Multi-Cinema Civil Disobedience [MCCD] = Watching one movie, while having purchased a ticket for another.
I have conservative political views and love movies. This used to mean that I would end up voting with my entertainment dollars for people whose views I disagreed with. The rise of multi-cinemas solved this problem a while ago.
For example, as a political junkie, I was curious about Oliver Stone’s Bush movie, but naturally didn’t want to reward a political opponent. In addition to his leftist politics, I consider him a good, but dishonest [JFK], filmmaker. If Stone had made ‘Do the Right Thing,’ Mookie would have resembled the Rev Martin Luther King.
Spike Lee is a more complicated case. I dislike his politics, but respect him as a filmmaker. Tipping the scales against him are his sporting allegiances [NY Knicks]. Although I do compromise when a film of his is not overtly political, like Inside Man. Most actors are on the left politically, so to boycott each offender would leave you with a limited selection of martial arts and indie films about diseases.
During presidential elections, the need to practice MCCD, is heightened. The inevitable interviews with the earnest leftist actors who condescendingly communicate, ‘I know my fans may not like this, but my powerful intellect and empathetic soul demands that I speak out’ [see any Matt Damon interview].
Alas, given the uniformity of their views in a profession for which success is not correlated with intellectual prowess, suggests that other factors are at work. Richard Posner dissects those factors:
The nature of their work, which combines irregular employment with high variance in income, an engagement with imaginative rather than realistic concepts, noninvolvement in the production of “useful” goods or service, and, traditionally, a bohemian style of living (a consequence of the other factors I have mentioned), distances them from the ordinary, everyday world of work and family in a basically rather conservative, philistine, and emphatically commercial society, which is the society of the United States today.
I picture Posner, preparing that analysis, working with a petri-dish full of actors. Holding the Alec Baldwin specimen up to the light, inspecting him like a Broward County hanging chad examiner would, chuckling, and depositing him back with the other ‘cultures.’
Thankfully, through the magic of MCCD, I can now watch any movie I am curious about and still direct my entertainment dollars towards a less odious recipient. Below are my upcoming list of movies to watch and whom I plan to reward with my discounted matinee dollars:
- [Watch] Frost/Nixon – [Pay for] Madagascar
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Marley & Me
- Nothing Like the Holidays – same
All articles referenced are copied in full at end of post.
Why Is Hollywood Dominated by Liberals? — Richard Posner
A recent article in the Washington Times by Amy Fagan, entitled “Hollywood’s Conservative Underground,
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/jul/23/hollywoods-conservative-underground/ (visited Aug. 23, 2008), is a reminder of the curious domination of the American film industry by left liberals. The industry’s left-wing slant drives the Right crazy (if you Google “Hollywood Liberals,” you’ll encounter an endless number of fierce, often paranoid, denunciations by conservative bloggers and journalists of Hollywood’s control by the Left). Fagan’s article depicts Hollywood conservatives as an embattled minority, forced to meet in secret lest the revelation of their political views lead to their being blacklisted by the industry. The conservatives’ complaint is an ironic echo of the 1950s, when communists and fellow travelers in Hollywood–who were numerous–were blacklisted by the movie studios.
We need to distinguish between actors, actresses, set designers, scriptwriters, directors, and other “creative” (that is, artistic) film personnel, on the one hand, and the business executives and shareholders of the film studios, on the other hand. (Producers are closer to the second, the business, echelon than to the creative echelon.) The creative workers, I think, are not so much magnetized by left-wing politics as drawn to political extremes–for there have been a number of extremely conservative Hollywood actors, such as Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Mel Gibson, and Jon Voight–Voight recently wrote a fiercely conservative op-ed in the Washington Times, where Fagan’s article was published. The left end of the political spectrum in this country is still somewhat more respectable than the right end, and so if one finds a class of persons who are drawn to political polarization, more will end up at the far liberal end of the political spectrum than at the far conservative end, yet it will be polarization rather than leftism as such that explains the imbalance. No one has a good word for Stalin and Mao nowadays, but socialism is not a dirty word, as fascism is.
But why should actors and other creative workers in the Hollywood film industry, and indeed “cultural workers” more generally, be drawn to political extremes? The nature of their work, which combines irregular employment with high variance in income, an engagement with imaginative rather than realistic concepts, noninvolvement in the production of “useful” goods or service, and, traditionally, a bohemian style of living (a consequence of the other factors I have mentioned), distances them from the ordinary, everyday world of work and family in a basically rather conservative, philistine, and emphatically commercial society, which is the society of the United States today.
The choice of a political ideology, which is to say of a general orientation that guides a person’s response to a variety of specific political and ethical issues, is less a matter of conscious choice or weighing of evidence than of a feeling of comfort with the advocates and adherents of the ideology. An ideology attractive to solid bourgeois types is unlikely to be attractive to cultural workers as I have described them. So we should not expect those workers to subscribe to the conventional political values, and apparently a disproportionate number of them do not. Moreover, though most actors and other creative film workers are not particularly intellectual, as cultural producers much in the public eye they have a natural affinity with public intellectuals, who I found in my book Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline (2001) split about 2/3 liberal 1/3 conservative.
The situation of Hollywood’s business executives, including investors in the film business, is different. They are not cultural workers, and one expects their focus to be firmly on the bottom line. It is true that the Hollywood film industry was founded largely by Jews and has always been very heavily Jewish, and that Jews of all income levels are disproportionately liberal. But if Hollywood based its selection of movies to produce and sell on the political views of the studios’ owners and managers, that would be commercial suicide, as competitors would rush in to cater to audiences’ desires. The idea that Hollywood is a propaganda machine for the Left is not only improbable as theory but empirically unsupported. Hollywood produces antiwar movies during unpopular wars and pro-war movies during popular ones (as during World War II), movies that ridicule minorities when minorities are unpopular and movies that flatter them when discrimination becomes unfashionable, movies that steer away from frank presentation of sex when society is strait-laced and movies that revel in sex when the society, or at least the part of the society that consumes films avidly, society turns libertine. The Hollywood film industry follows taste rather than creating taste, as one expects business firms to do.
What troubles conservatives about Hollywood is less the promotion in movies of left-liberal policies than the breakdown of the old taboos. Those taboos were codified in the Hays Code, which was in force between 1934 and 1968 with the backing of the Catholic Church. The code forbade disrespect of religion and marriage, obscene and scatological language, sexual innuendo, and nudity. The code was abandoned because of changing mores in society rather than because leftwingers suddenly took over Hollywood. If conservatives bought the studios and reinstituted the Hays Code they would soon be out of business. But what is true is that when movie audiences demand vulgar fare, then given that conservatives are more disturbed by vulgarity than liberals are, the film industry becomes less attractive to conservatives as a place to work in. This may be an additional reason for the left-liberal slant of the industry. But as long as the industry is an unregulated competitive industry, market forces will prevent studio heads and owners from trying to impose their own values on audiences, rather than trying to create movies that are in sync with those values.
Hollywood and Liberals-Becker
For every Ronald Reagan Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jon Voight, Charlton Heston, and a few other prominent conservative Hollywood stars, there are probably more than 50 strongly liberal actors, directors, producers, and other “above the line” categories of filmmakers. The top “below the line” categories of cinematographers and production designers are also heavily liberal.Less creative crew members, such as grips, have political views that are closer to those of the general American voting population.
Posner gives several explanations of the liberality of filmmakers, including their engagement in fantasy projects, their irregular employment, and the prominence of Jews, who are mainly liberal, in the industry. There is an additional consideration of great importance. Whereas most actors and other filmmakers have little interest in tax policy, approaches to Medicare and social security, other domestic economic and political questions, and even in many foreign policy issues (except wars), they are very much concerned about policies regarding personal morals. I believe the single most important reason why so many of these Hollywood creative personnel are opposed to the Republican party, especially to the more conservative members of this party, is that the personal morals of many filmmakers deviate greatly from general norms of the American population.
Creative contributors to films divorce in large numbers, often several times. Many have frequent affairs, often while married, they have children without marriage, they have significant numbers of abortions, have a higher than average presence of gays, especially in certain of the creative categories, who are open about their sexual preferences, they take cocaine and other drugs, and generally they lead a life style that differs greatly from what is more representative of the American public. By contrast, an important base of the Republican Party is against out of wedlock births, strongly pro life and against abortions, against gays, especially those who adopt an publicly gay lifestyle, against affairs while married, and very much oppose the legalization of drugs like cocaine and even marijuana.
It becomes impossible for Hollywood types who adopt these different lifestyles to support a political party that is so openly and prominently critical of important aspects of their way of living. That the majority of the relatively few conservative filmmakers lead more ordinary lifestyles confirms this hypothesis: they tend to be heterosexual, married, have children while married, are less into drugs, and in other ways too have more conventional lifestyles. True, some of the most prominent conservative member of Hollywood, such as Reagan and Voight, have been divorced, but divorce is now more accepted even by most conservative Republicans. After all, Ronald Reagan was a darling of conservative Republicans, and John McCain also has been divorced. Note that below the line members of crews lead more conventional life styles, and so they are less likely to be anti conservatives and against Republicans.
When other issues affect filmmakers more than attacks on their morals, their views often become very different. So while many of the more creative filmmakers consider themselves to be socialists, filmmakers, writers, and other creative types in communist countries were typically very strongly opposed to their governments. The obvious reason is that these governments imposed substantial censorship on the type of films that could be made, and so directly interfered with what filmmakers and writers wanted to do.
Another important factor stressed to me by Guity Nashat Becker is that members of the print and visual media who generally have strongly liberal political views surround actors and other creative contributors to films. Since it is well established that political views are greatly affected by the attitudes of people one interacts with closely, it is not surprising that some of the liberality of the media rub off on actors and others in the filmmaking industry. In addition to their concern about political approaches to personal morality, their association with the media helps make filmmakers anti-business, especially big business, and strongly pro-union.
Do the liberal views of Hollywood stars and leaders have a big affect on the opinions of others? I do not know of any evidence on this, but I suspect they only have a small indirect effect. This is not the result of speeches or other statements of their views-since they usually are not articulate in their extemporaneous comments- but their entertainment at various political functions can help generate enthusiastic audiences. More important probably is that whereas audiences do not go to films unless they enjoy them, anti-business and other liberal views will often be an underlying message of popular films. I doubt of these messages have a large permanent effect on the opinions of the audiences, but some affect is surely possible. So all in all, I believe Hollywood is a very minor contributor to general political views, but I do not think their influence can be fully dismissed