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Klavan On The Culture

Hollywood Leaves More Money on the Ground

March 25th, 2014 - 5:33 am

I’m on the east coast this week and just gave a talk at Cornell University sponsored by the Program on Freedom and Free Societies. I spoke at one point about how those who think that Hollywood only cares about money don’t really know anything about Hollywood. I pointed out that religious pictures like this week’s indie release God’s Not Dead are so routinely “surprise hits” that it’s hard to figure out where the surprise is coming from. I also had some fun discussing how puzzled the New York Times was at the “surprise hit” Lone SurvivorHow very odd, said the Times, or words to that effect. They couldn’t comprehend why audiences who had “stubbornly refused” to go to all the other movies about the war on terror turned up to make this one a hit. One wanted to explain patiently, as to a child: Well, dear, it’s because all the other movies showed America as the bad guys, and this one showed us as the good guys, and the audience doesn’t want to be insulted by elitist claptrap. But the Times is not yet mature enough for that kind of information.

Anyway, when my Cornell talk was done, a leftist in the audience termed it “naive” and “bizarre.” (I doubt I was naive. I do try to be as bizarre as possible!) He said Hollywood was just a whore chasing after money.

The man spoke so long and said so many things that were untrue, that I couldn’t really respond concisely. But there is one thing I really wish I had said, and that is this. Making movies that make money isn’t being a whore. It’s called being in the movie business. It’s what movies are supposed to do. When your movies make money it means that you did something someone else liked instead of just preening yourself on your skills and insight. When your movies make money, it means they succeeded in doing what movies are supposed to do: entertaining an audience. There is, of course, absolutely nothing at all wrong with making a smaller movie for a smaller audience that makes less money. But to assume that making profitable movies makes you a whore is elitist in the extreme. It presumes that you have some higher wisdom that should be served over and above the wisdom of the ticket buyers. But in real life… no, you don’t.

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Top Rated Comments   
The best point you make is that it's ridiculous to expect Hollywood to make good Christian movies. When Christians are part of any storyline they are portrayed in such an over the top, bizarre way that it's obvious that the writers have had little or no exposure to actual Christians or attended any church service. Sort of like your observation that Christians view Hollywoods lack of Christian movies as a satanic conspiracy.

I'm a Christian and, frankly, what I'm interested in is a great story with no political propaganda. Very, very few screenwriters today have the wit, intelligence or creativity to do this. They know what they know which is obviously precious little.

31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
We just finished watching the Australian show "Rake" on Netflix. The first episodes are really very fun and it was a nice change. But then, the writers, producers, whatever, decided it was time to get out the two x four and beat us over the head with their political slant. The 'right' is bad, bad, bad. Christianity is presented as some sort of cult, you even get the impression that they have almost never heard of it (the way they portray a prayer before a meal is really embarrassing and cruel. The characters look at each other as if the concept came down from Mars.) The politicians on the right are evil, corrupt (they actually have it reversed, the situations they portray are more in keeping with the left than the right if recent history is to be researched.) By the end of season two, we were a bit worn out with all the messages of "Left GOOD, Right BAD," and I doubt we will check in on season three. It is a shame. It was a really fun show at first and the actors are winsome. My point is this, this isn't just an American problem, it is global (England does the same thing in their recent offerings) and I am not sure what the answer is, because the entertainment industry is invested in propaganda. Which is actually the history of Hollywood. If you read "An Empire of Their Own" by Neal Gabler, the first movie producers were so committed to their new American homeland, they helped promote patriotism and love of country. Hollywood and the entertainment industries of the world do indeed have the power. They have just chosen to promote socialism and a sort of communism that allows them to retain their life style.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
The guy's diatribe was intended to give the audience reasons to dismiss what you said, not to engage in a dialogue with you, so you shouldn't feel bad about responding when he cannot.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (35)
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I read somewhere that Hollywood discovered they no longer need red state America in order to make money and I guess it's true.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I remember Michael Medved saying that Hollywood isin't just interested in money or they would be making excellent family and Christian morality themed movies.ll.but Propoganda was more important than money......that must be why I have been waiting decades for the Frank Peretti books to be made into movies.The bible uncooked is FAR more fascinating than fantasy,,,,Particularly spiritual warfare between angels and demons commanded by humans as the Peretti books are fiction based on biblical facts.....Oh well I am patient...20 yrs and counting
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was in the audience at that Cornell talk. I was the guy to your left, near the front, who had his face in his hands while that leftist went on and on. I concluded from that experience that you are a wondrously more patient man than I am.

That aside, your talk itself left me with a lot to think about. It dovetailed wonderfully with a talk that Heather MacDonald had given at that exact same venue a week earlier (our 'free societies' club at Cornell is tiny, but we punch above our weight!) on how leftism had also derailed the humanities in academia. Taken with her talk, I think you and MacDonald have both made the case that conservatism cannot afford to treat culture -- whether "high" culture in academia, or popular culture in Hollywood -- as something that can be shrugged off and left to the so-called progressives; also, that conservatism cannot simply deal with culture by calling for a revival of the 1950s, but that art should embrace the complexity of human life at the same time that it affirms the moral realities of that human life.

I myself work in molecular biology and genomics, not humanities or popular culture, but I was also struck by some parallels I saw between what you described as a political monoculture in Hollywood and what I myself have experienced as a political monoculture in the natural sciences. The one merciful difference is that, in my experience, biologists are much more live-and-let-live; I have never had an interview like the one you described in your talk, where you were given the choice between acquiescing in a gross insult to your views or losing a year's pay.

Thank you for coming to Cornell! Yes, it is colder than Santa Barbara, but we were glad to listen to you.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Abandoning the Culture War is defeat....no matter how voiceferously Atheo-Conservatives and Libertarians deny it.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Rotten Tomatoes as of now has "God is not dead" at 86% by over 10,000 viewers but 25% by only 8 critics, yet the site says there is no consensus yet! What malarkey!

I saw God is not dead. The movie moved, never lagged. Had side stories, drama, humor, wasn't preachy, best performance by Kevin Sorbo I ever saw; I didn't know he could do a serious dramatic role. In short it was a good movie. At the end in a full theater, everyone got up and applauded. Haven't seen that in a theater in a long time. It was an unabashedly Christian movie rejoicing in the love of Jesus. Those who criticize the movie do so from a sense of being offended, like how dare Christians publically show their faith; they should be ashamed of themselves and crawl back into the sewers where they belong. I now have some sense of how Jews must feel with the renewed rise of anti-Semitism we are seeing.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's not just Christian movies they miss out on. Year after year, children's and family films end up on the top of the box office lists, but you can go months without a good one coming to the theaters. This is especially true when kids are pre-teen, and are done with Disney-style animated films.

Look at something like "The Sandlot". It must have been incredibly cheap to make--with only a couple name actors in minor roles--and has made a ton of money in cable re-runs, DVD sales, and spin-offs. How often does a movie like that come out? They are few and far between.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have said it for years, and I have personally boycotted Hollywood for years. Why can't conservative professionals in the movie business produce money makers which the American people are waiting to see? We love our soldiers and people would overwhelm the box office to see something like the Battle for Fallujah, or more along these lines. We left Vietnam to the Communist propagandist like Oliver Stone and others like him. Are these people afraid of free enterprise or of the Hollywood blacklist?
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hollywood will never produce a movie true to Christianity and God's moral code when defying that very code is their way of life. They do, however, make plenty of movies that mock, belittle, and flat out lie about Christianity and God's Word. That is what makes money in this day!
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Your primary question, why mo movies about Christians and Islam, can be answered very simply:

It would defy the narrative.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
I guess I'm just an elistist, though not a leftist, but I don't see any relations between the popularity of a work of art and its quality. Symphony orchestras are shuting down all around and Miley Cyrus concerts are packed. What does it say about people's taste in music? And when it comes to movies, brillant movies have terrible box office results (Vertigo is one, because I know you like Hitchcock) and the dumbest movies are hits all the time. What matters for a work of art is how and if he is remembered, years after its production, not its immediate success.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
LOVE VERTIGO...was it a box office bomb ? Hitchcock are only movies of 50's i watch.....and I don't like the tv series for eerie ness....
I know " it's a wonderful life' bombed at box office too.....
But bias against Christian Moral themes are in a class by itself IMO
But they have to be class acts and not preachy or corny
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Vertigo was not a failure per say but did not make money, right away, reviews were mixed also!!!!
I love christian moral themed movies, and I agree that directors today, and artists in general, lack christian culture. It would make their movies deeper and less egocentric!
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is Quality, and there is Quality.
When you have achieved "Artistic" quality and no one cares, then you have failed at the other elements of quality by which your work is to be judged.
OR,
Only a Second Rate Artist can afford to be Unbusinesslike.
…Gustav Holst
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
What you say means that geniuses can only hide voluntarily!!! Otherwise they would be found! I certainly hope so for the future of art...
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
So a liberal spoke on and on and was incoherent? That would be understood if all you said was "A liberal rose to ask a question".
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
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