During the Bush years, Hollywood tried valiantly to do its part by churning out big box-office antiwar movies. It consistently failed. Liberal frustration grew so intense, then-L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein celebrated James Cameron's sci-fi extravaganza "Avatar" as proof Americans really do like liberal movies with, among other things, antiwar themes. "Avatar," according to Goldstein, also proved that the global-warming message sells. And yet, after not just "Avatar" but "The Day After Tomorrow," the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (not to mention academic and media drum-beating), a 2012 Pew poll found that most Americans still don't buy that global warming is caused by humans.
The point isn't that Hollywood has no influence. It's just that its influence is agonizingly hard to predict or dismiss as unthinkingly liberal. Studies of "All in the Family" found that viewers in America, and around the globe, took different lessons from the show based on their politics and cultural norms. Despite Norman Lear's liberal best efforts, many found Archie Bunker more persuasive than his "meathead" sociologist son-in-law. HBO's epic series "The Wire" was a near-Marxist indictment of urban liberalism and the drug war, making it quite popular among many conservatives and libertarians. The popular BBC series "Downton Abbey" is shockingly conservative in many respects. The aristocrats are decent, compassionate people, and the staff is, if anything, more happily class-conscious than the blue bloods. And yet, as far as I can tell, liberals love it.
Obviously, the market is a big factor. No doubt many Hollywood liberals would like to push the ideological envelope more, but audiences get a vote. And that vote isn't cast purely on ideological grounds.
There's a difference between art and propaganda. Outside the art house crowd, liberal agitprop doesn't sell. Art must work with the expectations and beliefs of the audience. Even though pregnancies are commonplace on TV, you'll probably never see a hilarious episode of a sitcom in which a character has an abortion -- because abortion isn't funny.
The conservative desire to create a right-wing movie industry is an attempt to mimic a caricature of Hollywood. Any such effort would be a waste of money that would make the Romney campaign seem like a great investment.
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