Monday, July 11, 2005

I WISH Hollywood Was That Organized ...

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

-- 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):

Shrek 2
Spider Man
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

Finding Nemo
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
The Incredibles
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Monsters, Inc.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Bruce Almighty
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (another indie)
Cast Away
Rush Hour 2
Mission Impossible 2
X-Men 2
The Mummy Returns
Pearl Harbor
Men in Black 2
The Day After Tomorrow
Ocean's Eleven
What Women Want
The Perfect Storm
Jurassic Park 3
Planet of the Apes
Ice Age
Bourne Supremacy
National Treasure
Batman Begins
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.


Jim said...

"In the name of all that's holy, you talentless hack-wife of a pandering hack-master, stop typing." The best line ever! Thank you, John Rogers!

Anonymous said...


The last paragraph pretty much sums up the conserveative existance. Bitch about anything that may be considered liberal or anti-conservative by anyone and to hell with the facts. It's a wonder these people are still in power. It's a bigger wonder that the majority of America belives the crap that spews forth from the collective cesspool that is the conserveative hive mind. If being a free thinker makes me a liberal then I never want to be anything but.

Justin Cognito said...

I'd just like to say that I'm wary of Oliver Stone on the 9/11 movie because of Alexander, but then again, I'm a liberal. And Oliver Stone kinda isn't; he's actually said, "Who cares if Roe v. Wade gets revoked?", and cut the whole "Alexander and Hephaestion are teh gay" plotline from "Alexander" because he thought that was what sunk it.

Other slight nitpicks:
-"Is shockingly pro-heaven in the whole God v. Satan thing." Yeah, but Gabriel turned out to be an "ends justify the means" psycho who was willing to bring about Armageddon just to get "the right people" up in Heaven. I bet a few fundamentalists were squirming in their seats at that.
-"objectively pro-science!"? "Oh, my God, that madman's trying to come up with an alternative energy source that will kill us all!" If that's pro-science, then so is Them!.

Otherwise, I agree. If some conservatives really feel they're underappreciated in Hollywood, then they should start producing their own stuff. If Sciafe can spare millions to make Clinton look like shit, then he can sure as hell spring for a studio.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with your basic point, you're forgetting something, that I can sum up with a story.

A friend of mine was in the 1991 iraq escapade, in the Army. He's lived in Germany for nine years as well. Despite this, he's very provincial in his thinking, and knows it (to a degree). He was so furious about the election, he adopted what he felt was an American stance: facts are for foreigners. He has a T-shirt that says, "I'm an American, I don't believe in facts."

George Bush is -- and these aren't allegations, they're documented facts -- a drug using, company ruining, party hardy borderline moron. But people in Missouri don't believe that. People in Texas don't believe that. Despite proof, in the face of incontrovertible evidence, they believe the lie.

Because the liars are better storytellers.

For all of "liberal" Hollywood's ability to craft fiction, none of that talent has been turned to campaigning. John freaking Kerry? This is your candidate? He may as well have been French. The liars told a story that Kerry's a indecisive stiff and that Edwards was a greedy pretty boy. And they believed it in the red states. Lock stock and however many smoking barrels as there are in Baghdad tonight. Using many of the same simple tricks of crowd manipulation that made Vince McMahon filthy rich.

Who does the left put up as their Rush Limbaugh? Al Franken, who wrote some of the most obscure (and admittedly funny) stuff in SNL history that flew over the heads of the flyover states. Plus, try listening to his voice for a few hours. Go on. Try to resist slitting your wrists. I dare you.

Hire voice actors. Have Franken and his sort write for them. Create a political persona, and build his story. An outsider, a Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, from a successful business man (who's not weird o goofy looking, like Perot was). Quit losing the data war by fighting from behind a virtual Maginot Line and complaining about how Karl Rove keeps driving tanks around it.

For the record, when asked "conservative or liberal" I normally answer "neither -- I'm Black."

Anonymous said...

John - you rock - if it's all right, I'm going to add a link to this article from my page. Awesome man.

one small point - you spelled "lifelong" wrong (liveling). But your voice and humor are clear throughout.

BTW, Hannibal - if the basic point that you're making is that conservatives and those that follow them aren't interested in facts, or are liars . . . I think that's a point John's made many times (See "I'm all out of reasonable") in other posts. This point to this post was Hollywood really is neither conservative or liberal or political at all.

Reverend Peter Sears said...

I plan on sending this beautiful screed to the next 200 people that use the phrase "liberal controlled media" at me.

You sir have a mastery of invective rhetoric that goes beyond the normal. I salute you.

Heronymus said...

My biggest problem with Stephen Spielberg is not that he's particularly political, but rather that he can't close. He's a brilliant opener, can carry 130, 140 pitches over seven innings. But he just falls apart in the last inning or so.

The producer should shake his hand and bench him after six innings. Bring in Cronenberg or Soderbergh to finish, or if you don't mind giving up a couple of hits, Shyamalan.

But making a movie is probably a bit more complicated than fantasy baseball...

R. K. Bentley said...


I knew there was a reason, (well, beyond all the GF Stuff,) why I liked your blog...

Doctor Memory said...

The funny (in the "I laugh because otherwise I scream" sense) thing about this list, is that I am 100% certain that your average american conservative, giving it a once-over, would consider it to be proof positive that Hollywood is purusing a "liberal agenda." But that's not what they actually mean.

Here's how it works for them: in all of those films, how many of them have characters who are Christian? (Uh, obviously, "The Passion of the Christ" is a ringer here; strike it.) And not "Christian" in the sense that they're American, white and not directly identified as Jewish-or-other, but self-identified as Christian, visibly take their motivations from their understanding of Jesus' instructions, stop for a moment of prayer before making major decisions, and are not portrayed as deluded, hypocrtical or downright insane?

I haven't seen every movie on your list there (really, there's not enough money in the world to make me watch "Hitch"), but I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the number is zero.

Ignore all the talk about "liberal agendas". The left and right use different vocabularies in this country, and as a result you are 100% not understanding the point of their complaint. This is about visibility -- the same thing that blacks, gays and Jews were complaining that "Hollywood" wouldn't give them 25 years ago. (Probably scientologists will be complaining about it in a few years.) Something like 30% of this country's population describes themselves as born-again Christian, and they are invisible in our mass entertainment. And we're surprised that they're pissed off?

Grit your teeth, wander over to netflix, and rent an episode of Veggie Tales, or one of the Omega Code movies. Yes, they're awful, that's beside the point. They're also wildly popular independent films, in a sense that Robert Rodriguez could only dream about. They're a telltale sign of an underserved and increasingly restless constituency. Pay attention.

Unknown said...


Excellent post, sir.

Anonymous said...

I think it might be more instructive to look at the Oscars nominations list to see how Hollywood thinks -- these are the movies they rate as their very best. These are the movies and the people they wish to glorify. Then you can start discussing movies like VERA DRAKE or FAHRENHEIT 911 or MILLION DOLLAR BABY, etc.

Top Ten lists from the box office will generally just give you the movies that appealed the broadest possible demographic, both conservative and liberal. G-rated movies make the most money because the kids drag their parents to see them over and over again, not because they're the best movies.

And Doc Memory? HITCH isn't so bad. It's cute, if predictable.

Anonymous said...

"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!"

Can I just say, thank you for such a well delivered verbalization of what I was thinking during the last election. "We've got some Vietnam shit to settle" is exactly what the last election turned into, and it floored me utterly (speaking as one of those who is under-forty).

I mean, these freaking baby boomers still think that the world revolves around them and that everything should kow-tow to their wants and needs. Now they're the old farts and they have no clue how to run the country except for "gimme-gimme", which is how they've been living their lives for the last 50+ years.

Thanks for the blog!

Anonymous said...

"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)."

John, you really didn't like Sin City? For me, it was a guilty pleasure, but it was a hell of a lot of fun. To give you an idea, I saw it twice, something I seldom do. And I'm not fond normally of heavily graphic violence. The black and white really helped me enjoy the film instead of gagging.

In any case, a very fine post. Kudos.

Unknown said...

As always, Doc Memeory, excellent point. However, according to the last ADS survey on religion, an equal number of Americans are "unchurched". How many movies show characters making decisions based on their atheism or secular humanism? Zip. Ziptastico.

Also, you make a valid point, although you use "Hollywood" in the monolithic sense yet again. Jews and blacks and gays complained about "visibility" -- and then GOT it when society's relationship with those minorities changed.

As a matter of fact, one can compare the whole emergent black cinema of the '70's with the self-contained Christian cinema evolving now. However, it's worth noting that there was something about that black cinema which somehow allowed to to transcend those boundaries -- in other words, it didn't suck. When Christian film-making stops sucking -- in the way that, say, Christian music has evolved quite nicely, there are some damn fine Christian music bands -- then you'll see a change. It's capitalism, people, in it's purest form.

AUGIE -- first off, the Oscars tend to be massively conservative, as their voted on by older viewers. But arguing that Hollywood's true agenda is not advanced by the movies they actually make and promote to the largest humber of humans but by an internal awards system -- fine, doesn't make a lot of sense, and it ignores how both the industry and society in general work, but it's a metric. Feel free to go back through the last five years. Artsy, again, essentially (disappointingly) neutral. For every F9/11 in the docu-department, there's some obscure little film 99.9% of americans never saw. VERA DRAKE? Please, it was nominated because the performance was good. Arguing that somehow foisteed pro-choice ideas on the less-than-a-million humans who saw it ... and if that's your CLOSER ... then, as nice as you seem, your kung fu is not strong ...

Benari said...

Another excellent post, sir.

I think a VERY IMPORTANT additional point needs to be made: Any Republicans or conservatives that try to argue that Million Dollar Baby is a "liberal" film automatically lose. It was made by Clint Eastwood. The former REPUBLICAN mayor of Carmel, CA. He's a Hollywood Conservative success story. If anything, Eastwood's philosophically closest to a libertarian, but last I knew, he was still a registered Republican. And pretty far from liberal. So, disagree or dislike MILLION DOLLAR BABY all you want. But it was made by a Republican. Here's a 1998 interview with Eastwood from American Enterprise where he talks very frankly about his politics. He may have slightly different views than so-called mainstream Republicans these days, but he's still cut from the Reagan cloth. So, if you're a Republican who points to MILLION DOLLAR BABY as an example of "liberal Hollywood," you LOSE. You get NOTHING.

Oh, and FAHRENHEIT 9/11 wasn't nominated for ANY Oscars, nor did it win any. Thanks for playing.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the trick conservatives seem to be playing w/Million Dollar Baby, at least according to Michael Medved, is that they're angry on how it's marketed, as a "Rocky"-style movie and not a "right to die" movie.

God, I hate Michael Medved.

AnthonyDe said...

"But will it play in Peoria?" Recently read an article where G rated movies do better box office then R rated movies. One could argue G rated movies display more conservative family values. Although it would seem to be bottom line driven more than anything else. cold...

Doctor Memory said...

Rogers-- sorry, I should have leaned a little heavier on the iron-izers: the scarequotes around '"Hollywood"' were intentional, and meant to signify "the perceived monolith that doesn't really exist on any formal institutional level even though you can make a good argument that market forces and class/cultural homogeneity direct the major players to act in similar ways, blah blah blah..." :)

The point about the similarity between Christian film and black film is well taken, although I think it's a little more complicated than merely waiting for Christian media that doesn't suck: most of the first wave of black-directed cinema was also pretty bad, but it made its way into the big distribution channels anyway. Before we get the born-again Citizen Kane (or even the born-again Do The Right Thing), some major player is going to have to take a chance on a wide release of the born-again Blacula, as it were.

...aaaaaand... the answer to the question "How many movies show characters making decisions based on their atheism or secular humanism?" is not, I think, as obviously nil to conservatives as it is to you or I. To a lot of people (if not a strong plurality) in this country, a decision made in the absence of religious motivation is by definition one informed by secularism. (And that's the best-case scenario: a lot of them will say it's outright satanic.) And while that's not entirely fair, it's not entirely unfair either (what, after all, is secularism if not an informed moral system in the absence of explicit religious basis), especially in the context of a complete lack of representative characters otherwise.

Doctor Memory said...

(you or me, you or me, sigh, I can hear my poor freshman composition professor tsking me from her grave...)

Unknown said...

Doc, true, but also remember, the distribution system worked in an entirely different manner than. This is part of the problem about using historical comparisons. For example, in our lifetimes, we'll go to an compeletely digital/personal choice download option for entertainment flavored by reduced production costs thanks to advances in tech. At that point, comparisons to the current system will be as moot.

As far as "absence of evidence is evidence of absence", well, I'm sorry things aren't as obvious to conservatives. Just because you feel hard-done-by doesn't mean you;re hard-done-by, and I'm not going to cut any slack when the way that feeling of persecution is expressed is by whinging out poorly-conceived arguments and trying to foist their viewpoints on me through what -- if their ideas can't seem to survive in the free market -- is no less ideological subsidization.

%30 is not a majority. The evidence shows that strong family values entertainment makes money -- their is, in point of fact, a "mainstream". If one's values are outside the moneymaking norm, well, sorry, but one must draw their own conclusions from that, and an oppressive conspiracy isn't the right one.

Anonymous said...

This is a complicated topic. On one hand, highly conservative and/or devout Christian filmgoers look for different things than the average filmgoer does. It's more important that a film is moral or without nudity/sex than that the film is actually good. You still have to achieve some entertainment value, or you're screwed. Look at Gordy. They tried to pull a Passion before that was even a valid marketing approach. They swamped Christian radio stations, magazines, journals, churches etc. touting the family values represented in the film, and the endorsements from hard core conservative family groups... and no one saw it. There's a bare minimum required when executing this type of material, and it's a lot like catering to the devoted horror crowd. The type that will watch anything where a man is stabbed and boobs are displayed willy nilly. The same goes for Christian music, as they get a lot of leeway simply by being appropriate, as opposed to good or even listenable. Veggie Tales are actually pretty entertaing, with a half-assed Monty Python type of approach to the proceedings, more of a special ed Adult Swim with a message. I just rambled a lot, but I'm sure I had a point in there somewhere.

Ian said...

Excellent post, although the comments are generally so good the post alone now feels a little incomplete.

John, I too am interested to hear you talk more about your reaction to Sin City - I enjoyed it, but I'm more than a little interested to hear your take on it.

(I did briefly use the search bar to check if I missed anything, but I know it's not perfect)

Ian said...

Also, on a much smaller level we have one of the same problems in the music criticism biz - our readers often assume that everyone at the website speaks with some sort of monolithic voice and that we intentionally do things that we just can't/won't/haven't.

I think that's endemic in all media, though, we got it at the student newspaper as well.

Erik said...

Now tell that to the folks at Libertas. :)


Anonymous said...

Bartkid sez,
Sin City?

C'mon that was for those red-meat-eating South Park Republicans, not let's-give-the-terrorists-therapy-and-hugs tree-hugging lefties.

Anonymous said...

I've read more than a few biographies and accounts of Hollywood.

To paraphrase the introduction to "Garish Summit", it's mostly "petty battles over power and money", with concern for artistry and politics very distant concerns, as green is green whether it comes from a professors' wallet or a Republican farmer's sale of his wheat crop.

One indirect way I've seen that seems to be linking politics and entertainment(not Hollywood per se) explicitly were late-night ads for a protest song cd package, kinda like other compilations.


the graphics included protest signs that weren't what you'd have seen when the songs were first heard, they had slogans like "No Blood for Oil", something that would be seen in a protest today.

Of course, it's possible some of the buyers are probably folks who are straight-ticket Republicans remembering their past, and couldn't notice the graphics in a commercial to save their lives.


Anyone catch the kung-fu lemurs on Animal Planet a few night ago?

Anonymous said...

I've read more than a few biographies and accounts of Hollywood.

To paraphrase the introduction to "Garish Summit", it's mostly "petty battles over power and money", with concern for artistry and politics very distant concerns, as green is green whether it comes from a professors' wallet or a Republican farmer's sale of his wheat crop.

One indirect way I've seen that seems to be linking politics and entertainment(not Hollywood per se) explicitly were late-night ads for a protest song cd package, kinda like other compilations.


the graphics included protest signs that weren't what you'd have seen when the songs were first heard, they had slogans like "No Blood for Oil", something that would be seen in a protest today.

Of course, it's possible some of the buyers are probably folks who are straight-ticket Republicans remembering their past, and couldn't notice the graphics in a commercial to save their lives.

If any post-modern Thalberg could figure out a way to make a film a hit based on its' political orientation, he/she/? would be courted, as Hollywood has always courted successful(as in money-making) talent, chewing them up and spitting them out if they don't get the Benjamins flowing like a 'major' talent should.


Anyone catch the kung-fu lemurs on Animal Planet a few night ago?

Henry Holland said...

I mean, these freaking baby boomers still think that the world revolves around them and that everything should kow-tow to their wants and needs.

Well, I'm a boomer and I feel the same way. It's like how about 10 years ago, my boomer cohorts started becoming parents and there was a glut of articles in magazines/the paper about how *gasp* amazing having children was, the assumption being that nobody in the history of the world had had children before until the boomers discovered it.

I watch Turner Classic Movies a lot and I tend to record/watch movies from the 30's/40's to catch up on my movie history. I watched the excellent Dead End yesterday. It's with the sexy Joel McCrea and Bogie, Sylvia Sidney, the Dead End Kids, directed by William Wyler etc. Now, it's got a typical 30's quasi-socialist viewpoint--slums: bad, porverty: bad, the rich: who needs 'em?--but at its core is a conservative message: be nice to your mother, obey the law, work hard to get out of where you are etc. Um, did I mention how sexy Joel McCrea was? :-)

Re: gays in film. Sure, there's more visibility, but 98% of the portrayals are still dire. The gay characters are either in stereotyped jobs (hairdresser, fashion, design) or they're sexless eunuchs, the best friend of the female lead. For example, I couldn't believe how people were saying that the awful In & Out with Kline, Selleck, Joan Cusack and the hottie Sean Hatosey was "pro gay". Let's see: the main character is made to suffer because everyone thinks he's gay because he likes show tunes and dresses meticulously turns out they were right! Instead of doing the unexpected and making him straight and tweaking the stereotypes, it confirmed the stereotypes--and it was written by the openly gay Paul Rudnick. That's progress?

Anonymous said...

You forgot:

Hollywood is: Full of trannie hookers on Santa Monica Blvd. at 9 a.m. going home after a long night of work. I pass by 'em going to my own job at that time.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of trannie hookers, Monkey, you better go read this:

Yes, this is a link to a disgusting right-wing website

This is why the critics of Hollywood are evil, because they're a bunch of friggin', hate-filled wackos.

Anonymous said...

Forgetting one rather large point here, I think.

That being The Rest of the World.

Hollywood, both as an industry and an extension of US cultural/soft power, needs to sell its product worldwide.

The issue is simply that the US is quite a few light years to the right of most other countries (certainly the developed ones). If Hollywood is in any way 'liberal' it is simply that that's where the majority of its market is to be found. To hell with the Mid Western Rednecks and the Fat Arsed Fundies - it's all about the size of the world market, and in that respect they are a small fringe group.

Why the fuck would your average movie goer in Melbourne, Nottingham or Johannesburg be the least bit interested in watching some conservative self-congratulatory fundamentalist anti gay circle jerk?

So to speak...

Four countries now have legal gay marriage, and others are to come. People in Europe, Canada and Australia are overwhelming secular, pro gay rights and interested in sex.

How much money do you think any film that is not reflecting this worldview will make?

Anonymous said... a Melburnian, I'm with floopmeister...

Anonymous said...

Ziggy - you're not a cat from Studley St Abbotsford, near the Collingwood Children's Farm, are you?


Anonymous said...

Dr Memory asks, how many films portray Christians (i.e., not merely 'ethnic' but committed, evangelical Christians)? More to the point, what films portray them in a positive light?

I am no film buff, and this is just off the top of my head. But a couple spring to mind.

One of the two heroes of Chariots of Fire is an eminently likeable Scots athlete who refuses to race on the Lord's day and is intent on going to China as a missionary (in which country, and in which role, the real-life figure on whom he was based would later die).

Billy Bob Thornton (a stereoptypical 'Hollywood liberal', I take it) gives an obviously evangelical prison officer (and his family) a small but key role in his vehicle Sling Blade.

Bruce Beresford's Tender Mercies would have had little point without the religious faith of Tess Harper's character and, later, that of Robert Duvall's.

Duvall himself would later show an evangelical Christian in a very positive (though very strange) light in The Apostle. SFAIK Duvall is not particularly religious, certainly not a fundamentalist; yet he treated the fundamentalist milieu with great sympathy.

OK, that's just a couple of examples. And I suppose the salient thing is that none of these films (as far as I know) was a product of the mainstream studio system. John's larger point is certainly correct: Big Hollywood churns out shiploads of stuff that can be visually spectacular but is morally, intellectually and politically as bland as can be.

Doctor Memory said...

Mrs. Tilton, I'm afraid that the question I asked was how many movies of the ones John listed had visibly christian characters.

Anonymous said...

If the movies you've listed are top grossing films, doesn't that tell us more about the character and interests of the audience than the character na interests of the people making the movies?

I mean, shouldn't those lists say that Americans like to spend money on animated films that may or may not be just for kids, action flicks, fantasy flicks, and adaptations of wildly popular books? It says that Hollywood made those films, surely, but they made a whole bunch other films that no one much cared to see. Or that a smallish group of people wanted to see a whole lot, but didn't go to 100 times for make up for everyone else.

Maybe if you do include all the rest of the movies that came out you'd still end up with a basically moderate, family entertainment based list, I don't know. But I don't quite see how you can draw from a popularity rating a conclusion about the people who made film as opposed to one about the people who made it popular.

Anonymous said...

Dr Memory:


Emmm.... well, Tender Mercies was still a very decent little film.

City Elf said...

Doc Memory asked the question: "in all of those films, how many of them have characters who are Christian?....And not "Christian" in the sense that they're American, white and not directly identified as Jewish-or-other, but self-identified as Christian, visibly take their motivations from their understanding of Jesus' instructions, stop for a moment of prayer before making major decisions, and are not portrayed as deluded, hypocrtical or downright insane?"

Well, I didn't watch a lot of the movies on that list either, and my answer would not be the same as the good Doctor's (zero).

Spiderman/Spiderman 2 - Aunt May prays the Lord's Prayer in first film; she is portrayed as a person of faith who believes in God

Bruce Almighty - Jennifer Aniston plays a devout Christian who prays for the soul of her boyfriend Bruce, who eventually gives himself over to God

My Big Fat Greek Wedding - Boyfriend converts to Greek Orthodox before wedding because of importance of faith to his fiancee

Signs - Mel Gibson as a former priest who regains his faith after aliens invade

X-Men 2 - Alan Cummings Nightcrawler is a devout Catholic, prays the rosary, talks about faith with Halle Berry's Storm

Just sayin...

Anonymous said...

I just want to say -- as a Baby Boomer myself -- I thought that Vietnam stuff was prety strange too. Not strange. Vietnam is a safe subject for stupid argument because it's over and done with and you can asert whatever crap you want to and anybody who even cares is bound to take it or leave it. Thus the continual lie about peaceniks spitting on soldiers and the ostrracization of vets by the left.

Meanwhile, we've got a real, current war on our hands, started by the same kind of lie that started the other (and like the lie that started the Spanish-American War, too, as long as we're thinking about history). We've got real people dying and real, current problems to deal with, and they're diverting attention to that old stuff, and not to explicate the new, either.

I also don't get the proliferation of oldies stations. Do the jerks who run the radio stations think we've all ossified? That we'll collapse in a puddle of offended taste if we hear anything recorded in the last twenty years? Do they think we learn nothing from our children?

Unknown said...

Magess --

Well, the thing is, saying the most popular movies don't necessarily represent what Hollywood's making is a fallacy, because HOLLYWOOD MADE THOSE MOVIES. Those movies just didn't appear out of thin air. They were the ones with the biggest budgets, they were the ones shown on the most screens, they were the ones advertised the most by "Hollywood." And, might I add, as the movies most people actually saw, and most widely disseminated into the country, they are indeed the correct metric for Hollywood's cultrual impact. Unless one is measuring cultural impact by, say, the efforts which no one goes to see and therefore do not. impact. The culture. Ahem.

It's not like "Hollywood" made X movies, and people went to see, instead, Y movies. And, as Hollywood is, in point of fact, a business, its priority is to make movies people go to see. We did not have five years of 15 unexpected underdogs overthrowing the staus quo Hollywood was trying to puxh. That is, well, retarded.

I mean, this is a typical thing -- the sliding meteric.

Hollywood creates liberal media.
Answer: Well, no the movies Hollywood makes that people actually bother to see aren't liberal.

Uh, okay,but how many characters are EXPLICITY CHRISTIAN.
Answer: Well, most are niether explicitly Christian or non-Christian, but the values espooused by them are of sacrifice, honor, and family, so they're mainstream conservative values.

Oooookay, but how about, then, the movies nobody bothers to see?
Answer: Oh, for Christ's sake....

And please, don't take my word for it. Go to boxoffice mojo and look for yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Very fun to read, but you guys are missing something really crucial here. The worldview that informs most, if not all, of the films listed in the original post is a 100% secular-humanist, Enlightenment worldview. I hasten to add that it's my worldview too, so I'm not complaining on my own account; it's very wrong, though, to suppose that a specific moral position is not being promoted by Hollywood. It is, and it's being promoted because of the shared values of educated people in our culture, which are absolutely secular humanist ones. Which has got to be a good and legitimate reason, a valid dialogue between filmmakers and their like-minded constituency, but still. The moral universe of Hollywood films is very dogmatic, very narrow. I've seen most of your list--not all--but every single time, you'll see the bad guy get his, the protagonist grow and learn something or other, love will blossom and there will be punishment of bigotry, greed and self-centeredness, and a correspondingly guaranteed rewarding of tolerance, generosity, compassion, fair play, etc. etc. This unfailing American film formula can be found in Shrek 2, the Matrix films, I, Robot, Batman Begins, Dances with Wolves and Casablanca. Film fans complain about this moral uniformity being "manipulative", cf. David Foster Wallace's fine phrase, "Missisippi Burning fumbled at our consciences like a freshman at a coed's brassiere"--and yet we find it satisfying, too.

The trouble with the evangelical Christians is that they haven't really got much in the way of narrative skills. If they had really hot Christian writers like John Milton or Geoffrey Chaucer around, maybe they could get somewhere.

I would love to see a little more moral latitude in our movies, but then I guess they would make as much money The Crime of Padre Amaro or American Beauty, rather than the supercolossal Shrek 2-level pistoles.

Look how insane everyone gets over Todd Solondz's films; amazingly, we're so unused to seeing a truly openminded exploration of moral issues that the gentle intellectual moralist Solondz is quite often branded a freak and a misanthropist even by our very own most liberal colleagues.

Eriol said...

Chaucer and John Milton were bold artists with bawdy humor (Chaucer) and sex (both), but no Conservative Christian would think of placing those things in a movie (but that will probably seeing something like that pretty soon). Dante is probably the closet is Mel Gibson; violence is funny, violence good and art is a good chance to worship your heroes.
Bunyan the oldest writer Christians admire may be the last they imitate, he saw everything in a very spiritual sense that was quite down to earth. The film-makers I would to see come from Christianity would film-makers with qualities like Cevantes and Dostoevsky.

Also I think the majority of film characters honestly reflect Americans religious beliefs, that is they just don't care about religion or God or anything except for maybe an hour of church.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that I was trying to say that all the movies people don't see have a cultural impact. My point was simply that yes, Hollywood makes the movies people see a lot. And it makes movies that they don't see at all.

I thought the point was what "they" were "trying to say". Not what they were succeeding in saying. Plenty of people stand on street corners and shout as passersby. They have a stance, they're making their stance known, but nobody cares at all and their impact is nil. That doesn't mean they weren't out there shouting all the same.

If I misunderstood your original point, my apologies.

Unknown said...

Magess -- but that's another bit of a cop-out, not to be mean. So we're supposed to then think that "Hollywood" does indeed have an agenda, but they've been ferociously unsuccessful in pursuing it for the last decade, but they still continue? And that we need to be concerned with this agenda they've been unsuccessful in pushing -- if by success we mean, actually getting people to go see the movies laden with this mysterious message?

And all of this fine-slicing has nothing to do with the hard-done-by vibe of the right, as they propose that Hollwyood both has an agenda and are successful in pushing it, an argument they stick to in the face o fall logic, data, and basic understanding of how business works.

Anonymous said...

In reply to Chaz:
The last paragraph pretty much sums up the conserveative existance. Bitch about anything that may be considered liberal or anti-conservative by anyone and to hell with the facts.

I went to see LAND OF THE DEAD with some friends; one of them is, pretty literally, your stereotypical Hannity-worshipping, talking-points-spewing wingnut.

After the movie, he was complaining about the liberal bias of the storyline. OF A FREAKING ZOMBIE MOVIE. Because, of course, the real bad guy was the rich guy. The zombies were just being true to themselves, and shouldn't be persecuted.

I shit you not, this was my friend's complaint about the movie.

What can you do in the face of such willful ignorance and bigotry?

Anonymous said...


Your friend is just like I would expect any conservative to be. Instead of ridding the world of evil, murderous zombies, he wants to give them therapy and talk about their feelings. Pansy-assed Bush supporter!

Anonymous said...

Um, wouldn't Bush's response to attack by Zombies be "bomb the hell out of anywhere they are, might be or might have sympathisers in"?

Anonymous said...

As a counter to this argument or rant as some may prefer to characterize it, I offer up the following observation. When was the last time that you saw a business man or capitalism praised in a Hollywood blockbuster movie? Sure movies try and give people what they want, but they appear to have an agenda too.

I also have a sidebar comment. Does Hollywood reflect social change or do attempt to engineer it and if so in what direction? Another observation just to really annoy liberals. How many black scientists or computer experts do you know? In my life I know only one, compared to say hundreds of Asians and even a few whites too. Yet there is hardly a single movie that doesn't show the cleverest technical experts perfectly distributed in the way liberals would like to see the world work.

Anonymous said...

Sure movies try and give people what they want, but they appear to have an agenda too.

Of course they have an agenda: to maximize profit. This means product that puts butts in seats. One thing that always puts butts in seats is a David and Goliath story. We (the public as a whole) love that shit as much as crappy romantic comedies.

Does Hollywood reflect social change or do attempt to engineer it and if so in what direction?

Hollywood and society at large affect each other. It's like a dance. Hollywood has zero interest in engineering social change -- its interest is in predicting social change (just a little, not too much) so they can predict what script will produce the next blockbuster. And you know what? Even then, Hollywood is remarkably predictable. This year's movies will, with few exceptions, be the same as last year's blockbusters.

It's a dance, but the public is leading. If right-wing movies sold as well as Hitch, that would be what Hollywood makes the most of. Period.

Yet there is hardly a single movie that doesn't show the cleverest technical experts perfectly distributed in the way liberals would like to see the world work.

You know why? Because if they do otherwise, they are penalized in the marketplace. It's all about the money. Hollywood is amoral and apolitical -- they just want to rake in the cash.

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