While there are a handful of mostly anonymous conservatives in La La Land, the vast majority of movie and television personalities have been taking turns expressing their outrage at Donald Trump, Republicans and conservatism in general. But with the President as the focus of all their ire, there’s really not much to be done for another two years, so what’s a pampered, well-paid actor or actress to do? Kathryn Cramer Brownell, a liberal arts professor from Purdue, isn’t willing to wait that long. She wants to see these noisy celebrities double down on Hollywood’s impact, not in 2020, but in the midterms, laying out her battle plans in an op-ed at the WaPo.
[T]his chatter reveals the mistaken tendency of the industry to focus on the biggest political prize: presidential elections. If Hollywood really wants to make a difference, it should seize on the lower-profile midterm elections to not only spotlight issues and candidates but also to use glitz and glamour to persuade people to vote. And while Michelle Obama’s organization “When We All Vote” has teamed up with superstars such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Hanks and Janelle Monáe to encourage voting in the midterms, the key to Hollywood’s impact this election depends on whether the effort continues off-camera.
Hollywood has loved electioneering since the earliest days of the silver screen. Since the 1920s, studio executives have eagerly forged relationships with presidential administrations. Louis B. Mayer proudly slept in the Lincoln Bedroom after helping Herbert Hoover get elected, and Jack Warner used his dollars, his studio and the silver screen to promote Franklin Roosevelt’s election and his New Deal programs.
Such efforts bolstered their social cachet and promised to advance the economic interests of their studios. But during the 1940s, it was Hollywood’s rank and file, many of whom were passionate about issues, who figured out how to achieve real political impact, burrowing down to the grass roots and demonstrating the value of entertainers in party politics.
Kathryn Cramer Brownell is apparently a recognized expert on Hollywood and politics, having written a book about, well… Hollywood and Politics. She speaks glowingly of Tinseltown’s history of electioneering, focusing on the formation of the Hollywood Democratic Committee (HDC) in the 1940s and their efforts to assist in not only the election of FDR but the makeup of Congress as well. And to a certain extent that was clearly a factor in elections during that period. Movies were still a relatively new phenomenon for much of America and stars were really seen as larger than life luminaries.
Of course, that was also a very different Hollywood in some ways. Movie studios strove to entertain all of America, not just the coastal enclaves. And there was still a robust debate between various entertainment personalities in terms of political ideology. I believe the author may be looking back a bit too fondly through her rose-colored glasses and ignoring how much that landscape has changed.
How much attention do you think the heartland is really paying to a gaggle of Hollywood peacocks and what they have to say about the upcoming elections? For a hint at the answer to that question, look no further than the success of their film projects where they focus on preaching politics. The box office returns for Miss Sloane may still wind up setting a record for one of the worst investments ever made not involving Bernie Madoff. If that’s not good enough, check out the ratings for the various television and movie awards shows. Ever since they decided to turn them into liberal political science lectures instead of focusing on entertaining productions, the vast majority of the country has tuned out. The Oscars posted their worst ratings ever this year and that was far from the only stinker.
And are we to believe that Americans somehow see these Hollywood types as moral authorities in a time of social unrest and change? Hollywood has been (and to a large extent still remains) the home of an industry where women are abused in their paychecks compared to men. And don’t even get me started on where the entire #MeToo moment kicked off. The long-touted racial “diversity” they preach is still not seen in terms of who gets the best roles, who directs and who produces the big budget films.
If you want Hollywood to “influence” the midterms, perhaps you could focus on cleaning up your own house first. In the meantime, the rest of the country will continue to tune you out unless you crank out some additional superhero films.