Conservatives And Hollywood
Generally, conservatives disapprove of Hollywood, or at least of Hollywood’s liberal values. With good reason, too—it’s common knowledge that prevailing Hollywood values skew heavily liberal, and that conservative beliefs are often demonized and mocked.
For myself, Hollywood’s lack of originality annoys me more than its liberalism—does every movie have to be a reboot of some Eighties franchise? (Star Trek, X-Men, Terminator, Transformers, Watchmen, etc). I would gladly put up with a liberal Hollywood if it were also an inventive, clever Hollywood. But it isn’t, and Hollywood’s liberal bias is evident, and it annoys me.
I don’t know why conservatives can’t seem to infiltrate Hollywood, though I suspect that the reason, whatever it is, is the same as the reason they can’t seem to do much in the mainstream media. Discrimination against conservatives (mostly unconscious, probably, but still discrimination) might play a role, but almost certainly not a major one. And it’s possible that more creative people might also tend to be more naïve and idealistic, making them more sympathetic to liberal views.
And, of course, there is the fact that hard-headed capitalists and enthusiastic soldiers don’t always make for the most sympathetic heroes. A reluctant hero going up against The Man is seen as more exciting than, say, the inner workings of a massive corporation.
Hollywood’s liberal bias is, obviously, not good for conservatives. But there are things conservatives can do to make things in that area better. Two the most obvious are to grow up and man up.
First, conservatives should grow up. It’s possible that they would be more respected (if only marginally more so) if their taste in movies were a bit better. This year, National Review released a list of the Top Twenty-Five Conservative Movies. Number five on the list (and bear in mind, this list only covered movie released after about 1984) was 300, because it is a film about “martial honor, unflinching courage, and the oft-ignored truth that freedom isn’t free.” Translation: a lot of bad guys get killed.
(Although I haven’t watched 300, I am familiar with the basic premise, which is that buff guys in bikinis thrust long, hard objects into other men. Does anyone else see any Freudian overtones there?)
Red Dawn (lots of Communists get killed) and Heartbreak Ridge (ditto) are fifteen and twenty-one, respectively. The conservative message of these three films is that killing bad guys is a great idea. And while that premise isn’t something I would disagree with, are these movies (none of which are considered particularly good by most critics) the best way to get this message across? Conservatives hated anti-war movies like Rendition and In the Valley of Elah (both of which bombed). But compared to, say, Red Dawn, the message in Hollywood’s recent anti-war movies was subtle and understated. It’s okay, even desirable, for conservatives to want to celebrate Americans at war through film. But couldn’t they at least pick good films with which to do so?
The rest of National Review’s list was pretty predictable. The Lord of the Rings, The Dark Knight, Braveheart, The Chronicles of Narnia, and We Were Soldiers are films in the Red Dawn/300 category of “war can be good.” Forrest Gump, Ghostbusters, and The Pursuit of Happyness all celebrate small government. The Incredibles and Juno celebrate social conservatism. Somehow, South Park: Team America got onto the list, in the “bashing celebs who bash America” category. 24 isn’t a movie, but God knows conservatives praise it enough, seemingly because of Jack Bauer’s willingness to torture terrorists.
Most of these movies are good, but hardly great films. (The Lord of the Rings probably is a great film, as are Forrest Gump and Groundhog Day). But quality of moviemaking aside, what is striking about these movies is the flimsiness of the conservatism in them. Ghostbusters is on the list only because an comical EPA official releases ghosts on New York. Juno’s pro-life message is tenuous at best. Most of the other movies have similarly flimsy conservative messages.
Can’t conservatives find any better movies to represent their beliefs? Few of the movies here really raise any difficult questions, or provoke much thought. No Country for Old Men examined the essential character of man. Crash looked at racial relations in America. Million Dollar Baby tried to find what love really is. A Beautiful Mind explored insanity and genius. Any of those are good, serious films; films that conservatives can watch. And I picked those just out of Best Picture winners from the last decade. Conservatives, apparently, can’t be bothered to watch those movies—they’d rather watch Red Dawn again.
(Am I being unfair to conservatives here? Maybe a little, since liberals aren’t much more discriminating with their films, and there were some serious films on NR’s list. Still, conservatives will probably find it hard to be taken seriously in Hollywood as long as 300 and an American Carol rank up there in their favorite movies).
Granted, liking better movies isn’t a sure way for conservatives to become more accepted in Hollywood. In fact, there are conservatives in Hollywood, some of whom are quite respected in the industry (at least according to what they write in conservative publications). But no one knows who they are.
Apparently, being openly conservative in Hollywood is bad for one’s career. It’s the ultimate in political uncorrectness there, and few are brave enough to face the criticism. Therefore, Hollywood conservatives tend to remain closeted, and only share their beliefs with close friends.
They shouldn’t. It’s going to be hard for conservatives do much of anything to change Hollywood’s politics if they insist on remaining closeted. Will being openly conservative hurt their careers? Maybe. But if they feel strongly about being censored, they should speak out and let their voices be heard.
If Hollywood conservatives feel that doing so would simply hurt their careers too much, fine, that’s acceptable. But they should shut up about anti-conservative blacklists and witchhunts. In my mind, if you aren’t willing to do something about a problem, you lose the right to complain about it. Conservatives in Hollywood should either put up or shut up.