What Liberal Hollywood? postsWednesday March 15, 2017
What Liberal McCarthyism?
I have a piece on Salon, “A mea culpa to Hollywood conservatives, living under the shadow of a modern McCarthyism.” It went live just as Rachel Maddow was revealing/not revealing her scoop on two pages of Donald Trump's 2005 tax return. So not the best timing. Even I wasn't paying attention.
The piece is a reaction—as this post was—to David Ng's LA Times article on Hollywood conservatives in the Trump era, and how awful it is for them, and of course the spectre of McCarthyism is raised. I've done a little reading on the subject of the blacklist—not enough—but it's important to remember that during this period there was a collusion between various forces in American society:
- Hollywood: the right-wing org, The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, or MPA
- Government: the House Un-American Activities Committiee, or HUAC
- Law enforcement: the FBI
- Business and industry: Self-appointed aribiters like Red Channels
Back then, even if a studio head wanted a particular actor/writer/director with a suspect, vaguely leftish background, someone who hadn't been cleared by Red Channels or HUAC or MPA stalwarts like Ward Bond—and “clearing” always involved naming names—then they couldn't get them. None of this is close to happening in modern Hollywood. There is no corresponding Red Channels, there is no corresponding HUAC, there is no corresponding involvement from the FBI, and as far as I can tell there is no Hollywood left-wing org that corresponds to the MPA. There's just ... someone is “shunned” after a political argument. Well, welcome to America.
One of the less-commented-upon ironies of the blacklist is that even though it was put forth by right-wing business interests and anti-communists, it ran counter to the free market. If you wanted, say, Edward G. Robinson for a movie because you felt his presence, his marquee name, could help the movie make money, tough luck, you couldn't get him. Unless he named names. These right-wing forces helped besmirch a hugely successful American business, Hollywood, which, another irony, had spent decades presenting an ideal version of America and western values to an international audience.
Anyway, I hope journalists writing about this issue in the future keep some of this history in mind.
What Liberal Hollywood? Part 95
“Where is this liberal Hollywood agenda? The agenda seems to be whatever will entertain mass audiences. ... How could an industry have been successful this long if it was alienating half the country?” -- screenwriter Craig Mazin (“The Specials,” “Supehero Movie,” various “Scary Movie” and “Hangover” sequels).
“Film buyers are greedy. They want a good performing film. ... They will change religions for it.” — Ron Rodgers, the retired co-founder of Rocky Mountain Pictures, an independent distributor of conservative and Christian-themed movies.
Both quotes come from the L.A. Times article with the misleading headline, “In liberal Hollywood, a conservative minority faces backlash in the age of Trump.” It's misleading because it also owns up to the rightward leanings of corporate Hollywood—the people who actually make the decisions. And the one concrete example of “backlash”? There was an argument on a TV set, and afterwards the Trump-supporting producer was “shunned.” That's it. That's what's being compared to McCarthyism. My god. Those who don't know history are doomed to be assholes.
What Liberal Hollywood? Part 9
“If you don't understand money in the movie business, it's like an artist who doesn't understand paint.”
-- Jack Nicholson, “Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel” (2011)
What Liberal Hollywood? Part 94
“Although many members of the entertainment industry espouse, often publicly, a left-leaning political slant, Hollywood is still dominated by white men who prefer to make movies and television shows that revolve around other white men — men beset by feelings of alienation, who often wield guns, who fight (or represent) corrupt government, and generally attempt to survive and/or save a world run amok.
”Across galaxies, through the centuries, in every genre imaginable.“
-- Mary McNamara, ”The notion of a liberal agenda in Hollywood is absurd," in the LA Times, as part of a series on Hollywood values/elites in the Trump era.
Of course, I've been saying this for years, but it's nice that this notion is getting a wider audience.
What Liberal Hollywood? Part 91
“If you're telling certain stories, you'll need to have guns. But I don't see smoking [cigarettes in movies] anymore. Look, everyone talks about 'liberal Hollywood,' but I don't know that that's the case, particularly with guns. This is an industry where, if the tax credits were right, we'd probably be shooting movies in Syria right now.”
-- Tom Arnold, in an excellent piece in The Hollywood Reporter, “Locked and Loaded: The Gun Industry's Lucrative Relationship with Hollywood,” by Gary Baum and Scott Johnson. Excellent with a proviso.