My late friend, the great Andrew Breitbart, loved movies, music and pop culture. He didn’t love them just for the enjoyment he got from them, or because he lived and worked in Hollywood. He understood their power. “Politics,” he always said, “is downstream from pop culture.”
What happens in movies, television, music, whatever, eventually makes its way into the political realm. Pop culture is the fertilizer for the seeds from which the future sprouts. And on the pop culture front conservatives are sorely lagging.
I hear it all the time – conservatives complaining about “the messages coming out of Hollywood” – and they’re right. Hollywood is a bastion of like-minded, unthinking liberalism. They also wonder where the “conservative movies” are. There’s really no such thing as “liberal movies” or “conservative movies,” there are only good and bad movies that happen to have something liberal or conservative in them.
Before Obamacare became law, how many movies and TV shows were made about the sorry state of the health insurance system? For decades we’ve been inundated with stories of mean insurance companies denying care to sweet, innocent people (mostly children), or how someone without insurance was screwed over by the system, and watched as the hero stood up to or for them and won. It’s a compelling storyline from a human standpoint, but it’s also incredibly rare. But each of them helped in their own little way in the fight over Obamacare.
When all this began, the vast majority – upwards of 85 percent of Americans by most counts – had health insurance and were quite happy with it. But a story about a child who gets sick and gets treated because his parents had insurance is not a compelling story. It’s boring. It’s what’s supposed to happen.
Through the power of pop culture, we learned the system that served most of us quite well existed only because of the profiteering of the evil insurance companies. If we wanted to “help people,” we had to support a 100 percent government overhaul of a problem shared by only a few. And while progressives exploited the power of pop culture to advance this agenda, all conservatives did was complain.
I hear these complaints all the time. “Hollywood is full of liberals.” This is true. I also hear, “Conservatives need to engage in pop culture.” This is true as well. But what happens when they do?
The last overtly conservative movie I remember was a cinematic abortion called “An American Carol.” It could have been good, but it wasn’t. It was terrible, and it was a flop at the box office.
It wasn’t good because it didn’t focus on being good – it focused on being conservative, and focusing on anything other than being good first will yield an unentertaining product.
Just like bands that bill themselves as “conservative bands” and comedians who call themselves “conservative comedians,” if you’re ideology first, everything else is secondary. If you’re a band, be a great band that happens to be conservative. If you’re a comedian, be a damn funny comedian who happens to be conservative. And if you’re a conservative who makes movies, make entertaining movies that happen to have a conservative message in them, but don’t beat people over the head with it.
The most successful pro-life movie, for example, was Knocked Up. It wasn’t a conservative movie. It was made by ardent liberals, and it was raunchy. But it was funny as hell and just happened to have a pro-life message. If a liberal could do that by accident, just imagine what conservatives could do on purpose if they focused on making a good movie first.
One example of this is Vince Vaughn. While most conservatives in Hollywood are forced to hide their beliefs, Vaughn is successful enough not to have to worry about it. In Hollywood, the one thing that trumps politics is money. If you can make it, everything else is secondary. And Vince Vaughn makes money.
But one thing Vince Vaughn doesn’t do is make conservative movies. He makes good movies that, in some cases, happen to have a conservative message in them. His latest, Delivery Man, is one such movie. It has a pro-life message, an anti-feminist message and a very strong, “do it yourself” message. What it doesn’t do is tell you it has a message, or that a message is there. It’s just there.
But with all the talk of the need for conservatives in Hollywood, one thing Delivery Man hasn’t found yet is a large audience. It’s made $12 million in its first two weeks. My question for those who complain about liberal Hollywood is this – Where are you?
Look, if Vince Vaughn movies aren’t for you, fine, I get it. But if you’ve enjoyed his work in the past, why haven’t you gone?
Too often conservatives complain about a problem, particularly when it comes to popular culture, but do nothing about it. That’s all well and good if you’re content to accept the status quo and comfort yourself in the warm embrace of those complaints, but it won’t make a difference. I guess my question to you is simple: Do you want to make a difference or not?
Derek Hunter is Washington, DC based writer, radio host and political strategist. You can also stalk his thoughts 140 characters at a time on Twitter.