Conservatives spend a lot of time complaining about the undeniable liberal bias in Hollywood. With only a few exceptions, (Arnold Swartzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Adam Sandler) Hollywood is populated exclusively by far-left zealots. Stars like Sean Penn, Scarlet Johansson, and George Clooney routinely advocate for extreme liberal causes—for example, Scarlet Johansson is a very vocal supporter of Barack Obama (they routinely email each other), Alec Baldwin has called Dick Cheney a terrorist, and George Clooney has accused President Bush of “killing innocent people” in Iraq. Of course, the Hollywood elite would vilify any conservative star trying to do the equivalent. (See the case of Charleston Heston).
Often, this distaste translates into anti-American and anti-conservative films. Over the winter, a number of prominent directors released a whole slate of anti-war films—there was Paul Haggis’ “In the Valley of Elah” (which suggested that soldiers returning from Iraq are often mentally unhinged), Brian de Palma’s “Redacted”, (in which American soldiers persecute an Iraq family), and Kimberly Pierce’s “Stop-Loss”. The critically acclaimed blockbuster “The Bourne Ultimatum” used the CIA as the villain, and featured some waterboarding scenes, an obvious dig at the Bush Administration. Big corporations are the villain of choice in American movies. It is obvious that Hollywood seeks to spread its liberal point of view through its movies, and conservatives are right to be wary of the movie-making industry.
However, the extent that liberal movies actually influence people is debatable. Hollywood’s most recent bunch of anti-war movies all bombed—practically no one bothered to see them. The audience for films like “The Bourne Ultimatum” is probably not thinking much about politics—the movie expects us to believe that a bomb can completely destroy a car, but not the hero, even though the hero was standing between the bomb and the car. The waterboarding scenes probably went completely over most of the audiences’ head.
Liberal movies probably influence some people, but a case could be made that liberal novelists influence many more. People rarely go to the movies looking for an intellectual experience. They expect more from books.
One of the country’s foremost humorists is unfortunately Garrison Keillor, who has not let the fact that he is wholly unfunny (in my opinion) stop him from making a very successful career in humor. He is also a notorious liberal. He writes political columns for Salon.com, has published a collection of political essays called “Homegrown Democrat”, and often takes shots at Republicans in his stories. In his short story collection “The Book of Guys”, the whole point of one of the stories was that George H.W. Bush is an idiot who only won because of the Willie Horton issue. In another of his books, he invents a letter to an advice columnist which is supposedly from George W. Bush, in which the dim-witted Bush agonizes over whether or not to run for president. People read Keillor because he is (supposedly) funny, but they get a hefty dose of liberal thought as well.
Another humorist who incorporates liberal ideas into his writings is Bill Bryson (whom I don’t find very funny either). In an autobiography about growing up during the Sixties, he spends whole chapters criticizing U.S. foreign policy of the era, during the course of which he makes it clear that he has no idea of what he is talking about. In his travel books, he routinely accuses (presumably conservative) Southerners of racism.
However, easily the most prominent progressive author is John Grisham. His books are incredibly liberal—and he takes almost no criticism for it. His villains of choice are Big—Big Tobacco (The Runaway Jury), Big Health Insurance (The Rainmaker), or Big Pharmaceuticals (The Appeal).
Take, for example, his book The Street Lawyer. It is nothing more than a collection of liberal talking points about the homeless. Grisham actually has characters single out Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani for criticism, and the characters often take time out from the action to awkwardly reel off statistics about the homeless. Naturally, any character who does respond to the homeless problem in the proper way is portrayed as an unfeeling jerk.
Or consider his most recent book, The Appeal. I haven’t read it (and won’t), so I’m just going by the dust cover, but all of Grisham’s books are wholly predicable anyway, so I doubt I’m missing anything. The conflict involves an evil (of course) pharmaceutical which dumps toxic materials into water, gets sued, and buy themselves a state judge. Grisham sees this book as a stark, realistic look at the judicial system—and sadly (given that the book is wholly unrealistic), many of his readers will too.
Liberal authors, of course, have the right to publish anything they want, but conservatives should be aware that many novelists insert destructive and absurd themes into their novels. These novelists have a great deal of influence, and conservatives should attempt to counter them. Liberal books are just as damaging as liberal movies, and often more so.