“A chilling effect”: Why The Hunt’s cancellation could spark a new age of paranoia

Both Atamanuik and Grillo-Marxuach pointed out that, at the end of the day, studios are businesses. If real-world events have potential to impact their bottom line, they’re bound to get skittish. “Whenever events in the public sphere change the perception of what is profitable, then you get self-censorship,” Grillo-Marxuach noted. “By making that statement, [the president] set a tone saying this sort of art is not welcome…that puts the industry on notice.”

And as he noted, this is also not necessarily a new phenomenon for Hollywood. The industry has a history of self-censorship driven by the ebb and flow of the political climate, especially when it comes to withholding projects that coincide with real-life tragedies. In any case, Trump is still being skewered in the media—though more on television than in films, likely because TV’s speedier production cycle makes it easier for writers to present topical material and rip storylines straight from the headlines.

Thanks to the Hunt controversy, film probably won’t try to catch up anytime soon—though Atamanuik hopes that movies won’t be too frightened to make fun of Trump in the wake of this. “I think good satire, when it’s funny, attractive, and interesting, people plug into it,” the comedian said. When done well, he continued, the genre helps viewers metabolize the political era they’re living through, and jump-starts important conversations. The Hunt might have had something important to say; if it’s shelved forever, though, we’ll never really know.

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