The leading strategists of the Democratic Party have entered a season of soul-searching and repositioning, and their allies in the Hollywood left need to follow their example -- for the sake of both political influence and commercial clout. During the campaign, A-list celebrities provided such fervent support for Sen. John Kerry that the entertainment industry's unabashed partisanship became something of a joke -- even within Tinseltown itself. The counterterrorism spoof Team America: World Police deployed marionette versions of Alec Baldwin, Danny Glover, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon and other outspokenly liberal stars as duped allies of the movie's archvillain, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. But now, Michael Moore's feverishly conspiratorial Bush-bashing extravaganza Fahrenheit 9/11 rates as a serious contender for the best-picture Oscar, speaking volumes about the entertainment community's continued detachment from the nation at large and contempt for the results of the recent balloting.
Alienating half of your potential audience
Hollywood apologists comfort themselves with the thought that 49% of the electorate voted to dump President Bush. But it hardly sounds like a savvy business strategy to market your movies and TV shows exclusively to a minority -- however substantial -- of the general public. In this closely divided nation, it satisfies no practical purpose for the entertainment elite to be identified as so intensely political and utterly one-sided.
Fahrenheit 9/11 earned surprising box office returns by appealing to Bush-bashers, but during the campaign season, Hollywood turned out absolutely nothing to attract or reassure Bush-backers.
The Passion of the Christ (often cited as a counterweight to Fahrenheit ) carried powerful religious messages but scrupulously avoided partisan political overtones. In fact, Mel Gibson never endorsed a candidate for president.
In contrast to this reticence, three major feature films marketed as escapist entertainment in the midst of electoral battle conveyed gratuitous anti-administration messages. The Day After Tomorrow featured a right-wing vice president, who looked like Dick Cheney, contributing to environmental disaster; The Manchurian Candidate portrayed a Halliburton-style conglomerate that manipulated military and political leaders; Silver City focused on a Bush-like, born-again bumbler slavishly serving corporate sponsors.
Two weeks after the election, the entertainment establishment unleashed yet another high-profile project designed to raise conservative hackles.