Friday, December 3, 2010

Is Hollywood Finally Listening?

Is Hollywood finally listening to conservatives? Hollywood has always had a liberal bent, though it was not always particularly noticeable. Part of this was that in the 1940s-1950s, liberalism was closer to classical liberalism (i.e. modern conservatism) than it was to hateful, lunatic modern liberalism. In the 1990s, however, Hollywood began to change and it became openly leftist and extremely hostile to all things non-liberal. But I wonder if that’s changing?

When the Clintons came to office with the support of Hollywood, Hollywood came fully out of the closet and jumped into the tank for the Democrats. As the Democrats drifted further and further to the nasty left, Hollywood followed. Gone were the generic public service announcements of the 1980s and the strategically placed “No Smoking” or “End Apartheid” signs in films, and in their place were open tirades against everything American. By the 2000s, this become so commonplace that there was scarcely a film that didn’t include some anti-Republican, anti-conservative, or anti-American message. And even when the films didn’t include these messages, many of the actors spent their days giving vile speeches supporting dictators and damning America.

The content was changing too. Villains became much more nasty and were drawn from narrower ranks, i.e. they all became melodramatic liberal bogeymen. Moreover, certain types of people could no longer be anything but villains. The American military and intelligence community because disloyal murderers. Priests became pedophiles. Businessmen because perverts, thieves, and killers. Religious people were portrayed as stupid lunatics with cultish overtones. There were no exceptions.

But then something began to happen. Americans, particularly conservative Americans, began voting with their wallets. Indeed, since at least the Iraq war, more and more conservative consumers began turning their backs on Hollywood. Profits continued to rise, but that was because of skyrocketing ticket prices and 3D surcharges; in real numbers ticket sales keep falling. Hollywood has noticed, though most tried to blame the recession. But this trend started long before the recession, and the public's boycott is too selective to be part of a general economic trend.

For example, while war films continue to play well (Valkyrie (2009), Flags of Our Fathers (2006)), not a single Iraqi War film escaped the bust label. Matt Damon was a bankable superstar until he started whining about Bush and Katrina and America. George Clooney’s box office appeal crashed the moment he began spewing. Ditto Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Megan Fox and others, and the presence of these people can now drag any film down. Everything politicized directors like Michael Moore and Oliver Stone did suddenly flopped, as did the political films. People even stayed away in droves from Disney’s attempt to satisfy race-baiting critics by providing a black princess in The Frog Princess, from the anti-religious rant The Invention of Lying, and anti-Wall Street films like Wall Street II.

So is Hollywood getting the message or is all of this falling on deaf ears? Well, consider this. In the past year, we’ve suddenly had two films that never would have been made in the early 2000s. The first is The Book of Eli and the second is Legion. Legion is your standard “angles are nasty creatures sent to kill humans” story that seems to have become popular ever since The Prophecy. But what makes it rather different is that it contains an anti-abortion message. Indeed, to save humanity, the heroes must protect a woman who wanted to have an abortion, but changed her mind. That’s a message you simply could not have put into a film before the somewhat ambiguous Juno in 2007. . . Hollywood’s feminist lobby never would have allowed it.

The Book of Eli is even more interesting. This is a film about a man, Eli (Denzel Washington), who is walking through a post-apocalyptic world with a book. They don’t tell you what the book is right away, but it’s so obvious that you can’t help but figure it out -- The Bible. Throughout this film, we are told that the horrific world in which humanity finds itself is the result of a war in which people tried to destroy every Bible because they blamed it as a cause of conflict, e.g. just like many on the atheist-left do today. At the same time, the few survivors with knowledge of times before the war talk with reverence about the power of the Bible to improve people’s lives and make the world a better place. Moreover, the film doesn’t hesitate to make it clear that God is real or that he is protecting Eli as he travels. AND, as he goes, Eli learns that the importance of the Bible is not the words per se, but living your life according to its teachings. Think about this for a moment. What was the last film produced by a major studio that was deeply complimentary to Christianity rather than deeply insulting?

I'm seeing hints in other movies too. The villains are getting more generic again and less-obviously insulting to America's institutions, and I'm seeing fewer straight up political moments in non-political films.

These could be outliers, but even if they are, they are outliers that simply could not have been made in the early 2000s. Perhaps this is evidence that Hollywood has turned a corner and that cracks are appearing in the Tinsel Curtain? Maybe this is even the beginning of an acknowledgement by Hollywood that it realizes that it needs to win back conservatives? I guess we’ll know when we see our first film in which American soldiers are made out as heroes rather than psychopaths?

49 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

too soon to tell, Andrew-- but maybe, jusy maybe we will see more. I don't need conservative, but please spare the p.c. leftist agenda. To be honest it got so bad, I haven't been keeping tabs very closely the past few years.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Don't get me wrong, I am NOT saying that we're suddenly there. But I was very surprised to see these messages in both films .... stunned actually. And I wonder if maybe this is the beginning of a swing back?

And like you, I don't need (or want) "conservative politics" in films, I just want my non-political films to remain non-political. And if they do get political, I want fairness.

CrispyRice said...

Interesting thought, Andrew, but I think they're beyond hope.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, Most of them probably are, just as the current crop of House Democrats are beyond hope too. But I don't think the whole industry is beyond hope.... at least I hope not.

Anonymous said...

I'm at work right now but I'll have some thoughts on the subject later.

As usual, stay tuned. :-)

I hope the industry isn't beyond hope; I'd still kinda like to work in it one day!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I look forward to your input. We'll keep the blog-lights on for you! ;-)

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Their old bugaboo McCarthy was particularly hated among the Hollywood types because even in the early Fifties they were gaining the upper hand and then the boom fell. McCarthy may have been a demagogue and at the end a complete fake, but in the interim he found a whole lot of communists in the industry. It has taken years for them and their fellow-traveling liberals to recover, only to find that the market is accomplishing the same thing that McCarthy did with a sledgehammer. Most Americans are not going to pay the outrageous prices of today to see films that insult their country, their patriotism and their intelligence. George Clooney has found his niche--staring at goats.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I think that's true. And I think what is making this even harder for them is that film companies have all become public companies, so suddenly profit and loss has a lot more meaning. That gives the market a lot more power... which means consumers are stronger.

You can only tick off your audience for a short period of time before they stop spending money on your shows.

Tam said...

I am one who definitely and deliberately falls into the category of voting with my wallet on this one. Just as you said, I won't pay the exhorbitant fees to be insulted by liberal, Hollywood elitists. I'm done with them. I've been watching a lot of old Clint Eastwood movies on Netflix lately.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, Old Clint Eastwood is great stuff!

In the past, I largely tried to ignore the insulting liberal-ness in films because I just like films generally and I could tolerate it. I didn't like it, but I could tolerate it.

BUT... in the past few years it's become so obnoxious and so insulting that I just can't do it anymore. It's become like watching propaganda. So now I avoid films that I know are going to be crawling with liberal messages -- like Green Zone, which is just leftist garbage intended to insult America, Americans and our military.

And guys like Michael Moore are completely off-limits at this point. In the past, I might have watched a Michael Moore film (depending on the topic), just to see what he had to say. But not anymore. He's nothing but a propagandists, and I will not support him. And there is nothing he can do to ever win me back.

Doc Whoa said...

I want to think Hollywood is learning its lesson, but until I see a lot more, I'm not going to believe it.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, I'm certainly not convinced yet, but I am hopeful that they are starting to realize their mistake and that the conservatives in Hollywood are starting to assert themselves.

Ed said...

I had the exact same thought when I saw "Book of Eli"! I didn't think it was a great movie, but it wasn't bad and it certainly went up a couple notches in my view because of the surprising message.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I thought it a decent film, not great. And like you, I was pretty stunned when I saw it because of the message. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and to be lectured on how Christianity needs to be modernized to get rid of its bad parts or something like that. But they never went there. Very strange.

Janet said...

I don't believe "Juno" was an anti-abortion film. I know many conservatives think it was, but the point to the movie was that it was good that she had the choice. Also, the director and actors have all said they are pro-choice.

AndrewPrice said...

Janet, I don't claim that Juno was a pro-life film, but it was unique in that it was the first movie I can think of out of Hollywood since the 1970s where abortion wasn't considered to be the only good choice. And the fact that she decided to keep the child is what made pro-life people praise the film.

Dane said...

Hollywood is leftist trash and they won't change until their livelihoods depend on it and even then they'll fight like rats to keep putting their bulls***t views into everything.

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna try to limit the examples of films mentioned (if any) to the anti-war flicks and not innocuous romantic comedies with one or two political jabs, which I feel is a separate category altogether.

Believe me, I'd love nothing more than for Hollywood to be more even-handed, especially if it means better films. The thing with all the anti-war films is that they were bad! Give me Dr. Strangelove any day of the week over The Green Zone - at least it's entertaining. And you and I have already talked about The Invention of Lying - I like Ricky Gervais but it was so depressing! I do have to ask, what's your beef with The Frog Princess? I haven't seen it but so what if Disney makes a movie with a black princess? One should ask, what was the motivation? Tell a good story that happened to feature a black character or bait the race-baiters?

I know you're fond of saying that a film isn't conservative just because some character says he hates taxes. But the inverse is also true - a film isn't liberal just because it features a gay character, or a recycle bin in the background, etc.

The truth is that several (but not all) of these films don't even originate with the studios. I'm not excusing them but very often the money comes from little indie companies like Participant Productions, whose goal is to produce "socially relevant" entertainment. And it goes without saying a lot of the money comes from overseas.

Big Hollywood (or someone) should do a story about this guy. He's not a producer; he's a philanthropy consultant for Hollywood and I imagine this sort of thing, while well-intentioned, doesn't help with the political end of things, especially since much of it is for left-leaning causes.

StanH said...

My wife, and I used to see a couple movies a month, in peak months, a movie a week, just for something to do. Now we go to the movies a half dozen times a year sometimes less. I don’t want “conservative” movies made I want good movies made. I don’t want to be insulted or lectured about how my great country sucks, I want to be entertained. There were a few other movies that bucked the trend from 2000 forward, LOTR, Gladiator, We Were Soldiers, Cinderella Man, Secretariat, etc. too name a few more.

There are several actors and directors, who will never, as long as I live get another dime from me, we all know who they are, without a list.

Anonymous said...

Stan - nice to see some love for Cinderella Man. A movie like that should've made a ton of money from mid-America but was more or less ignored (you and I are obviously exceptions)!

And I barely go to the theater myself, only because it's too much money to spend on a whim and why bother when I have Netflix and HD?

Writer X said...

I don't believe that Hollywood is smart enough (or brave enough) to confront the real reasons for the decline in movie sales, most of which you've listed. Liberal messages aside, most of what comes out of Hollywood is pure crap.

Anonymous said...

Writer X - a sci-fi writer named Theodore Sturgeon once came up with a law which states: "90% of everything is crap," which is very true!

This is fodder for another blog post but most movies have always been bad. The good stuff rises to the top and we remember the good things. :-)

StanH said...

Scott, perhaps if Russell Crowe hadn’t chucked a cell phone at a concierge at a NYC hotel it may have done better?

I liked the movie because of the American ideal of lifting yourself up by the bootstraps, and work even harder. And though it was a Ron Howard movie, he played it straight, and entertained his audience.

Writer X said...

Scott, That is very true! Unfortunately I cannot remember the last time I saw a movie that knocked my socks off. I also cannot remember the last time I was motivated to sit inside a movie theater either. And then when I hear the "wisdom" of the Danny Glovers, Matt Damons, and Megan Foxes of the world, I'm certainly less motivated to spend my hard-earned cash.

AndrewPrice said...

Man, I'm gone for a few minutes and everyone comments! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Dane, I think that's some of them, but I doubt it's all of them. Plus, the profit motive has a way of making everyone pay attention the demands of their audience.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, On the Invention of Lying... I do say that one or two minor "transgressions" does not make a movie liberal or conservative. But that particular film was a full on blast at Christianity. From start to finish it ridiculed people who believe in God and it makes them out as mindless idiots who needed to be lied to so they could live happily. That's not like adding a gay character or one person saying they don't like taxes -- that's a political statement disguised as a movie.

On The Frog Princess, I personally don't care about the race of characters, nor do I think it's all that relevant in modern stories. But Disney has been on a decade long bender of trying to insert politically correct themes and ideas into it's movies -- hence, their utter lack of hits since The Lion King. This one was made in direct response to complaints from the black lobby that Disney had no black heroines. It was a cynical attempt to please the race lobby. And parents treated it accordingly. (Ironically, blacks were even more upset than whites because the heroine wasn't what they wanted.)

Two points on the origination of films. First, I don't consider small independent films because those are only tangentially part of the industry. Secondly, it doesn't really matter where the film originates, what matters are the ones that the studios ultimately put out, because it is the studios that control the distribution channels and which determine what will be available for most people to see -- unless you live in the 1-2 towns in the country where you have access to independent films. And what the studios have been putting out have been following the pattern of far left and nasty for a decade now, and are only now showing cracks in that pattern -- like the ones I mention.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, We do know who is on that list, and it's probably a very similar list to the ones a lot of people have.

There are a few other examples that snuck through, as you point out, though those tended to be during the earlier part of the decade -- pre-9/11, and they seem to be connected to people who became powerful figures (i.e. they could do what they want) before the current era kicked in.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think the improvement of home theaters is hurting theaters as well. But I'm not just talking about ticket sales. If you watch what becomes the top rentals, top DVD sales, and even play-time on channels like HBO, you see the same patterns.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, Tell me about it. Even putting the messages aside, I'm stunned how bad most modern movies are. Mindless plots, weak characters, generic direction, tons of stealing from other bland movies. . . what's to like?

Without a doubt there are great periods in films and dead periods in film. We are in one of the deadest of dead periods right now.

Anonymous said...

One quick note: I wasn't referring to The Invention of Lying with regards to the "transgressions" - they were separate thoughts. I didn't like that film so transgress away!

I've heard that a movie based on this book is currently somewhere in development. If it comes out and is more or less true to the source and it's successful, then you can call it a sea change.

P.S. Check your e-mail inbox.

P.P.S. La-La Land Records just released the complete score for Star Trek V in a 2-disc set. It just came today and sounds great. I know it's not The Black Hole but I'm always on the lookout. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I would agree with that (90% crap), with one caveat. When I look back on films, I think the number of good films has varied depending on the period. For example, there were a lot of great films in the mid-late 1940s, but few in the 1950s. The early 1960s were great, the latter stunk. The mid/late 1970s were great, then nothing until 1983-1985. Then there was a high point in the 1990s and then... jack.

When you start lining up the movies that survive the test of time, these patterns do appear that you get these eras with an abundance of good films followed by periods were few memorable movies were made. And right now, we are in one of the worst periods in my lifetime.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan and Scott, It think (truthfully) the problem with Cinderella Man is that boxing is losing its appeal in the US -- especially to women. Add in that this was a sort of period piece (which doesn't appeal to men), and that Crowe was getting a bad rep at the time, and you have a recipe for a movie that audiences will ignore.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, Same here. In fact, when I try to think of the last movie to really grab my attention, I have to go back probably ten years. And it doesn't help when I see the people on screen and my first thought isn't "wow, I like the way they play that character" but is instead "what an ass."

Tennessee Jed said...

I couldn't help but think after reading Stan's list (all films I enjoyed btw) about the article on the different television shows rated highly by Democrats vs. Republicans. That poll seemed to indicate a Republican preference for heroes instead of the imperfect or "broken" characters favored by Dems. While it was way over generalized, Stan's films point to there being at least a kernal of truth.

If you have not seen it, I recommend Winter's Bone, recently out on video.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I haven't heard of the book, but I'll watch for it. I'll be very interested to see how they hand Atlas Shrugged too.

And don't get me wrong, I am NOT saying there is a sea change, but I am saying that I am starting to see little points of light in the tinsel curtain that imposed this ideological rigidity. When I start seeing huge wholes in the curtain, then I will declare a sea change. But right now, there are just starting to be hints of previously "forbidden" ideas.

I'll check my e-mail.

Thanks for the heads up on Star Trek! :-)

Tennessee Jed said...

Writer X - the last time I actually had my socks knocked off so to speak was after the viewing the opening scene from "Inglorious Basterds" The remainder was very good, but that is one of the very best openers I can remember. Talk about immediately engaging the viewer.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - my recollection of the 90's is best desribed as the second golden age. While I cannot instantly recall GREAT movies, I remember it more for a huge number of above average movies. Interestingly, this is nothing more than a quick perception as a rapid thought response to your comments about periods for cinema. I didn't seriously think about it.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, Jed, et al -

I agree about good and bad periods of movies and as I've written on BH, I can rattle off a dozen awesome movies from 1984 but I can't do the same from this year or the last. Hopefully the next decade (which is almost here) will bring us some great movies... and will do so more often!

As for having my socks knocked off, Up certainly drove me to tears (the first ten minutes are hard to get through). The Lives of Others also had an effect on me, as did Benjamin Button, a movie I liked but wanted to love.

This'll sound crazy but of all the movies I've seen over the last few years - and I'm counting new and old - the one that punched me in the gut was, of all things, Joe vs. the Volcano. Yeah, I know. The film wasn't even successful when it was released but I thought it was a masterpiece and it spoke to me on a few different levels (to spare your sanity, I won't elaborate). :-)

Anonymous said...

And Jed, re: the list, I would add that most heroes are flawed characters. I think the difference is between films/TV shows with characters that try to overcome flaws vs. ones that wallow in them.

But that's all fodder for another article. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Excellent observation about that poll. I have the article in my notes, but haven't had a chance to sift through it for patterns -- but the point you make would seem to explain the difference quite nicely. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I've heard the 1990s described as the Second Golden Age of Film as well. Consider these films from the 1990s:

The Matrix, Ghost, Men In Black, The Sixth Sense, Jurassic Park, Independence Day, The Lion King, Pulp Fiction, L.A. Confidential, Terminator 2, Saving Private Ryan, True Lies, Basic Instinct, Schinder's List, The Usual Suspects, Pulp Fiction, L.A. Confidential etc.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I liked Up a lot, especially the beginning, but over all, that one was more enjoyable to me than sock-off-knocking.

Look at the list I wrote for Jed. When I saw movies like The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, Jurassic Park, L.A. Confidential, or The Usual Suspects, my jaw dropped and I left the theater wow'd, thinking about those films for days. I honestly can't name a movie I've seen this decade that came anywhere near that.


(P.S. I replied to your e-mail.)

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I haven't gotten the e-mail yet (as of 11:09 P.M. E.S.T.).

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

Until the too successful directors/producers die off, Hollywood won't be listening. I am talking about Spielberg, Lucas, Cameron and to a lesser extent Ron Howard. These are the guys who are running Hollywood these days. If they want to produce dreck, we get to see dreck.

If you could convince one of these guys that they are producing unwatchable movies, then you might see a turnaround. Unfortunately they have been way too successful.

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

PS: This does not mean I am advocating taking their profits away from them and giving it to more "deserving" directors/producers. I am saying that most of Hollywood looks to what they produce and tries to copy it. These guys made their bundle and aren't hurting unless they bought into Madoff's scheme.

Look at what Lucas, Spielberg, Cameron and Howard have last delivered to the public. It has been pretty awful. Yet, some still made money.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I think there is a lot of truth to that. Hollywood (and many other industries) copies what sells and what sells is not always what's best, but what is perceived to be best. And most people will accept things they don't like in products just to get what is perceived to be the overall best.

So as long as the public continues to support these guys (even if they don't like the politics), they will continue to make the films they want to make because right now there isn't a producer in the world who would presume to tell them how to make a film.

But there are a lot of other directors out there who don't copy their work. The problem is that so long as Hollywood accepts the idea that you need to be a leftist to work in Hollywood, they will follow that lead whether they want to or not just so they can continue doing what they are doing. But if holes start to appear in this belief, then directors who are not left-wing group-think types will begin to take chances and producers will start to demand depoliticization of films. And that could build on itself.

Obviously, we can't say if that's happening yet. But it stunned Hollywood when church groups showed box office muscle with Fireproof and Passion of the Christ, and I think the creation of things like Big Hollywood have caught them off guard. So what I'm saying is that maybe we are seeing the first steps of them testing "non-liberal" waters?

Ed said...

Wow, great list from the 1990's! Second golden age is right. I didn't realize all those films came out in the 1990's, I certainly can't think of that many good ones in the 2000's.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, There isn't much in the 2000s, certainly nowhere near as much as there was in the 1990s.

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