WHEN EMMA STONE, DENZEL WASHINGTON, Ryan Gosling and the rest of this year’s Academy Award nominees get ready for the big night, they will reckon with the perennial questions that have faced every Oscar nominee for time immemorial: what to wear, who to bring as a date, who to thank if they win.
But this year, there will be a potentially vexing new question as well: what, if anything, to say about Donald Trump.
If last year’s awards season chatter was dominated by the roiling #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the elephant in the room this year has been the ascent to the presidency of a man whose candidacy few in Hollywood supported and whose victory even fewer saw coming.
FOR BETTER OR WORSE, Donald Trump will become president sooner than you think and the question remains: How did it happen?
Pundits of all stripes have weighed in with speculation about possible reasons: the president-elect's post-fact skills as a campaigner; FBI Director James Comey's heavy thumb on the scale; "Manchurian Candidate"-type Russian interference; no-show Democratic voters who didn't understand that elections are about transference of power and not expressions of "she's just not right for me" personal preference.
I have a simpler explanation: Hollywood made us do it. Not the celebrities, not the executives, the movies themselves.
THERE WAS A LOT OF SOUL-SEARCHING in the weeks following Donald Trump’s election, especially among those who fill our various screens with news and entertainment.
Accusations of elitism and bias among the news media quickly spilled over to Hollywood.
Long considered a bastion of pathological progressiveness and wanton liberalism (Remember the blacklist? The one not starring James Spader?), film and television were accused of obsessing too much about things like transgender rights and how many black actors got Oscar nominations and not enough worrying about the concerns of “real Americans”: Rust Belt unemployment, devotion to guns, fear of porous borders, disillusionment with government, feelings of personal alienation and a general sense of a world run amok.
EARLY ON IN THE GERMAN comedy “Toni Erdmann,” Ines Conradi (Sandra Hüller), a consultant for a Romanian oil giant called Dacoil, goes out with her clients for drinks. When asked about her work, she mentions her role overseeing the company’s imminent outsourcing plan — a faux pas that rattles Dacoil’s chief executive, who peevishly corrects her in front of everyone.
By this point in the evening, the CEO has already assigned Ines the humiliating task of taking his wife out shopping the next day. A few days later, Ines will give a presentation to the board that will result in her being interrupted, misinterpreted and shut down by her clients as well as other members of her team — nearly all of whom, it scarcely needs to be said, are men.
THE WORKING MAN IS BATTERED and bruised, celebrated and misunderstood. He is stoic and brash. He counts his hours and logs his years. He is the best and worst of us, as willing to walk into a coal mine as onto a battlefield. He endures until he breaks or accepts that the promises of manhood glimmered brighter when he was a boy.
The question now is how will Hollywood depict this working man — and working woman — in a culturally divisive era? What are the new narratives in a changing economy and racial strains driven by identity politics? Donald Trump’s election has refocused attention, much like the fall of the U.S. steel industry in the 1970s, on disillusioned and bitter parts of the country shaken by financial decline, foreign competition and addiction.
LONG BEFORE DONALD TRUMP campaigned on the promise of banning Muslims from entering the U.S. or creating a registry for those who already live here, there was a master fear monger who made the president-elect’s divisive rhetoric seem like child’s play.
It capitalized upon the terror of 9/11 by portraying most Muslims (even those who are American) as terrorists, cast a suspicious eye toward anyone who looked remotely like Sallah from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and pretty much ensured that Westerners would know Islam through only the prism of suicide bombings, religious extremism and oppressed women in burkas.
When it comes to exploiting fear of the other for personal gain, the far right has nothing on liberal Hollywood.
Jan. 7, 2017, 8:35 a.m.
The movies rely far too much on guns to create drama and excitement. How many posters do we see from our cars of stars looking fierce and brandishing ugly pistols? A gun makes a man powerful, that's the message -- and as yet another mass shooting is reported, it's pretty clear that Americans take that message seriously.
SEE IF THIS CAMPAIGN TACTIC sounds familiar: Rally white men who feel the world is changing too fast, leverage racial bias for the cause, and demean women along the way.
The strategy belonged to a radical corner of the gaming world that may have provided the winning playbook for the campaign that won the presidential election.
“Gamergate” is the term now used to describe the movement in which Internet trolls attacked high-profile people in the game industry if they attempted to change — or even speak out about — the misogynistic themes of video games. They are the gaming world’s radical right, and they’re fighting back against what they see as the onslaught of politically correct culture.
Jan. 7, 2017, 8:40 a.m.
I've lived and traveled many places in the U.S. Not only is Hollywood out of touch, so is most of urban California. Both exist in a bubble. A place where insular thought feeds on one another. The only difference Hollywood has over most other places is they have been historically given a bully pulpit to speak from. One of the takeaways from The Donald's election is a repudiation of this stage. A formal rejection that a large part of America is tired of the Clooneys of the world telling us how to think and upbraiding us for daring to hold beliefs different than their fascist view of the world.
Finally the news narrative of overcovering those incredulous sky is falling anti-Donaldites were never explored when a freshman senator with almost NO real world work experience who won a Nobel peace prize within one year of election was voted into office. That double standard speaks directly to how out of touch the Hollywood Liberal California 'industrial complex' really is.