listening to self-improvement audiotapes (not reading a book) while admiring bedroom posters and photos of Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She and Dever drive to school in a car bearing the enlightened bumper stickers “Elizabeth Warren 2020” and “Still a Nasty Woman.”

This fake juvenilia is totally media-driven, including Feldstein’s chummy white-girl rapport with a black homeroom teacher — they share a love of the New York Times crossword puzzle. Booksmart’s contrived student body of upper-middle-class, Ivy League-bound, multi-gender “misfits” looks like they all transferred from the TV series Glee.

Booksmart and Graduate Together are the vanguard of a progressive cultural fantasy that lures teens, and their clueless elders, into political conformity. (One TV segment showed parents thanking their children for what the parents have learned.) The kids on screen are not the “Question Authority” generation but the genuflect-to-authority generation — the spoiled-rotten, overly catered-to, knuckled-headed progeny of Boomers and Gen-Xers: It’s the lockstep generation. They are kept in step by filmmakers like Olivia Wilde, whose directorial debut in Booksmart is visual proof of favors from industry friends (producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay) and lacks a personal touch — every shot looks like a TV commercial. Graduate Together is an equally suspicious collaboration between its producer, b-ball star LeBron James, utilizing his vast, politically motivated movie and TV empire, and the Obama Foundation; it’s a shamelessly self-promoting partisan partnership.

These enterprises are neither innocuous nor impartial. Obama’s speech — dropping anti-Trump hints about problems ranging from “massive economic inequality to ongoing racial disparities to a lack of basic health care” (issues he failed to resolve during his own tenure) — is part of the programming that the Hollywood Left feels free to include in all its product. This goes unremarked upon by most critics and passes unnoticed by audiences, especially those who are the ideological, post-Ferguson children of LeBron and Obama.

When Jean-Luc Godard cited “the children of Marx and Coca-Cola” in his 1966 film Masculine Feminine, he distinguished the rising influence of radical ideology on Sixties youth who also dealt with incessant post-WWII commercialism, both phenomena fighting for dominance. Today academic Marxism and left-leaning media industries have joined forces, battling for the minds of LeBron and Obama’s gullible acolytes. This is the hidden agenda of state-media broadcasts like Graduate Together and movies like Booksmart, Eighth Grade, Good Boys, and even Love, Simon (where the gay white teen protagonist fell in love with an Obama lookalike.)

Of course Rolling Stone praised Booksmart as “outrageously entertaining and quietly revolutionary at the same time.” That’s because the media’s indoctrination movement is apace, instilling young-adult narcissism. Note Beanie Feldstein’s valedictory speech:

“I was so scared of you. I felt like I had to prove that I was better than you, but really, I don’t know any more than you guys. All I know is that we have a lot more to learn, because this part’s over and that’s so sad. It was great, wasn’t it? Things are never gonna be the same, but it was perfect. And I may not have before, but I see you now. And you’re all pretty great. Don’t let college f*** it up.”

So Booksmart’s commencement speech is actually rather lame; it’s as if even the filmmakers (including four credited screenwriters) just ran out of snark. Yet, in Graduate Together, a smirking Obama told the next generation essentially the same thing.

Armond White, a culture critic, writes about movies for National Review and is the author of New Position: The Prince Chronicles.

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