You hear from time to time about liberal Hollywood. Hollywood is full of liberals. Hollywood’s liberal agenda. Holly-weird. Hell-i-wood. This year we saw campaign ads featuring famous actors telling us to save the world by voting (obviously for Hillary Clinton). At the Golden Globes Meryl Streep, well, if you saw it you saw it. This may be the most liberal we’ve seen Hollywood in a long time (and maybe ever), but this isn’t Hollywood lashing out as a world of liberals so much as it is Hollywood lashing out as an enemy of Donald Trump. And this time they see someone they can’t help but recognize: A rich celebrity with less political experience than most politicians.
The myth of a purely liberal Hollywood persists despite the fact that the land of the film industry has very conservative roots, a mostly politically non-partisan agenda, and a tendency to always swing back to conservatism, especially when threatened. Hollywood is as much conservative as it is liberal. Granted, each of those two terms means a number of things, often contradictory. But many of the claims that Hollywood is nothing but a factory of liberalism miss out on the big picture. As in motion picture. Hollywood is not motivated primarily by politics, but by money. Always has been. And in order to make money, it has to keep millions of Americans happy.
Hollywood has its fair share of GOP-friendly actors and movie-makers who speak their mind on conservative stances they hold:
Mel Gibson, Chuck Norris, Dwayne Johnson, Tom Selleck, Craig T. Nelson, Robert Downey Jr., Kelsey Grammar, Adam Sandler, Patricia Heaton, James Woods, Bruce Willis, Stephen Baldwin, Robert Duvall, Kurt Russell, Joe Rogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Drew Carey, Jon Lovitz, Gary Sinise, Kirk Cameron, Dennis Miller, Sylvester Stallone, Jack Nicholson, John Voight, Angie Harmon, Pat Boone, Mindy Paling, John Malkovich, Gary Oldman, Eva Mendez, Kevin Sorbo, Vince Vaughn, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Davi, Stacey Dash, Dean Cain, Ron Swanson, Victoria Jackson, Ben Stein, and Gerald Molen.
Many other actors just don’t express their views, or don’t care.
Remember back in the 2000s that year Michael Moore shamed George Bush and his fictitious war? He was booed. From the audience. The Hollywood audience. The following year, the Academy made fun of him. Hollywood is crawling with liberals, but it’s not defined by liberalism. In a Fox interview, director Jerry Bruckheimer said that he never felt ostracized for openly having conservative views. Hollywood, he said, honors people who are good to work with, regardless of your politics. I mean, look at Tom Cruise. He’s a Scientologist. But man, does he make money.
And the Academy Awards themselves are less about liberal elitism and more about money. Because so many academy members are culturally educated California residents who love the dramatic arts, many of them lean left. However, production companies spend millions of dollars each year essentially trying to “bribe” the academy into accepting their pictures. Those liberal political rants? Sometimes they just amount to posturing in the presence of the academy. It’s a time when movie-makers love to give themselves a pat on the back.
Actors only star in the roles. Directors direct the tone of the pictures. Some of the biggest producers and directors of Hollywood, who produce some of the most popular, money-making blockbusters, don’t center their themes around liberal values, but conservative ones. Zack Snyder, Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay—names like these even the most casual movie-goers recall, directors whose flicks often mirror very conservative values. Their films lift up America as exceptional, celebrate commerce and industry, glorify American military and geo-political leadership. They even play on cultural stereotypes of other cultures, and reinforce traditional roles for men and women.
Even films like Zero Dark Thirty seem to remain conservative (ZD30 taking a slightly pro-torture stance), telling Americans to feel good about themselves for being American, for supporting the military without question, for believing in America’s goodness in comparison with the rest of the world.
Some of your biggest directors direct some of the most money-making films every year, and many of them are either action films or family films that teach us, in one way or another, a host of conservative values.
- Just take a film franchise like Men in Black (produced by Spielberg). Tommy Lee Jones is a hero who opens the movie by interrogating and shooting an illegal alien. The entire trilogy celebrates a fictional govt. agency whose purpose is to control strict borders and monitor literal aliens from other planets, poking fun at Greenwich village weirdos, sketchy Chinese restaurants, Michael Jackson and Andy Warhol. All aliens are a potential threat, and not just earth, but America is the one place they should thank for protecting the galaxy.
- In Spielberg’s film Lincoln, Davis the Confederate is presented in a more sympathetic light than most liberals would provide, and the roles of slaves and freedmen are minimized compared to Lincoln’s apparent heroics in passing a law that countless slaves suffered and died to see passed. It’s a movie about racism in which the heroes are all rich and powerful white men.
- In Bay’s Transformers franchise, the American military and business entrepreneurs team up with gas-guzzling vehicles for an all-out war that destroys entire forests and cities, and audiences cheer as explosions rock the sky and a female lead is reduced to a sex object just as Donald Trump would expect. In the sequel, a fictional President Obama is presented in a bad light, offering to surrender the hero to the bad guys in the name of diplomacy. In Armageddon, blue collar workers agree to save the world, provided they never pay taxes again. In Bad Boys II, reckless govt. agents invade and tear up a Cuban neighborhood in order to catch a hispanic drug lord, who is blown to pieces.
- Clint Eastwood, who once gave a famous address to the empty chair of Obama, directed American Sniper, a story in which, you guessed it, a U.S. military sniper is honored for protecting America by killing people overseas. This is the same guy who was himself Dirty Harry, the famous cop who was, to the chagrin of any liberal, a bully who beat people up in the streets and ran around gunning down criminals.
The Disney conglomeration makes most of its money on franchising itself to—above all—families. Entire parks and films function on the basis they they are family friendly, G-rated, and promote simple values without challenging too much status quo.
And have you counted how many action films came out this year? Every time a movie portrays a person wielding a gun in a positive light, it’s probably a conservative message. Hollywood actors are starring in these movies.
Just look at our Superhero movies, dominated by Marvel and DC. Batman and Tony Stark are billionaire playboys who beat up criminals, circumventing the justice system, and disregard the government’s rules for them. Captain America is, well, Captain America, a war veteran with an American flag for a costume who believes there is one God and never stops being a soldier. Like most Hollywood stories, these stories are about individuals, who sometimes learn to work as a team, accomplishing great things because of their own individual will—and powers. Superman consults a Christian clergyman about what to do with humanity.
Funnily enough, the Avengers film franchise has been helmed by liberal director Joss Whedon, who was also behind one of those celebrity-tells-you-to-vote-Democrat videos. Whedon may be liberal, but his films typically end up politically neutral, if not leaning conservative.
Captain America: Civil War exemplifies this neutrality of politics. The entire film, based on a comic book franchise, opened up the question of American responsibility in the world. Instead of answering that question, the script has the two opposing sides agree to team up and defeat the terrorist. Why? Because Hollywood knows America is divided, but going to an entertaining movie will unite us all. If you want to see Republican gun nuts and Democrat geeks in harmony, go to a super hero movie.
A lesson from history tells us that Hollywood is fully capable of swinging both right and left. Remember the McCarthy Era? The Red Scare? A film released last year, Trumbo, reminds us of a not too distant time when Hollywood was scared into becoming more conservative. Hollywood execs quickly disavowed anyone on McCarthy’s blacklist. Years later, after the government calmed down about Communism, blacklisted writers could write again.
While there are countless liberal activist actors crawling over California and New York, Hollywood does not function as a liberal machine. Hollywood, from the beginning, has always had its own economy of values. It’s an industry that runs on image and money. It’s a business, not a land, and it makes its money on projecting images to masses. Dozens of rich celebrities with eyes on them might tout their favorite political cause, most of them liberal, but they only do that because they can afford to. They know their audience. Liberal actors know that conservatives will see their movies anyway. Conservatives like movies, not actors. Liberals love the actors. Many of these actors will star in a small video calling for people to vote Democrat or stand up for an LGBT or animal rights cause, only to star in a blockbuster where they wear fur coats, straight lifestyles are the norm, and Republican values somehow end up as central to a happy ending. The success of their career and of their production company are what determines how willing they are to use their celebrity as a platform. And sometimes, like the films themselves, it’s just for show. Too many of their viewers are conservative for them to be too offensively liberal.
Have you ever been to Hollywood? The neighborhood itself is a very poor neighborhood. The sign on the hill and the big studio lots distract us from that. The insulated “1%” of Hollywood is actually a small number of execs and stars out of touch with not only their town, but the nation. But the actors know how to pretend, and the execs know what audiences are going to go and watch. Look at California itself. Despite being a notoriously liberal state, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger led the state as mayor for years. And remember Ronald Reagan, the most famous and most lauded modern Republican president? He was an actor from Hollywood before stepping into politics.
Hollywood is liberal. Hollywood is conservative. Hollywood is a lucrative industry, that knows how to make money off of you. No matter what your politics are. Currently, more famous actors are outspoken liberals. But eight years from now, or sixteen, that could easily change.