The last four decades have been a struggle for conservatives in the culture wars. For whatever reason, liberals have dominated the cool kids’ table in the entertainment industry’s lunchroom.
That is especially true since the turn of the millenium. Now and then something will come along that is treated as a breakthrough for conservatives, but often it goes wrong. “The Passion of the Christ” producer Mel Gibson’s struggles, “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson’s anti-gay controversy and Roseanne Barr’s ill-advised tweet last week come to mind.
Every time something like this happens, it deals conservatives a setback in the pop culture.
Owning the culture is not a small thing. One of the biggest enablers of liberal policymakers has been Hollywood. The entertainment industry can operate from a set of assumptions that are compliant with liberal orthodoxy.
There’s no debate. There’s just the premise that society has accepted certain things as prevailing social norms. Often the plot of a movie or a TV show operates as if specific behaviors are OK. But sometimes it goes beyond social norms and into policy.
The popular long-running cop/legal drama “Law & Order” has often dealt with bringing run-of-the-mill liberal boogeymen to justice — corporate executives, the pharmaceutical industry, demagoguing preachers, etc.
This is no small feat. The late Andrew Breitbart once said politics are downstream from culture, meaning that politics are dictated by the mood of the culture. That starts with the popular culture.
In a way, Donald Trump used pop culture tactics to win the White House. But that was more gimmicky than culture shifting to the right and making a Trump presidency possible. Trump recognized through his previous exploits what sold to a mass audience and was able to engineer a popularity contest win through the Electoral College.
There is an opportunity for conservatives. There seems to be a longing for that time gone by — when primetime TV wasn’t as brazen as it is now with liberal politics. Why is it that all these reboots of 1980s and ‘90s TV shows are suddenly on the uptick?
Pop music isn’t an exception, either. The No. 4 song on the iTunes download chart: Weezer, a band that probably hit its peak in the 1990s and 2000s covering Toto’s “Africa,” a song that rose to the top of the Billboard charts in 1983.
Is this simply happenstance? Did they run out of ideas?
My guess is neither. This retro throwback movement is based on focus groups and polling or some other means of gauging the public’s interest. Entertainment executives recognized a lot of people want to go back to a time before things got so “progressive” — before there was a desire to cater to a mindset that Hollywood’s dual purpose was not to only entertain but to make society better as well.
This is an opening for conservatives. When was the last time a pro-United States military blockbuster movie hit the big screens? We have to go all the way back to the 1980s and “Top Gun” for the last big movie showcasing a positive display of American military might.
Another lost American art is the classic western film. Decades earlier, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood flicks about life in the old west were a dime a dozen. Now they’re obsolete. Now and then, something like “Tombstone” will come along, but even that was 25 years ago.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for a souped-up, CGI-ified “Avengers” movie at the local 3D IMAX theater. Those are fantastic shows of how technology has improved cinema.
There is a demographic that longs for the way things used to be — when Hollywood didn’t feel the need to atone for America’s sins every few months and wanted to showcase why our country is great.
There is a money-making opportunity for the entertainment industry, which is not in the worst shape but has seen better days: Make movies and TV shows that appeal to conservatives.
They don’t have to have a conservative message or the purpose of moving the needle for the Republican Party. But would it be so terrible to have a strong and wise patriarch instead of the bumbling “Everybody Loves Raymond” type of doofus?
A lot has changed since the bygone era of basic broadcast network television. First, cable came along and instead of three channels and PBS, there are hundreds. And then the cord-cutting revolution has given consumers a lot more options via the internet.
In 2018, it shouldn’t be as hard as it once was to overcome any hurdles conservatives once faced. Hollywood will probably always be biased to left-of-center thinking. However, if the right got a few wins on the board and showed what was possible, winning the culture gets a lot easier.
The problem is, it doesn’t need setbacks like Roseanne Barr’s tweets. That reinforces a notion that only bad things can happen when catering to this crowd. Sure, it may have mass appeal and draw significant numbers, but only to our ugliest instincts.
The battle for the culture isn’t won easily. Takedown artists are looking to seize upon any opportunity when someone from the right makes just the smallest amount of progress. Ask Tim Tebow about some of the obstacles he’s faced.
There’s a demand for content that is closely associated with good ol’ flyover country Americanism. That means leaving a safe space of the typical New York City or Los Angeles setting and also leaving behind its politics.
Filling that demand is easier said than done, but at least now we know it’s there. It might even mean just waiting it out, because market forces have the ability to make the difficult possible.
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