Unquestionably, a majority of the people who work in Hollywood lean politically left. More than lean, in many cases. But how much of their politics makes it onto the big screen? Rory Carroll takes up the question in the Guardian, writing that:
“the industry as a whole could disappoint those hoping for a liberal, inclusive wave from Los Angeles to counter rightwing populism from Washington.
Hollywood, after all, is still dominated by white men who like to make films and shows built around other white men, fictional and real, who slash, shoot and zap other characters in the hope, ultimately, of putting butts in seats. Waging a cultural crusade against the White House is not in the job description.
Ultimately, it’s more about box office than political agendas. Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst for the box office tracker comScore says:
“It’s more about box office than any other agenda. I don’t see any particular agenda besides lots of franchises to bring people into theaters. More Marvel superheroes, more DC superheroes, more sequels.”
Hollywood stars know they have a platform and they use it. But the business of Hollywood is something entirely different. Studios make decisions based on the bottom line (and yes, the art is part of that line).
Michele Burke, a makeup artist with two Oscars says: “Truly we are artists, and most people here want to create great films, great stories. But at the end of the day this is a huge money-making machine.”
But Boris Zelkin, a film composer who is politically libertarian, said liberal bias was ubiquitous.
“Can you name a show where there’s a sane or compassionate conservative? Or smart Christians without a skeleton in their closet? Or a non-evil corporation? It doesn’t have to be an active jab at conservatives, it’s what they don’t show.”
But Marty Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California says that political propaganda rarely works well at the box office.
“Hollywood is most successful – creatively as well as commercially – when it conveys the American dream and the struggles to realize it. The industry loves stories about people who succeed against long odds, no matter what their backgrounds, because the audience loves those stories, too.”
Movies that show struggles against prejudice, poverty, ignorance, oppression and fear reflect liberal values only in the sense that “reality has a well-known liberal bias”, said Kaplan, quoting Stephen Colbert. “If there were big money to be made telling stories celebrating home schooling, semi-automatic rifle ownership, the bullying of gays, white supremacism, misogyny or xenophobia, Hollywood would be racing to make them.”