Hollywood Villains: Leftist Agenda Trumps Audience Appeal
Yesterday, Big Hollywood's Chris Yogerst weighed in on Greg Gutfeld’s criticism of Hollywood — specifically Greg’s criticism of “G.I. Joe,” Stallone’s new Rambo film and “Inglourious Basterds” — for choosing politically correct villains over the real ones we face today. Chris is correct that turning Nazis into Jihadists is not something a filmmaker like Quentin Tarantino would do. If he has any, Tarantino’s politics have remained hidden in his work. Up on that screen the only thing he advocates for is overlooked 70’s B-movies and audacious entertainment. However, that doesn’t make the director’s decision to use Nazis any less politically correct or Hollywood’s moral cowardice in this area any more defensible.
Where my colleague Chris and I most disagree is with the assertion that Hollywood chooses “politically correct” or “safe” villains because Hollywood is all about the money and therefore wants to appeal to audiences who care what the villain looks like:
The film industry, like any other business, generally wants to appeal to the largest audience possible. Picking “safe” enemies is one way to do that.
Two of the most profitable films released this past year were “Gran Torino,” where our hero confronts black and Asian street gangs, and “Taken,” where the henchmen are Muslims and the arch-villain Middle Eastern.
With a $33 million production budget, “Torino” made nearly $270 million worldwide. On a budget of just $25 million, “Taken” made an astonishing $145 million domestically and another $79 million overseas. And before you give Hollywood credit for producing two films with politically-incorrect villains, keep in mind that both are notable exceptions; that only a Clint Eastwood could’ve made “Torino,” and “Taken” was produced in France, of all places.
To be clear, my point isn’t that international moviegoers flock to see politically-incorrect villains. My point is that is that audiences don’t care what the villain looks like and that Hollywood’s being dishonest when they say different.
Like the mainstream media, Hollywood’s cry of being money-driven is a lie to cover an increasingly obvious Leftist political agenda. If Hollywood really is all about making money by “appealing to the largest audience,” why no follow up to one of the most profitable films of all time, “The Passion of the Christ?” Why the three-year run of A-listers starring in box-office embarrassments with the most politically correct villain of them all: Americans in the Middle East? Define these films any way you want, I define them as loss-leaders to put Democrats in office.
Money-driven industries don’t keep making Edsels and ignore the Mustang.
Filmmakers and producers with access to Box Office Mojo know that whether politically “correct” or “incorrect,” who the villain is has nothing to do with box office. “Torino” and “Taken” were monster hits because they’re both extremely satisfying films. If there’s a single quality that made them successful that bucks the current Leftist Hollywood agenda, it’s their lack of moral equivalence. Both are straightforward good versus evil stories with a protagonist willing to sacrifice everything for something bigger than himself.
Because the human condition knows no boundaries, it’s old-fashioned heroism international audiences crave, not “safe, politically correct” villains.
“Basterds” only proves this point. “Politically correct, safe” Nazis are not what’s drawing audiences but rather the vicarious pleasure of watching something Hollywood doesn’t give us enough of: the delicious spectacle of evil receiving a reckoning at the hands of American good guys.
Both “G.I. Joe” and “Superman Returns” are all-kinds of politically correct. Neither, however, is likely to break even for years to come. “Spider-Man,” “Iron Man,” “The Dark Knight” and “300″ are a diverse mix of villains but pretty straight-forward in the good versus evil department … and all are monster hits.
Here are two other major areas of disagreement:
With the current economy, filmmakers don’t want to risk losing any potential audience. Even when ticket sales are up, filmmakers may not want to pick sides on an issue.
The decisions surrounding “G.I. Joe” and “Basterds” and so many politically correct others had nothing to do with the economy. They were in the works long before the recession hit. But this idea that directors keep their politics ambiguous and “not pick sides on an issue” disregards a never-ending avalanche of anti-Iraq, anti-Bush, pro-Leftist films that never stop flopping.
Hollywood doesn’t always like a clear line between good and evil, so in order to lock a distributor, a director might keep his or her politics ambiguous (especially if those politics are right of center).
On the left, I would say this is the exact opposite of what’s happening. Over the past ten years directors have become less and less politically ambiguous, and I would argue, increasingly strident with their on-screen agendas. This is why the adult drama is all but dead today. The agenda turns off a mainstream audience tired of paying ten bucks to be insulted and in turn no longer trusts Hollywood with anything other than tentpoles. Liberal audiences stay away because political stridency makes for bad filmmaking.
On the right, sympathies hidden and made ambiguous in fantasy films like “300″ and “The Dark Knight” have nothing to do with anything other than an intolerant film and media industry poised to pounce. The personal attacks leveled against a pre-drunk driving Mel Gibson before anyone had seen “The Passion,” and David Zucker and Jon Voight make clear that there’s a heavy price to pay for political apostates.
It comes down to this Gutfeld quote from the Yogerst piece:
“It is distasteful to consider a battle between good and evil if it’s happening now, because then you have to choose sides.”
For my money, mainstream Hollywood has chosen sides, and not ours. And that choice has nothing to do wanting to “appeal to the broadest audience possible.”
It’s not the economy stupid, it’s the agenda.
Originally published at Big Hollywood on September 2.