Has Hollywood's extreme liberal activism permanently damaged its appeal to Red State America?
Hollywood’s gold-plated brand may be suffering something not even a dozen “Star Wars” sequels can fix.
The industry has leaned left for some time now. The days of patriotic stars like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Doris Day and Gary Cooper are over. Most Democratic National Conventions resemble Hollywood cocktail soirees.
That pleased liberal audiences while leaving conservatives deflated. Both groups still dutifully lined up to see new movies and, once a year, watch the Oscars telecast. After all, conservatives tend to have thick skins. They don’t burn campuses rather than hear opposing views.
Trumped by Reality
Then a certain reality show star came along. The rise of Donald Trump reduced Hollywood’s liberal elites to fountains of rage and disbelief.
I think I’m broken
I never ran smooth but I think I’m really broken, I’m sorry, I was funny for a while, good times, please keep fighting
— Joss Whedon (@joss) February 7, 2017
“Trump is Hitler!” “His cabinet overflows with racists!”
One actor, Michael Shannon, literally wished death on Trump supporters. George Clooney wagged his finger at Trump voters, as much as the man himself. Amy Schumer blasted Trump Train riders as members of the KKK.
The hectoring continued on social media. It’s reached a new intensity during awards season.
Suddenly, every gala gave stars a chance to lecture half their potential ticket buyers. The days when an actor would simply thank his agent and/or her ma seemed over. You couldn’t ignore a star’s politics. They wouldn’t let you.
It wasn’t just President Trump in Hollywood’s cross hairs. Stars slammed members of Trump’s cabinet, too. They were just as racist, homophobic and sexist as their Commander in Chief. Or so the Hollywood elite alleged.
Conservative audiences started fighting back. They stayed home when Oscar winner Robert De Niro’s new film, “The Comedian,” hit theaters. The acting legend told us he wanted to punch Trump in the face. So audiences punched back as only they can.
Red State types rallied on social media. They blasted out-of-touch stars for their hypocrisy, sharing news stories that illustrated the gap between their rhetoric and reality.
And, over the weekend, they chose to watch anything else on TV not featuring gold statuettes. Ratings for the 89th annual Oscars telecast sank to a nine-year low.
It’s not as if the film industry itself is in fine shape at the moment. Consider this bleak assessment from The Wall Street Journal:
Sunday’s Oscars ceremony takes place during one of the gloomiest times for the film industry in recent memory. The news Wednesday was that Brad Grey would step down as CEO of Paramount Pictures, which lost nearly $500 million in fiscal 2016. That follows the January shocker that Sony Corp. would take a write-down of nearly $1 billion on its film unit … Worse, according to a Hollywood Reporter survey, 60% of Americans could not name a single Best Picture nominee.
That’s above and beyond the industry’s aggressive approach to alienate right-leaning customers. In short, has Hollywood reached a tipping point with Red State audiences?
HiT reached out to a number of prominent, right of center thinkers to find out.
“The importance of Hollywood and the movies has diminished greatly since I started in the seventies. The juvenile political posturing of today’s stars only makes matters worse, potentially alienating half the audience. Why should anyone be more interested in Meryl Streep’s opinion than their plumbers?
In the old system the studios didn’t allow the stars to spout their political views. And they made better movies then – a not inconsequential coincidence.
I haven’t cared about the Oscars in a long time. I don’t know if it’s the increasing politicization, or if I’m just like everybody else and I’m sick of a bunch of rich and famous people stroking each other’s… egos.
Plus, it’s 2017 and you don’t have to watch it. Just wait a few minutes for the memes to start.
Jim Treacher is a columnist for PJ Media.
“This is a hard thing to quantify. I haven’t seen any data indicating that box office has significantly suffered since Trump’s election, but I can certainly see Trump super fans boycotting over this issue, and that’s certainly their right.
However, I frankly haven’t seen Hollywood as being any more partisan than normal, it’s just that they are currently out of power. They were just as bad in opposition to Bush, especially in his second term, in my opinion.”
“I think that, as a whole, Hollywood’s aggressive political stance hasn’t created a tipping point for all of Red State America, but, I think what you will see is that SOME (or even MOST) of Red State America has reached a tipping point with certain celebrities taking certain stances.
It’s a lot less subjective than with a musician whose opinions might alienate you. It’s a much bigger departure to swear off your favorite singer or band because their outspoken ideology is different than yours. I think that it’s a lot easier for people to just decide “I’m not going to see a new Meryl Streep movie” than “I grew up in rural New Jersey but can’t listen to Bruce Springsteen because he endorsed Obama and Hillary.”
In that sense, it’s really an issue of ART versus ENTERTAINMENT. If your FAVORITE actor suddenly comes out and says something, it’s a lot more difficult to swear off your favorite movies and not see anything new. As an example, if someone decided they didn’t like Vin Diesel’s politics, would they then hate all the past “Fast and Furious” films and swear off upcoming installments?
It’s a lot harder to do that. But, for a lot of Americans (Red State or not) it’s a lot easier to swear off of critically acclaimed arthouse films because of what someone has to say.
I think that what it comes down to is that the majority of conservatives are used to being on the other side of the equation from “the arts” to use a catch-all term. I would think that the majority of conservatives have long since reconciled that they have to decide if they can separate the on-screen George Clooney or behind-the-camera Rob Reiner from the person who comments publicly on current events. So, unfortunately, it’s just more of the same.
I DO think that it will inform decisions for new movies and up and coming actors. It might really shape whether or not you check out a movie, TV show or listen to music from someone new on the scene but you really feel like doesn’t represent you.”
“Hollywood won’t change dismissing conservative or American audiences in general because they believe they don’t need them anymore. With more markets opening up in China and Hollywood reaching out more to China for financing (See Marvel) they believe the American audience has become expendable
The more they become activists or outspoken in the political arena, it’s because they believe they don’t need the 48% of the country that opposes their views. They believe it’s as much a business decision as it is a personal one.
‘American Sniper’ was the highest-grossing film of two years ago. It made more at the box office than the final ‘Hunger Games’ film. The problem with Hollywood isn’t so much bias, but they don’t know who they are making films for anymore.
There are several factors that can play into low Oscar ratings. Streaming + everyone knows now that the show is going to probably be five-hours long. I can barely get through these comments much less spend four hours watching something on TV. Couple that with again, 48 percent of the country knowing they are a target for a room full of aggrieved millionaires in designer clothes, people simply tune out.
“Hollywood has damaged its brand, but that’s partly because its market has changed. China is crucial to Hollywood in a way the U.S. no longer is.
So the mistreatment of American audiences may partly, if unconsciously, be driven by the idea that we simply don’t matter as much anymore to the Hollywood business model.
Of course, you never want to alienate any consumers, and even some lefties in Hollywood understand that and try to maintain some discipline, but that self-control does slip at times.”
“As far as Hollywood’s nasty and divisive politics, I doubt Sunday night woke anyone who wasn’t already woke. The real problem is how foolish the industry looked. Good grief, five months of award ceremonies all come down to that final moment when Best Picture is announced, and they completely blew it. Instead of being angry over being insulted, we are now pointing and laughing, and that will only further hurt whatever residual moral authority the industry had. Their ability to persuade is even more eroded.
Movie-wise, the film industry is already as marginalized as it can be. Less than 1 percent of the American population saw ‘Moonlight.’ Tentpoles will still do what they do, because no amount of Trump-trashing is going to keep ‘Avengers 3’ or ‘Fast & Furious 8’ from grossing $400 million domestic. When it comes to the box office, it will always come down to the product.
The industry overall, though, is an even bigger joke than they were Sunday night. And that hurts everyone and everything, including Democrat politicians, associated with them. And that is very good for America.”
John Nolte is an editor and film critic with Breitbart News.
“The distrust of the elites is both that people are getting the feeling they’ve been told pernicious lies (they have. Marxism) but also that the elites can’t DO anything, which is also true but only partly due to Marxism. it’s mostly that tech is changing things at a level most of us haven’t processed.
I think Hollywood is the next to get hit with the tech stick, like ebooks. It’s becoming so much easier and simple to do movies, animations, etc. And the stars’ and elites’ behavior is pushing people to a maybe slightly inferior product but one that doesn’t insult them. Exactly as it happened first with music, then with books.
I think the next ten years will be interesting times for movies and acting.”
Sarah Hoyt is a novelist whose work ranges from science fiction to Shakespearean yarns.