Roger L. Simon

POLIWOOD: Tin Ears in Tinseltown - Will Hollywood Miss the Impact of the Election?

Everyone knows that Hollywood — most of it anyway — pulls the Democratic lever on election day.  And everyone also knows that this particular election day wasn’t particularly good for those who pulled that lever (or punched that hole or whatever they did).

One of the few exceptions was California where, of course, Hollywood resides. But the entertainment industry is national, indeed global, and its leadership should be highly tuned to the national mood.  After all, those are the people buying tickets, disdained as they have been as rubes in “flyover” country.

In the old days, Hollywood knew better.  Groucho Marx always said he made his movies for the “Barber in Peru” (Peru, Indiana).  Of course those movies have lasted pretty well.

The question that Lionel Chetwynd and I deal with in the new PoliwoodTin Ears in Tinseltown: Will Hollywood Miss the Impact of the Election? — is obviously whether Hollywood is going to change because of what transpired last week.

Many factors weigh into this — the expansion of foreign markets and financing quite significantly — but I suspect there will be some sort of change.  You won’t see it immediately, of course.  Motion picture and television productions don’t happen in a week.  Movies often take years to reach the screen.  And, as Lionel mentions on the show, it might not come from traditional Hollywood sources, but it’s clear people are thinking about how to reach this other large part of the American public.  There’s money to be made, whatever your ideology.

Another interesting factor is superficial ideology versus real ideology. Everything is not as it seems.  Jeffrey Katzenberg, a self-proclaimed liberal, as head of studio quite frequently green lights, even initiates, the most conservative, family-ish films. Indeed he has been identified with such movies. Steven Spielberg has been wildly inconsistent in that regard.  E.T. and Munich do not seem to have been made by the same person. (In the case of Munich, the influence of writer Tony Kushner is strong.) The important thing to these people is to be perceived as being on the left.  What they do — or really think — is another matter.

Now I am not trying to say that Sean Penn and Oliver Stone are closet libertarians.  Far from it, although the word “libertarian” may be gaining a certain panache in Hollywood, as it is elsewhere.  Being a liberal isn’t quite as cool as it once was. (Who knows?  “Libertarian” may soon be the new “progressive.” )  But it’s important to look twice at the movies people are making.  Some, like Avatar, are ridiculous liberal pabulum — and its sequels are likely to remain so.  But watch the messages, hidden and otherwise, in other tent pole films as they come out.  That will be a good place to start to measure whether there has been change.

And while you wait — since it’s likely to be a while — please watch Lionel and my latest Poliwood.  We appreciate your feedback.