Lines Blurred in Tinsel-town in Must Win Election Year
Variety magazine, the renowned weekly entertainment trade, always sports pictures of familiar Hollywood faces on its covers. From Oscar winners to television tycoons, the trade typically displays stars synonymous with entertainment success. Thus, subscribers were likely surprised to find Nancy Pelosi on the cover of the March 3rd issue, and for the 79-year-old Speaker of the House to be the primary subject of the feature article.
While some might enjoy going to the movies or turning on the TV to forget about complicated, real world matters such as politics, global warming, or high-strung elections, the gap between entertainment and government is narrowing. Mainstream movies and shows are reflecting contemporary ideologies more transparently than ever before, and celebrities are using their influences to voice political thoughts. For evidence, one needs to look no further than this year’s politically fueled acceptance speeches at the Golden Globes and Oscars.
Granted, politics have always overlapped with entertainment. Ever since the first televised presidential debate took place between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960, political theater has become a swaying source of amusement for many constituents. This became evermore prevalent in 1980, when former movie star Ronald Regan took office and led the nation with an endearing Western-cowboy-like kind of performance. Add in immense marketing campaigns, choreographed speeches, and pre-prepared rallies meant to evoke emotional responses for certain candidates, and elections start looking a lot like movie or TV productions, ongoing serials aired in episodic bursts on morning and nightly news programs.
This took on an entirely new level of truth in the 2016 election, when a literal reality TV star won the republican ticket and eventually took home the general election with an unprecedentedly theatrical campaign. The trend has continued in the media ever since, as Donald Trump now sits in the oval office and has been a goldmine of riveting, controversial stories over the past four years.
American politics are no longer the dry, niche subject that they were pre-Trump, and behaving apolitically is hardly acceptable anymore. This new push of activism has found its way into Hollywood quite palpably. Being that moviemakers and stars have lots of money and influence, several politicians have made friends with powerful members of tinsel town. As Variety outlined in its Pelosi article, the Speaker of the House has strong support and personal relations from the likes of producers Katie McGrath, JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof, David Zaslav, and James L. Brooks.
The “Stay in your Lane” refrain no Longer Applies for Hollywood Stars
Meanwhile, many starts have publically endorsed candidates for the 2020 election. Before Super Tuesday, actor Michael Douglas supported Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor/producer Seth MacFarlane co-hosted events for Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Meanwhile, Senator Elizabeth Warren has the support of John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Jonathan Van Ness, and Scarlett Johanson amongst others in the industry, while Joe Biden has Tom Hanks, Michelle Kwan, and Alec Baldwin in his corner. Recently, you also may have noticed actor Danny DeVito lending his charisma to ads for Senator Bernie Sanders, who also has support from Ariana Grande, Dick Van Dyke, and Mark Ruffalo.
This is just the surface. Each candidate has an exhaustive list of celebs backing him or her. Each candidate except one, that is—the one currently in the White House.
While people in Hollywood are taking their picks of which candidate they want to support, the industry as a whole is uniting against Donald Trump. The foremost rhetoric behind each celebrity endorsement implies that this election’s primary objective should be defeating Trump. Thus, the film and television community (a community that has always been left leaning) is likely to rally behind whomever wins the Democratic nomination and vote Blue no matter what come November.
Endorsing Trump has proven to be unwise in Hollywood. The handful of actors, directors, and producers who openly supported Trump in 2016 have had trouble finding work since the election. Agencies and management companies often hesitate to represent Trump supporters, for Producers will rarely hire them. Simply stated, in a Liberal industry, those in charge do not want Trumpish toxicity on their sets or in their offices.
Vote Blue No Matter Who is Standard Stance
Actors who backed Trump in 2016 such as Dean Cain, John Voight, and Antonio Sabato Jr have been all but blacklisted for the past few years. Sabato has even moved to Florida and taken on a construction job, ending his career in Hollywood for lack of work. Meanwhile, steadfast Republican celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood have retracted their support for Trump despite his political affiliation.
Evidently, the ~3,000 mile distance between Hollywood and Washington DC is shrinking, as candidates are crisscrossing the continent for support from powerful and influential individuals. Historically speaking, this is hardly anything new, as celebrities have played roles in politics for decades. In World War II, the federal government solicited studios to create and distribute wartime propaganda films. During McCarthyism, troves of creative people were put on trial for creating films with Communist sentiments. As recently as the Obama administration, former Disney CEO Bob Iger held close relations and political counsel with the President, giving Mickey Mouse an influential voice of our federal government.
At the same time, political theater is getting all the more theatrical these days. The news feels more like “House Of Cards” everyday. It is entertaining, but unlike drama television, the consequences of real life politics do not end after 58 minutes. They remain authentic and oftentimes quite harsh. Trump proved in 2016 that a melodramatic, highly staged campaign can be triumphant in the modern era. In order to defeat him now, the Left has to hold their own in this sphere, but they are doing their best to uphold truth and dignity while giving the constituents the show they crave.
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