Hollywood went to war against war in the Bush era.
Celebrities rallied in near unison against the Iraq War, and if it meant smearing U.S. soldiers in the process, so be it.
Brian De Palma famously directed “Redacted,” a film showcasing soldiers raping and killing an Iraqi child before wiping out her family. (The film earned $65K in U.S. theaters)
Celebrities marched, shouted from concert and awards show stages and used every bully pulpit possible to spread the anti-war message. Anyone who fought back against their comments was seen as a threat to free speech.
No blood for oil. Bush is Hitler. Lather, rinse repeat.
Things are different in and around Hollywood these days. President Joe Biden appears fully invested in sending billions, and billions in aid and weapons to Ukraine to help the nation fend off the Russian invasion. There’s no end in sight for the war, which could widen as China and Russia appear to be strengthening their ties.
Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has introduced nuclear arms into the conversation, a possibility that should scare every sane soul on the planet.
Yet no major celebrity has expressed skepticism about any aspect of their country’s role in the war.
Instead, star after star has made the trek to the war-torn country to pose with President Volodymyr Zelensky, directly or indirectly demanding the U.S. give more, more more to his war efforts.
Those who raise concerns about the U.S.’s open cash spigot for Ukraine, like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, are deemed Putin puppets by Hollywood’s most prominent showcase.
Singer Rod Stewart says it’s the “end of civilization” if Russia triumphs in Ukraine.
The Iraq War is obviously a different conflict than the invasion of Ukraine. Most importantly, there are no American boots on the ground (yet). Still, the uniformity of opinion on the latter in La La Land is striking, as is the lack of an anti-war sentiment within its ranks.
That contrasts sharply with the messaging heard from Hollywood during the Vietnam and Iraq wars.
The press isn’t critical of the stars’ pro-Ukraine messaging. Journalists breathlessly report each new celebrity visit with Zelensky sans negative spin.
As we enter the second year of war, celebrities need to pivot. A mere show of support is not enough. They need to get specific about what Ukraine needs. Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher have raised millions for relief efforts. Kudos. Now they need to use their massive public platforms to call upon Western leaders to accelerate the delivery of lethal and defensive aid. I realize the ridiculous nature of that sentence. But I also realize there is a growing void in the commentariat. And if military and geopolitical experts are increasingly on mute, maybe celebrities can ask why it is taking so long to give Ukraine the weapons they desperately need to survive.
Why? What changed?
The industry isn’t obsessed with values as much as groupthink. Remember all the stars who railed against the “kids in cages” at the U.S./Mexico border? That rallying cry went whisper silent once a Democrat moved into the Oval Office in 2021.
No one dared to revive the issue knowing their peers wouldn’t approve.
Celebrities broke for both Ukraine and the U.S. supporting the nation early on, and few souls were courageous enough to suggest a more nuanced take on the matter.
Now, it’s assumed you’re pro-Ukraine no matter what, and you better plaster the Ukrainian flag on your social media pages. To suggest otherwise might dampen your career prospects.
There’s a Democrat in the White House
Sound too simple to be accurate? That’s just reality. Any effort former President Donald Trump would have made to aid Ukraine would have been greeted far differently. Hollywood tribalism is as entrenched as it is on social media.
The “D” before Biden’s name means a great deal in how Hollywood falls in line with the administration’s open-checkbook policy.
Russia, Russia Russia
Hollywood hates Russia almost as much as it despises Trump. The two are connected, of course.
Celebrities fell for the Russian collusion hoax from the jump, insisting Trump’s presidency happened due to Putin’s meddling. They clung to that false narrative for years, even after the Mueller Report threw an ocean of water on that possibility.
Subsequent revelations fell on deaf ears within the industry, including a devastating post-hoax report from the Columbia Journalism Review.
Russia made Trump president. No amount of facts will change that. So Russia is now the number-one enemy for Hollywood types, no matter how many human rights abuses occur in China or other nations.
None of this is meant to deny the horrors happening in Ukraine, the destructive force laid upon the nation by Russia or the complexities of the war and its fallout.
Cogent arguments exist on various fronts of the conflict. Yes, we should support Ukraine … but what if it extends the way and coaxes China to side with Russia? What if Putin is serious about escalating the fight with nuclear weapons? What does victory mean, and will a defeated Putin be even more dangerous on the world stage?
Can the U.S., wallowing in devastating debt, keep writing massive checks while its economy craters?
No easy answers exist in this terrible conflict. Yet Hollywood suggests there’s just one argument to be made. And it lands, inexplicably, on the pro-war side of the ledger.