Hogan's Alley

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Right Wing Hollywood?

A. O. Scott is the finest film critic writing for the New York Times. If he recommends a film, go see it. It will be worth your $10 plus popcorn. If he says a film is not worth seeing, see it at your peril.

A political analyst he is not. In today's lead piece in the Arts and Leisure section he tries to suggest that two current films, "Just Like Heaven", staring Reese Witherspoon, and "The Exorcism of Emily Rose", along with the recent Mel Gibson whip epic, "The Passion of the Christ" mark a rightward swing of the Hollywood studios. No doubt the upcoming "DaVinci Code" will be seen in the same mode.

What these films are, like all films released by the major studios, is an attempt to make money. The former is a romantic comedy in which a man sees his apparently dead girlfriend. "Emily Rose" is an film about possession by the devil, a concept believed in only by orthodox religionists, and lovers of the thrills of the horror movie genre.

Leaving aside the fact that movies with these high concepts have been done for years (The Exorcist and Ghost as only two examples of 32 and 15 years ago respectively), the central conceit of Scott's piece is that these are religious movies. They assert life after death, the existence of the devil, the deity of Christ. These are not right wing concepts, except in Manhattan, they are religious beliefs.

Mr. Scott may have never met anyone self-described as a conservative, or a Republican. This is understandable for a resident of NYC's upscale borough. But the truth is that not all conservatives are religious nuts. Only some are. The usual suspects like Dobson, Falwell, even Bush.

The only non-religious examples Scott provides are "Team America", a cartoon puppet show which mocks Hollywood liberals while it portrays right-wing America bombing the hell out of everyone, and "The Incredibles", another cartoon, which he finds celebrating an "Ayn Randian libertarian individualism and the suburban nuclear family".

Scott seems to be firing an early shot across the bow of a growing juggernaut of cultural analysis that demonstrates that many Hollywood residents and their products are left-leaning. I will not here provide chapter and verse of the documentation of the liberal inclinations of many in the movie business, but let no one use Scott's piece as if it were prima facie evidence of a vast right-wing conspiracy by agents of Haliburton to infiltrate and co-opt the good, caring citizens of La-La-Land.

The truth is that the Hollywood machine wants, more than anything, to make vast piles of money with its blockbuster movies. They it can use the profits from those to make "important" small films that somehow all seem to reveal the evils of capitalism, American power, racism, chauvinism and homophobia.