There's a little flurry of articles out on the big-boy blogs -- Roger Ailes and James Wolcott -- commenting on right wing folk losing their crap over Hollywood. Mr. Ailes links to a bunch of aspiring, (and conveniently unsourced) screenwriters claiming their projects were sunk because they were, essentially, too patriotic. Mr. Wolcott links to the complaints over Oliver Stone doing the first 9/11 movie and the idea that Steven Spielberg -- who proved his hatred of the American fighting man with Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers -- is taking a subversively liberal POV on Mossad's pursuit of the Munich terrorists.
Mr. Wolcott in particular gives these ideas a spanking so thorough I can only shake my head at the ass-through-the-woodchipper remnants produced. However, one thing stands out in everyone's discussion -- summarized by Instahack's phrase: ""Hollywood probably is that out of touch with America, which may have something to do with its falling revenues ..."
Now to tell the truth, this is just the latest motivation to pen this column. I originally meant to write this back when Danielle Crittenden, David Frum's wife, did her opening-day "Hollywood" stereotype gag over at The Huffington Post. A quick look at her columns shows that pretty much the entire range of her palsied attempts at satire are repetitive, stilted parodies of a wildly stereotypical Hollywood that only exists within her limited imagination, often presented as insider insight into an industry to which she has plainly never been closer than a food court multiplex. Sweet God, that little sketch about the Hollywood bigwig learning to reach out to Washington is so poorly written it would get cut from a gay porn movie. I can only politely request that if Arianna insist on even-handedness in her house, she find a conservative who has at least a two-note range. Oh, and look, today's column is a parody of the Oliver Stone 9/11 script. Way to work the dry hole, Ms. Crittenden.
In the name of all that's holy, you talentless hack-wife of a pandering hack-master, stop typing.
Where was I?
Oh -- "Hollywood" is out of touch. "Hollywood" is liberal. The idea that "Hollywood" is some monolithic, organized ... well, ANYTHING with a unified creative vision is patently ridiculous.
"Hollywood", for those of you pontificating from your midwestern basements, is comprised of:
-- a half-dozen massive corporate production entities which hate each others' guts with supernova intensity. Paramount exists only to crush Sony, see them driven before them, and hear the lamentations of their assistants. They care not how they do it.
-- a couple dozen actors/directors/producers who can get stuff made by those corporate entities. The directors are looking for interesting stories and interesting ways to move their cameras, the actors are looking for interesting roles, regardless of good or evil (and lacking depth to a role, will talk themselves into the idea a role has depth), and the producers SWEET GOD just want to get this goddam thing out of development where it's been twisting for five years.
-- writers who make themselves sick alternating between doomed projects they love and non-doomed projects which are skidding into rewrites like a slow-mo car crash, leavened with success just often/rarely enough to keep them hooked.
-- everybody else. Who would like a job now. Any job. Please. So ... hungry. So .... cold ... so cold ...
I'm not surprised your conservative-toned movie/script/project went nowhere. The vast majority of projects disappear. You rationalize it however you want, but that doesn't make it true. Or, as my friend Orac says "The plural of anecdote is not data."
I make a living -- a tolerably fine one -- at writing films. I am, one might say, a liberal. Add up all the projects I've worked on in the last five years ... hmm, five have hit the screen, of about twenty. Even I, a very successful working writer, only have a 25% success rate. Damn you, conservative Hollywood!
The truly remarkable thing about Hollywood is how liberal the people who fill the executive chairs are, and how little that influences their film-making. Profit first, morals maybe, politics never. Hollywood movies are, by and large, politics-free.
"WHAT?" I hear critics scream. "That's MADNESS! They plainly push a specific set of liberal cultural and political values !!"
Oooo, look. Data. Let's take the top 15 moneymakers from the last few years. These tend to be both the movies that had the most promotional push, and also biggest audience (or cultural) impact. It's a rough metric, but the movies don't get any more or less politicized as you go down the list -- they tend to alternate between horror movies and failed rom-coms. You want a tighter look, go parse the lists yourself. From the best box-office site on the web, the truly magnificent Box Office Mojo:
Top 15 movies in 2005 (so far):
Revenge of the Sith -- claimed by both liberals and conservatives, and both of you are idiots. It's a Star Wars movie, jackass, sixth and last in the most famous franchise in history.
Hitch - date doctor. rom-com
Madagascar - animated children's film about zoo animals
Batman Begins -- comic book movie, but pro-torture/vigilanteism!
War of the Worlds - sci fi thriller about courage in adversity, value of family
Fantastic Four - comic book movie (position my guess based on opening weekend)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith - dueling sexy hit men. violent, but no politics or religion.
The Longest Yard - comedy remake.
Robots - animated children's film about robots
The Pacifier - SEAL who takes care of kids. family comedy.
Are We There Yet? -- family comedy. Guy bonds with Girlfriend's kids
Monster-in-Law -- Straight-up rom-com. Got Jane Fonda in it, but all she betrays is J-Lo. Hardly a Hollywood staple anymore, first movie in fifteen years
The Ring Two -- horror sequel, but theme is about mother saving son
Constantine -- comic book movie. Is shockingly pro-heaven in the whole God v. Satan thing.
Sin City -- Okay, agreed. The singular most morally reprehensible thing on the list (and in my mind, most reprehensible movie in theaters for a considerable amount of time). However, please note it was made outside the studio system. Rodriguez shot it as an indie. And hey, you people didn't have to go see it. Won't last the summer in this spot.
Top 15 in 2004:
Shrek 2 -- animated family film & sequel
Spiderman 2 -- objectively pro-science! comic book adaptation.
Passion of Christ -- another indie. And, I say, good for Mel for making something he believed in. However anti-semitic.
Meet the Fockers -- comedy
The Incredibles -- animated superhero movie. Value of family theme.
Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban -- children's book adaptation
The Day After Tomorrow -- Hmm. I guess if you're someone who believes this movie is pitching the whole climate change issue as its central theme rather than a convenient way to bring about big-budget mayhem, I can spot you this one. Of course, you then have to argue that Roland Emmerich is objectively pro-alien, and Independence Day was a vicious assault on the Clinton's Adminstration's lack of a coherent anti-alien policy. But, you know what, I'll spot you.
The Bourne Supremacy -- sequel, spy thriller
National Treasure -- treasure hunt, adventure movie
Polar Express -- animated adaptation of children's book
Shark Tale -- animated children's movie
I, Robot -- book adaptation
Troy -- historical epic. Anti-war? Well, not many ways to spin the Iliad.
Ocean's Twelve -- sequel to a remake. look, celebrities! looking cool!
Fifty First Dates -- rom-com
Fahreneit 9/11 is down at 17 here, by the way -- between Van Helsing and Lemony Snicket. Also, may I remind everyone, an indie film. There's a tiny amount of controversy, primarily by people who missed the entire fucking point of the movie, about whether Million Dollar Baby was pro-euthenasia, but seeing as it's just a notch above Princess Diaries Two, let's null those two out.
Top 15 of 2003: (This was a helluva year, I'm going to go top 20 here)
Return of the King -- rather adopted by conservatives, if I remember. "Men of the West..."
Finding Nemo -- animated children's film
Pirates of the Caribbean -- family pirate romp
Matrix Reloaded -- maybe, kinda, Zen existentialism?
Bruce Almighty -- Although I found it insulting, a surprising number of my Christian friends thought this was a positive portrayal of God and faith. Hunh.
X-Men 2 -- sequel, comic book adaptation
Elf -- family film
Terminator 3 -- sequel, sci fi actioner
Matrix Revolutions -- noooo idea what this was supposed to be about. pro ... talking?
Cheaper by the Dozen -- remake. family film
Bad Boys 2 -- sequel, actioner
Anger Management -- buddy comedy
Bringing Down the House -- buddy comedy. bonus points for white people are stupid meme
Hulk -- comic book adaptation
2 Fast 2 Furious -- sequel to teen action movie
Something's Gotta Give -- rom-com. Old people like sex too!
Seabiscuit -- inspiring historical
SWAT -- remake of TV show, actioner
Spy Kids -- family film
The Last Samurai -- inspiring historical
Top 15 of 2002
Spider-Man -- comic book adaptation. but -- with great power comes great responsibility!
The Two Towers -- book adaptation, but seen as very patriotic post 9/11
Attack of the Clones -- sci-fi sequel
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets -- children's book adaptation
My Big Fat Greek Wedding -- surprise indie. Good for them. rom-com.
Signs -- God may not play dice with the universe, but apparently he does play charades. Family sci-fi movie, very pro-faith.
Goldmember -- comedy sequel. naughty in a Benny Hill way.
Men in Black 2 -- comedy sequel
Ice Age -- animated children's film
Chicago -- musical remake. strong political message ... for 1933.
Catch Me if You Can -- biopic. (and amazing, by the way)
Die Another Day -- thriller, sequel of sorts
Scooby Doo -- family comedy & adaptation
Lilo and Stitch -- animated children's film
Top 15 of 2001:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone -- adaptation of children's novel
Fellowship of the Ring -- adaptation of famous literature. (yes, it's literature. don't make me roll against your armor class)
Shrek -- animated children's film
Monsters Inc. -- animated children's film
Rush Hour 2 -- sequel, actioner
The Mummy Returns -- sequel, actioner & family film
Pearl Harbor -- historical, ferociously patriotic
Ocean's Eleven -- look! celebrities! remake.
Jurassic Park 3 -- sequel of sci fi movie. theme is family saving family
Planet of the Apes -- remake of sci fi movie
A Beautiful Mind -- inspiring biopic
Hannibal -- sequel. kinda perverse
American Pie 2 -- teen comedy
The Fast and the Furious -- remake (didnt know that, did you?) teen-oriented actioner
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider -- adaptation of video game
Top 15 of 2000
How the Grinch Stole Christmas -- adaptation of children's book (and/or remake)
Cast Away -- drama. brilliant, but politically/culturally neutral. arguably pro-FedEx
Mission impossible 2 -- sequel, thriller
Gladiator -- inspiring historical. And. So. Fucking. Cool.
What Women Want -- rom-com
The Perfect Storm -- true-story, scrappy blue-collar heroes
Meet the Parents -- rom-com/buddy movie
X-Men -- comic book adaptation
Scary Movie -- teen comedy
What Lies Beneath -- adultery is baaaaad. thriller (book adaptation?)
Dinosaur -- animated family film
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon -- fancy-pants import. romance/actioner.and book adaptation, by the way
Erin Brockovich -- biopic. Scrappy blue-collar heroine.
Charlie's Angels -- remake of TV show. too sexy? Eh.
Traffic -- TV show adaptation (seriously), but score under straight drama. Not exactly pro-drug
Or, if you prefer, the biggest movies of the last five years, in box-office order (not adjusted for inflation):
Return of the King
Spider Man 2
Star Wars 3 - Return of the sith
The Passion of the Christ (technically an indie)
The Two Towers
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Fellowship of the Ring
Star Wars 2 - Attack of the Clones
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Matrix Reloaded
Meet the Fockers
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (another indie)
Rush Hour 2
Mission Impossible 2
The Mummy Returns
Men in Black 2
The Day After Tomorrow
What Women Want
The Perfect Storm
Jurassic Park 3
Planet of the Apes
A Beautiful Mind
Oh the travesty! The unending parade of liberalism, strident hairy-legged feminazis, goateed war protesters and political posturing! The left-wing political extremism! Gay marriage and abortion and stem cell research and mocking Christian values verily unto the horizon!
What have we learned, other than a.) apparently no original idea has been filmed since the turn of the century, b.) I really, really should have arbitrated Rush Hour 2, and c.) I need to write myself a passel of animated children's movies?
"Hollywood" isn't pushing a liberal agenda. "Hollywood" isn't pushing any agenda. "Hollywood", or rather the disparate, ferociously competing scrum of soundstage-owning mega-corporations based in Los Angeles, are pushing nice, neutral entertainment.
(Now, maybe back in the day, Hollywood was liberal. This is probably the case, as we've seen that pretty much every pundit, particularly the conservatives, are really busy fighting the culture wars of their youth. Seriously, those of us under forty watched the last election with nothing short of sickened awe. Fuck the war going on RIGHT NOW, we've got some Vietnam shit to settle! --)
Ahem. My point is, no, you won't see a movie with conservative political or religious values -- you won't see any movie with any political or religious values. That might incite an iota of controversy. Every movie that's controversial in any way, liberal or conservative, was also made outside the studio or "Hollywood" system.
Point of fact, the one recurring theme here is the success of the family movie. Family values make money. And much-maligned "Hollywood" is shovelling out family entertainment as fast as it can. You're welcome, by the way.
Sure, as far as working within the Hollywood system, you deal with a lot of liberals -- it's CALIFORNIA people. These people's parents came here to live in a liberal area, and most of these people have grown up in a liberal area. It's where the studios are. There are parts of this country (and I played them as a stand up) where I'd wind up listening to an hour of "We gotta blow up them hajis" talk during a business meeting. That's life. Suck it up. Many of the actors and execs are personally liberal (as is, may I remind you, their right) -- and being famous and liberal, they have a high visibility, and that side of them sticks in your perception of them and the industry they work in. But as far as what the system actually produces -- which is all that matters -- plainly what we have here is completely inoffensive agenda-less entertainment.
Oliver Stone is not doing the 9/11 movie because "Hollywood" has decided he's doing it. He's a talented, controversial guy actors like to work with, who found himself the right script at the right time to get a green light. Somebody else of the same rank in this town with the right arrangment of talent had gotten there first, they'd be doing it. Steven Spielberg (who, full disclosure, I worked with briefly) is not only one of the greatest directors to walk the planet, but is personally compassionate, a patriotic man who, besides his extensive charity work, has dedicated an enormous amount of money, time and his own talent to telling stories of sacrifice, courage, and deep redeeming morality.
So, my friend, if you have a beef with a particular piece of talent, fine. You go ahead and express your misgivings. But stop mewling about some oppressive "Hollywood" conspiracy (which doesn't exist) forcing liberal-tinged entertainment (which it doesn't make) down your throat to progress some liberal agenda (which it's not organized enough to have). It does nothing but reveal that you're not just ignorant, not just nursing a poorly conceived and completely unjustified sense of the hard-done-bys, but you're also arrogant enough not to care that what's spewing from you falls squarely between uninformed pablum and high-velocity horse-shit.