What will it take to get the woke folks to ‘jump the shark’?
On Sept. 20, 1997, Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, better known as “Fonzie,” or simply the “Fonz,” made history — of sorts. That’s the day he jumped the shark.
Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler on the hit TV sitcom “Happy Days,” was visiting sunny Los Angeles with his pals from working-class, drab Milwaukee. And to show how brave he was, he put on swim trunks, while still wearing his trademark leather jacket of course, slipped on a pair of water skis and … jumped over a shark in the Pacific Ocean.
“Jumping the shark” came to mean that there are limits — that when you go too far, people will notice and send you on your way.
So I’m wondering what it would take for the woke folks to finally jump the shark. Is there anything they can say or do that would get the rest of us to scream, “Enough! Go away! You have jumped the shark!”
Like other revolutionaries, America’s woke warriors want to cancel anyone and everyone who harbors “unacceptable” ideas. Anyone who steps out of line risks being publicly humiliated. Offend the woke vigilantes and you can lose your job, your livelihood.
So we have a play-by-play basketball announcer in Sacramento who lost his job a few minutes after he tweeted “All Lives Matter.” That was unacceptable to the woke corporate weaklings he used to work for.
The woke crowd thinks that just about anyone who voted for Donald Trump must be a racist — even if before Trump they might have voted for Barack Obama.
ACT UP New York posted a message on social media that said: “If I die of COVID-19, forget burial, drop my body on the steps of Mar-a-Lago” — proof that “woke idiocy has attended every step of the coronavirus outbreak,” as a column in the New York Post put it.
If I wear a sombrero to a costume party I’m apparently guilty of appropriating someone else’s culture. I’m afraid to go to a Chinese restaurant and order egg foo young. The woke police might cancel me and put me in what amounts to woke prison.
It’s one thing if little ol’ me isn’t safe. But Thomas Jefferson? Because he held slaves back in the day, it’s just been announced that his statue will be removed from the New York City Council Chambers at City Hall where it has peacefully stood for 188 years.
Even Superman isn’t strong enough to withstand the pressure from woke watchdogs. He used to fight for “truth, justice and the American way.” That’s just been scrapped. Now he’s fighting for “truth, justice and a better tomorrow.”
All of this pretty much went unnoticed — or at least it went unnoticed enough. No one was accused of jumping the shark. But now the woke folks may have gone too far.
I recently wrote about how they’re no longer talking about pregnant “women,” choosing instead to call them pregnant “people.” Even the prestigious British medical journal, the Lancet, referred to women as “bodies with vaginas.”
As the always perceptive and never woke essayist Lance Morrow observed in the Wall Street Journal, “The adepts of wokeness have talked themselves into the idea that the word ‘woman’ won’t do. It is anathema. The idea of women — half the human race, or more than half — is declared to be offensive to the esoteric theologies of the transgender Taliban. The shark, I think, has been well and truly jumped.”
Maybe. But after Fonzie jumped the shark, the elites of American culture figured the show would finally go off the air. They were wrong. It stayed on for several more years — and with good ratings, too.
So it’s possible that no matter how nutty the woke culture becomes, it may not be nutty enough to make a difference. The sad truth is that a lot of Americans have gotten used to their nuttiness — the way a frog gets used to increasingly hot water, until the water starts to boil and the clueless frog dies.
But revolutions have a way of ending with the revolutionaries devouring their own. After canceling all their enemies, they have been known to go after their friends. No amount of purity may ever be enough if you’re a woke warrior.
So maybe that’s how our authoritarian, illiberal woke culture will finally end — when they run out of enemies and mercilessly turn on their friends. Maybe that’s when they finally will jump the shark. One can hope.
Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.