Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #848: Politics Or Personality??

A group that gives out awards to films that they believe promote conservative and/or family values released a study that says thematically "conservative" films make more money than thematically "liberal" movies. The overall gist was that films with stories that have a positive take on heroism, family, belief, and country tend to make more money than films that don't.

That's pretty believable, and for it to be believable doesn't require that the audience has to skew particularly conservative. Yes, the majority of Americans do tend to skew slightly to the right of center, but even if the division was exactly 50/50 between ardent liberals and devout conservatives, the result would probably be the same.

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It have very little to do with politics, and almost everything to do with feelings.

You could make a movie with a tremendous production budget, the biggest stars in the planet, and a P&A budget that could buy a European nation, but let it be known that it is a highly partisan film with a liberal slant, and you would lose a fortune. In fact, you would be better off putting the money in a big pile in the middle of the studio and setting it on fire, because at least then you can claim that the money is keeping you warm.

This is because such a film would be considered insulting and/or boring by both sides of the audience regardless of their politics.

This is because no one outside of Hollywood honestly believes that Hollywood is capable of handling political or controversial subject matter with any sort of deftness, skill, or anything that remotely resembles even handedness. The audience sees something with a political theme, and they just assume it's going to be a shrill ham-fisted diatribe based on whatever stance will get the film's makers invited to the fashionable parties.

Conservative ticket buyers assume they will be insulted for their religion, lifestyle, and voting habits, and they won't spend their money on being insulted by anyone other than Don Rickles.
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But what about the liberals?

Liberals have their own reasons, but its roots lie in the simple fact that, like their conservative cousins, they also know deep in their bleeding hearts that Hollywood is really ham-fisted when it comes to handling political issues and themes. 

Most liberals don't really believe that people who vote differently from them are truly evil, but Hollywood does, and don't care for being told that their friends, family, and neighbors are the spawn of Satan.

Even liberals that share Hollywood's Manichean sentiments don't buy tickets in the numbers you would expect.  That's because they see such a film, and assume it's going to be a lecture, and even if they agree with the lecture's sentiment, they're going to avoid it, because they assume it would be boring as hell.

So why do "conservative" themed movies make more money?

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Think about what makes a film "conservative" by the criteria presented by the group. They must have positive views of heroism, family, nation and values. These things don't require tearing down members of the audience for their beliefs, but building up the characters on screen to fulfill the requirements of the story, which is a completely different dynamic.

Now that's not saying that being politically conservative in attitude means that box office success is guaranteed. The attempt at making an overtly political comedy An American Carol, failed at the box office because it made the same mistakes made by overtly liberal movies. It came across as being ham-fisted shrill, strident, and struck people of all political stripes as being either insulting or boring.

Even discussing partisan political film-making is so at risk of being ham-fisted, insulting and boring that any blogger doing it would be tempted to pepper the post with pictures of attractive women to keep his predominantly male readership interested. Not that I would ever do anything like that, I'm too classy.


  1. Blast Hardcheese9/2/12 4:56 pm

    H-Wood used to be able to make successful 'liberal' movies (Norma Rae and 3 Days of the Condor, to name two). They were good movies first and foremost, and any political bent was kept low-key.

    And in a completely unrelated topic, why do I not find Anne Hathaway sexy? She is an objectively pretty woman, but as far as my libido is concerned she may as well be a shop-window mannequin. Strange.

  2. Right about the old days of liberal movies. Then it was about telling a good story that made a point, now it's all about making a point and to hell with anything else.

    As for Anne Hathaway... hmmm... really can't explain your impotence when it comes to her. She's not plasticized like Nicole Kidman, who I suspect really is a shop window mannequin.

  3. Blast Hardcheese9/2/12 5:51 pm

    Now Zooey, on the other hand...rawwr!

  4. Kit said . . .

    I like Anne Hathaway, Zooey Deschanel, and Karen Gillan.

    By the way, what was this post about? I forgot.

  5. Just this week I watched a really good underdog sports drama out of Bollywood called "Chak De India!". It had an overt political agenda of post-tribal nationalism, women's equality and Hindu-Muslim tolerance. Now I have no personal investment in Indian progressivism one way or another, but I really enjoyed the movie because I was rooting for the team all the way and the political message developed naturally out of that story.