The Right may have the White House, but the entertainment industry fought back in 2018. Hard.
The calendar year can’t end soon enough for creative souls on the right.
Blame the Age of Trump, our increasingly divided times or reporters ignoring censorship leaning in a certain direction.
- Late night TV raged against Red State USA. Again.
- The few conservative comics got chased from select stages.
- Filmmakers striving to bring right-leaning voices to the country met stiff resistance on a number of front, including some friendly commercial fire.
Hate Night TV
It all starts with Colbert and co.
Another year, another total absence of right of center voices on late night TV. While hard-left fare like “The Break with Michelle Wolf” crashed and burned in near record time, we saw more progressive shows line up to take its place (including Netflix’s “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj”).
Will Showtime’s upcoming “Desus and Mero” offer more of the hard-left same?
Meanwhile, the late night landscape pounded virtually every aspect of conservative thought, from President Donald Trump to Brett Kavanaugh. Even Jimmy Fallon got bullied into bashing Trump like his peers.
Lights, Camera … Balance at Long Last!
A few unabashedly right-of-center films hit theaters this year. Even that didn’t portend good news.
“Chappaquiddick” delivered a sober take on Sen. Ted Kennedy’s crisis management over a deadly car accident.
“Little Pink House” served up a defiantly libertarian saga, based on Susette Kelo’s Supreme Court battle against Eminent Domain.
“Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer” let director/co-star Nick Searcy reveal how Dr. Kermit Gosnell ran a ghoulish practice without the authorities stepping in.
What did all three films have in common? Sturdy storytelling, strong acting and lackluster box office results.
“Chappaquiddick” generated just $17 million despite decent media exposure and solid reviews. “Little Pink House” brought in a spare $220,948 due, in large part, to the miniscule number of theaters showing the drama.
The mainstream media did all it could to keep audiences in the dark about “Gosnell.” Most reporters ignored the project, despite the record-setting crowdfunding campaign that sparked its creation. Film critics followed suit. Visit RottenTomatoes.com and you’ll see only a handful of official reviews.
That number, while small, is much larger than the amount of reviews on the site during the first week of release. That’s a critical time for any film looking to break through in a crowded marketplace.
The anti-media campaign worked.
Crunching the Disappointing Numbers
“Gosnell” generated $3.6 million. That figure is respectable given the tiny budget and modest theatrical release. Many indie films fail to make a fraction of that amount. “Papillon,” the remake of the 1973 prison classic, made $2.3 million with far more press exposure. “The Sisters Brothers,” starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix, also earned less ($3.1 million).
Still, the faith-friendly “Gosnell” didn’t make a fraction of what Christian-themed smashes like “God’s Not Dead” and “Miracles from Heaven” earned in recent years.
Conservative audiences, who continually bemoan the hard-left propaganda found in Hollywood fare, failed to rally for these films.
Welcome to the Blacklist 2.0
The Hollywood system worked overtime to keep conservative voices out of the conversation. A recent Hollywood Reporter story on a film critical of Planned Parenthood buried this shocking detail.
Michael Lindell, worth an estimated $300 million, tells The Hollywood Reporter he has plowed $1 million into Unplanned, an upcoming feature that was shot in secret (emphasis added) due to its critical take on Planned Parenthood.
It’s similar to what the makers of “Roe V. Wade” faced during production. Cast and crew members fled the project, citing the story’s implications. Shooting locations mysteriously refused to let the filmmakers use their grounds. Facebook wouldn’t help the production place ads on its service.
More on social media in a moment.
Performers who dared support President Donald Trump also suffered this year. Comedian Steve McGrew lost a regular Las Vegas gig after the club’s owner, “Everybody Loves Raymond” alum Brad Garrett, cut ties with him for defending Trump on social media.
Musician Benton Blount got fired as the opener for ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. Blount’s crime? He posted a picture of himself wearing a Trump hat, holding Chick-Fil-A sandwich on Facebook.
Comedian Owen Benjamin told The Washington Times he had to alter his business model to stay active on the stand-up circuit. Why? Protesters wouldn’t leave him alone, apparently.
He now rents out venues with his own money, then sells tickets through his website and emails the location to fans just hours before he’s set to take the stage.
Michael Loftus, a show business veteran from sitcoms like “Anger Management,” told The Washington Times expressing a right-of-center view puts a juicy target on your back. He learned that the hard way while pitching a new project.
“Executives specifically told us they can’t been seen as even remotely supporting the right,” he said. “They tell us they love what they are hearing, but won’t move forward with the show or even film a pilot because they don’t want to appear sympathetic to the right.”
We all know what happened to one prominent comic who dared give voice to Trump Nation. Roseanne Barr made a triumphant return via her iconic show’s reboot. “Roseanne” drew massive ratings and cruised toward a second season.
One terrible, awful tweet later, and she lost her job, her signature show and millions in paychecks. Meanwhile, TBS’s Samantha Bee called the First Daughter a “feckless” c-word in a prepared comedy bit and suffered no consequences.
Unless you call landing a “first-look deal” with TBS a form of punishment.
Tim Allen’s long-running show “Last Man Standing” got axed by the same network that dropped the hammer on Barr in just a few hours. Luckily, Fox rode to the rescue, brought the show back and is basking in its ratings success.
A rare victory in a sea of culture war defeats.
Anything But Social for Red State USA
The news is even worse on social media for conservatives. Talk show host Dennis Prager is in constant battle with YouTube regarding his Prager U video series. The video channel routinely restricts or demonitizes PragerU educational videos, crippling their reach and ability to generate income.
The videos are neither profane nor hateful. PragerU unsuccessfully sued Google and YouTube for its policies.
McGrew faced repeated bans on Facebook and got kicked off of Twitter, often without an explanation as to why.
Movies like “The Trump Prophecy” tried to advertise on Facebook but got denied.
Will 2019 Be More of the Same?
Some hope exists that conservatives will make small but powerful inroads in the coming 12 months.
Movies like “Gosnell” showed how filmmakers can work around traditional Hollywood networks to bring stories to screens large and small.
Creators like Andrew Heaton, a Libertarian comic, joined the podcasting revolution via “Something’s Off with Andrew Heaton.” “Red Pilled America” began late this year and should have a head wind going into 2019 given its smart, NPR-like production.
Social media and YouTube, to varying degrees, let conservatives share their stories with the masses. The merger of CRTV and The Blaze suggests a powerhouse network to complement Fox News. And, more importantly, give right-leaning entertainment fare a home to call its own.
On the humor front, We the Internet TV continues to crank out smart, subversive comedy that doesn’t avoid liberal targets. The same holds true for The Babylon Bee, which consistently shames The Onion with its political parodies.
“No Safe Spaces,” a crowdfunded affair starring Prager and Adam Carolla, promises to share how Leftists are crushing free speech on campuses nationwide. And, more importantly, spilling those practices into the real world.
The movie already faces mockery from hard-left sites like The A.V. Club which apparently think diminished free speech isn’t a problem, assuming its speech they don’t applaud.
Let’s see if the media attempts to diminish any or all of the above. Will conservatives keep fighting back, a la President Trump? Or, will 2019 be a sad rerun of a very disheartening year?
UPDATE: “Little Pink House” producer Ted Balaker reached out to HiT with an update on his film. No, the box office figures cited above aren’t incorrect. Balaker says they don’t tell the full story.
- “LPH” was the first feature film since Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” to be honored with a congressional screening.
- The movie helped change laws in Massachusetts and Tennessee. It’s also being used by citizen activists across the nation to fight for reform.
- The vast majority of “LPH” reviews were positive, including notices from The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, New York Observer, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Boston Herald and Village Voice.
- It earned a massive amount of earned media, including an appearance on “The Today Show,” a George Will column and an Associated Press feature.
- Among those embracing the film? Prominent figures from across the political spectrum including rock & roll legend David Crosby, Geena Davis Institute, Women & Hollywood, John Stossel, Will and U.S. Reps. Jamie Raskin, Dana Rohrabacher, and Thomas Massie.
- The movie features “Home Free,” an original song by Crosby.
- “LPH” was distributed in theaters, digitally by major cable-satellite providers, major digital providers, in-flight, classroom, internationally in territories such as China, Israel, the Middle East, Scandinavia, and Australia.
- And, perhaps most of all, it introduced Susette Kelo’s story and the Institute for Justice to millions of people.
That only underscores why more independent and right-leaning artists should bring their stories to the masses. And why it matters when cultural forces attempt to minimize or shut down these artists.