One of conservatives’ biggest complaints is the political left’s influence — almost monopoly — on pop culture, and how difficult that makes it for conservatism to reach younger generations.
All the cool movie and TV stars with any public political views are liberals. Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, JJ Abrams, Beyoncé — they all gave money to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016.
In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, $9 out of every $10 donated to presidential elections from the entertainment industry in California went to Clinton during the last presidential election cycle.
Sure, there are a few conservatives in Hollywood — Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, Chuck Norris, Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn. But for the most part, the A-list celebrities are liberal, and their work reflects it.
Usually, these films are trying to push a social message. Sometimes, especially during the Bush administration, it was an anti-war film, depicting the United States as an imperialist power. After the 2008 bank crisis, some of the choices at the box office took on a markedly anti-Wall Street slant.
The entertainment industry has not always trafficked in left-wing exhibitions. War movies once depicted heroic American soldiers fighting the Japanese or the Germans. Who doesn’t love a good John Wayne movie? But when was the last time you saw a new America-as-hero movie at the box office? Or a Western with a gritty cowboy riding in to save the day in the white hat?
Things started to change during the Vietnam War. “M*A*S*H,” a long-running TV series set in Korea during the Korean War, was critical of war. But it aired as the country was involved in the very unpopular Vietnam War.
Then there have been more and more overtly left-leaning TV series — “The West Wing,” “Law & Order” and “Madam Secretary,” to name just a few.
And in 2017 with the age of Trump underway, the late-night talk shows have become undeniably left-of-center. CBS’s Stephen Colbert has used his platform as a battering ram against the Trump administration. ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel made an impassioned plea for Obamacare just as the GOP-led House was attempting to repeal parts of the controversial 2010 law.
Hollywood is indisputably liberal and likely on the verge of losing more of its relevancy.
Once upon a time, everyone had three major broadcast networks, a handful of print media and maybe a few other cable channels. The lack of choice did have sort of a unifying effect on the country. Without the infinite choices of today, everyone consumed and experienced similar media. People on Friday morning could talk about last night’s episode of “Seinfeld” around the water cooler. How about that answer on final “Jeopardy?”
Now people are moving away from cable TV. They’re participating in what is called cord-cutting and dropping their service for internet-based options such as Netflix and Hulu. They’ll get their news from the internet, and if it’s a big enough sporting event to care about, it can be watched via a broadcast signal from the local ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox affiliate.
Perhaps the closest unifying entertainment we have now are sporting events. America will still rally around watching the Super Bowl every year. But there was a time when TV events such as the Super Bowl were more than once a year.
Now everyone is watching something different, and there is no longer a significant coalescing behind pop culture. That does undermine Hollywood’s effort to social engineer through the culture.
Take this last election, for example. The elites completely dismissed Donald Trump’s chances of winning. “I mean, a reality TV star? Who are we kidding? He won’t even make it on the ballot in all 50 states.”
But those people likely were not regular viewers of NBC’s “The Apprentice.” While they were binge-watching “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black,” a lot of traditional Americans in the heartland were still watching regular old-fashioned broadcast TV.
With the economic malaise brought forth by globalization, immigration or whatever, having a high-speed internet connection and a Netflix account were luxuries. But a TV antenna was free and basic cable was affordable enough for a lot of people.
Not seeing Trump’s TV success was a total misreading of where our culture is, and that can be attributable to not being aware of why “The Apprentice” was such a successful TV show.
The cord-cutting phenomenon isn’t going away. Eventually, the technology will be in everyone’s homes. Some local governments may even offer high-speed internet as a public utility, a la power, sewer and water. Politics will have to adapt.
We won’t have moments anymore where we have national conversations about homosexuality when Ellen DeGeneres comes out of the closet on prime-time ABC. Not only is the public desensitized to it, but these hot-button issues are all over the internet already. Nothing short of NBC “Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt coming out as a right-winger can cause that stir anymore.
The late Andrew Breitbart would always say politics was downstream from culture. The problem now for those trying to understand politics is determining where the culture is and what aspects of the culture matter.