The conservative narrative about the “Hollywood left” has gotten old. Many on the right have a time-honored tradition of blaming it for America’s downfall without doing anything to change it — or when they do and find little success, whip out the victim card and blame the ruling elite.
But what many “pro-free market” conservative filmmakers or aspirants don’t get is that their enemy is not the ruling elite, their enemy is often that which they purport to champion — the free market.
The conservative voice in Tinseltown is minimal for a few reasons — none of which fit the popular meme. It is not always because conservatives are outnumbered. An outsider would be surprised to learn how many of them there are. But some of the unsuccessful ones are either too preoccupied with self-pity, or more eager to educate than to entertain.
The successful ones are often either in the closet to avoid persecution (again, there are enough in town for this not to be necessary, in my opinion, and talent and confidence speaks louder than party allegiance in my experience), or they are investing their resources into conservative documentaries that only conservatives end up seeing.
Now I am certainly no detractor of conservative documentary-making, having starred in Steve Bannon’s “Occupy Unmasked” and produced footage appearing in “Hating Breitbart.” I have nothing but respect for the success of “2016,” “I Want Your Money,” and “Expelled.” But despite playing at political evangelism — the occasional exception of the open-minded liberal or the friend/relative/significant other of a fan — ultimately, these films’ success is almost solely based on its appeal to the target market — conservatives. The liberal monopoly on narrative content holds.
So what? Are conservatives, disillusioned with the statist and secular values propagated by Hollywood films, left to make films on their own terms, encompassing politically right-of-center and religiously Judeo-Christian messages? Possibly, but at their own potential peril. And legitimate ammunition with which to decry the “secularist” values of Hollywood grows increasingly scarce as major studios are opening their own faith-based film divisions — doubly scarce given the poor quality of projects being greenlit by these divisions.
Christian filmmakers have unprecedented latitude now — and burgeoning success, albeit only among Christian moviegoers — yet perennial complaints ensue about the supposed second-class status of the faith-based movie marketplace. Are they really somehow bullied by the power-wielding “secular progressives” of the industry? No. Quite the opposite. The answer — and this will hurt — is often simple: Their films suck. The “secular progressive” films are better.
I won’t name names, but some of these conservative filmmakers think a “good message” is a sufficient excuse to put the most patronizingly expository, on-the-nose detritus on paper and call it “screenwriting.” Swooping into filmmaking while apparently never having lost sleep studying the great directors and writers of cinema history to serve a “higher purpose,” yet being surprised when nobody wants to watch the thing, is hardly a testament to concerted subjugation.
Some complain they are “blacklisted” by the left. No. They are blacklisted by the free market. There is unfortunately no demand for crap at the moment; perhaps that is why Hollywood is miles away yet from its come-to-Jesus moment.
Are there war stories about industry conservatives getting the “you’ll never work in this town again” treatment from supposed gatekeepers or enduring abuse at the hands of doctrinaire Hollywood hegemons? Of course. But anyone who has seen the comic masterpiece “Swimming With Sharks,” Altman’s sunlessly cynical “The Player,” or for that matter been a personal assistant to any clinical narcissist of prestige has known uninhibited human nature rears its Hobbesian head in a manner that transcends politics. This is also true of the culinary industry, the fashion industry, and others.