My Sunday column in the London Telegraph will be on “Why The Left Hates American Sniper.” (That’s my beta title, at least.) You’ll have to read it for more on why liberals are off base on this one. But my thoughts on the film exceed the 750 word column limit, and there’s one aspect to this whole controversy that I didn’t have room to address, and that is this: Despite the fact that patriotic and/or Christian-themed movies tend to do terrific at the box office (and, in the case of Sniper, also received six Oscar nominations), Hollywood doesn’t seem to make that many of them.
From Mel Gibson’s The Passion to Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, there seems to be a huge market for big movies that Middle America can get behind. One wonders how well “biblical” movies like Noah and Exodus would have performed had they kept this in mind.
The fact that so many cultural elites are gunning for Sniper in Tweets and “think” pieces helps explain why so few of these types of movies get green lit, despite the profit motive. Culturally and stylistically, Hollywood has more in common with elite liberal writers than with the Chris Kyles of the world. And, despite the fact that movies like American Sniper tend to do well, there seems to be an industry disincentive to making them. It probably takes someone with the gravitas of an Eastwood or the cachet of a Bradley Cooper to pull it off. (For more on this, read Matthew Continetti’s excellent recent column on John Milius, the writer of movies such as Dirty Harry and Red Dawn.)
On the other hand, maybe there is a larger profit motive to blame, and maybe that helps explain at least part of the problem. As I wrote a while back,
Hollywood is no longer creating films specifically for Americans. The global box office is increasingly crucial for a big-budget movie’s success. When they’re crafted to appeal to Chinese and Russian audiences, films no longer scratch that unique conservative American itch. When we watch movies tailored to the world, we lose a sort of cultural connection.
In any event, despite the criticism from elite writers, the critical and commercial success of Sniper demonstrates there is a great yearning out there for well-made films that do not offend the sensibilities of Middle America. Without aiming too big, here’s hoping we get more.