During the Depression, Hollywood was certainly not immune to the realities of the broken economy and had to drastically cut costs in order to stay afloat. Initially the movies they made reflected the despair felt by so many. But things changed, and for the better:
As Andrew Bergman has shown, the fantasy world of the movies played a critical social and psychological function for Depression-era Americans: In the face of economic disaster, it kept alive a belief in the possibility of individual success, portrayed a government capable of protecting its citizens from external threats, and sustained a vision of America as a classless society. Again and again, Hollywood repeated the same formulas: A poor boy from the slums uses crime as a perverted ladder of success. A back-row chorus girl rises to the lead through luck and pluck. A G-man restores law and order. A poor boy and a rich girl meet, go through wacky adventures, and fall in love. Out of these simple plots, Hollywood restored faith in individual initiative, in the efficacy of government, and in a common American identity transcending social class.
These simple formulas, even when updated, no longer seem to appeal to producers, directors, and A-list stars who would rather be telling stories that reflect how they think life is and should be. Think of how many films you’ve seen that feature a stagnant, fetid suburbia or a backward, rural outback and — lest we forget — those evil corporations, populated by pathetic losers and horrible bigots. This is how many in Hollywood view America from their bubble. Perhaps it’s no wonder that ticket sales declined five percent in the United States last year, although home-based entertainment options like cable movie channels and DVDs may well have had an impact.
But don’t look to Hollywood to see, much less understand, the plight of the average American anytime soon. Andrew Breitbart reads the writing on the wall in the wake of the annual celebrity self-love fest known as the Oscars:
If “the medium is the message,” as Marshall McLuhan formulated 45 years ago in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, then Hollywood-style liberalism is America’s current and future message. And conservatives have no one to blame but themselves for not investing their collective efforts in the pop cultural and the greater media experience.
Breitbart exhorts conservatives to take Hollywood on, but it’s not up to just those who have the cash to back those film ventures that “nurture culture” rather than beat it to a pulp. It’s up to us, the movie-going public, to support the films that reflect our values.
Are we up to the task?