I think these are great points that also somewhat simplify what I perceive to be Rhodes' point. Of course, as you say, great art isn't sabotaged by introspection. Quite the opposite, you're totally correct. But in this case, where you talk about the artist's own inclinations, some might make a similar statement to imply that introspection must lead to an evaluation of how he views race, which would then lead to a change in how he draws characters and casts actors that has to do with race. And if he doesn't, then he's somehow failed to progress. That's where I think this gets thorny. If he arrives there naturally, then that's great, but if no story emerges and he chooses to broaden his horizons in other ways, that's great too. To force something that isn't there out of some external pressure would not be good, and it would be unlike an artist like Lynch, which is all I see as Rhodes' point. After all, with The Return Lynch made what is one of his deepest, most thoughtful, most human works. It's not like the man hadn't progressed "where it counts."
You must admit that in these days there are a lot of decisions that do come across as empty or forced, the result of the phrases that you admit you are wary of. You make an excellent point about FWWM. When Lynch made FWWM, it seemed bold; when Tarantino made Kill Bill, it also seemed bold - I don't recall anyone referring to it as PC in those times, but I do remember some ridiculous acquaintances saying that they couldn't take women seriously in an action role. Today, I feel one can easily sniff out the real from the fake. And almost all of the fake is definitely "boring, lame and disappointing." All's I'm saying is this is indeed a two-way street.
Edit: Sorry, just saw Soolsma's request to maybe put this in a separate topic.
I very much appreciate your attempts to be balanced, even as I find myself more attuned to Mr Reindeer's way of looking at things. In any case, I agree with you both that Lynch needn't feel obliged to do anything he isn't compelled to do as an artist - although he doesn't need us to tell him that!
But Rhodes wasn't talking about external pressure, he said that Lynch "improving himself (100% in accordance to latest fashion) makes him (almost by definition) less avantgarde, less interesting and maybe even less of an artist". This is a troubling sentiment to me. Even if you can prove that a desire to tell more diverse stories or to engage in more nuanced characterisation of minorities is a sincere creative impulse, it seems that some will still see this as an innately troubling development. Why is it that Lynch telling stories inspired by the predominantly white environment of his childhood should be somehow more pure or honest than choosing to draw from his current environment, and in what way does a lack of interest in well-rounded black characters indicate he has "guts"?
This is not an attack on Rhodes or anyone else. I just have trouble with some of the assumptions underlying the arguments I'm seeing. You say that "as soon as someone like Lynch starts to think about some of these other things that don't organically enter into his vision, then that vision is indeed compromised". Yet ideas don't emerge in a vacuum. Whether it's by reading up on Monroe and the Kennedys, watching the OJ trial or hearing Mark Frost's idea of Cooper emerging in Vegas, Lynch has always responded to ideas which emerge externally. You might even say that all ideas are drawn from the external world in some sense, although some go back further than others. As nobody in this discussion has proposed any kind of enforced changes to Lynch's work, it seems that some think that questioning and expanding your vision means compromising it. Yet as Lynch always says "always accept a good idea, and never accept a bad one" and if he comes to the conclusion that it might be a good idea to expand the pool of actors he considers for psychologically rich roles, then that can only be a good thing
Of course there is no real indication that he has done this, and I fully expect Wisteria to be another audacious masterpiece... with an almost entirely white cast.
As for the idea about diversity being a two way street, I think it's a bit more complex than that. The thing about big Hollywood movies is that while their attempts to appear diverse might be cynical, so too are their choices not to be. A straight, white male is not the default human being, and yet people who complain about pandering never mention the preponderance of movies with those kinds of protagonists. Ultimately the industry is interested in making money, and sometimes that means emphasising "girl power" or "diversity" but more often it means avoiding offending the sensibilities of middle America, less tolerant foreign markets, and the demographic of people who complain about PC run amok. I tend to think the cringey moments you mention are little more than empty gestures in a movie landscape which is still broadly conservative, and in which (to put race aside for a moment) women are still regularly underwritten and gay characters perpetually confined to the side-lines. In this context the supposed SJW agenda doesn't strike me as a legitimate threat to culture in the way it is so often discussed.