1/17/2007

Hollywood: Red State, Blue State or Green State?

There's been some talk lately about liberalism vs. conservatism in Hollywood. Yesterday, MSNBC had discussions, all day, apparently, about whether or not Fox's 24 is a mouthpiece for conservative, Republican propaganda, what with the constant threat of Islamic terrorists and the ::SPOILER ALERT:: mushroom cloud that appeared outside L.A. at the end of the premiere's second night. ::END SPOILER ALERT::

And now today, USA Today has a column about various other shows with a so-called conservative bent, whether it's Studio 60's religious comedienne Harriet Hayes, Alias's super secret agent Sydney Bristow or David Mamet and Shawn Ryan's show about a Special Forces unit and their familes, The Unit.

Regarding MSNBC's coverage, I only caught Keith Olbermann's conversation with Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed) regarding Fox and 24, during which Olbermann questioned whether something like 24, with its constant terrorist threats and general use of torture could, in some way, be considered a form of propaganda for the Right, using entertainment to "brainwash" its audience into believing that we do indeed need to be "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here."

Greenwald sort of dismissed the notion of brainwashing, but agreed that it is something to be concerned with, that there are people out there who would watch 24 and use it as justification for the war in Iraq and the so-called War on Terror, to which I can only say, dumbfounded, you've gotta be kidding me.

The idea that some people would watch what is clearly a fictional escapist fantasy, emphasis on "fictional" and "fantasy," and somehow attempt to use it to make a point about real-world politics is, quite frankly, ludicrous. Not that I don't doubt there are people out there who would take away from 24 the idea that torture works, but I simply don't understand how anyone can think that way.

The same goes for the other aforementioned shows, the idea that, somehow, these conservative-viewed characters are meant to make some sort of political statement. I reiterate my previous point, these are TV shows meant to entertain, not educate. The idea that Hollywood (the fact that people constantly refer to the entertainment industry as one, big conglomeration is also part of the problem, though I will refer to it this way for sake of argument) has either liberal or a conservative leanings is simple-minded.

Hollywood does not have a political affiliation. Certainly, yes, there are actors, producers, studio heads, who have strong feelings one way or the other, but their work is simply not motivated by politics. Red state, blue state, it doesn't matter. The only color Hollywood is concerned with is green, as in money.

Shows like 24 and The Unit do not exist as appeasements to some perceived liberal bias in Hollywood. They exist to make money. Money for the actors, the writers, the producers and, most importantly, money for the studios. If people aren't watching, the shows don't last long. Period. Politics be damned.

I really enjoy 24 and I'm one of the most liberal people I know. I like watching The Unit, too (except it's on opposite House, so I don't get to see it as often as I'd like, which is why FSM invented DVDs), and I think Harriet Hayes is a great character on Studio 60. And that's really the point, that these shows feature interesting, complex, realistic characters. I understand that these shows, that all shows on TV, are nothing more than escapism. I don't watch them in order to gleam some meaning of life, I watch them because they entertain me.

Maybe it's because I'm a writer, or want to be a writer, or whatever, but when I watch something, a fictional TV show, I'm not looking to learn something about myself or the really real world I live in. I'm looking to learn something about these characters, about the world they live in, which, as stated above, is a fictional world. Real-world laws and politics don't enter into the equation, no matter how hard you try to force the issue.

24 is absolutely brilliant storytelling. End of story. The creators wanted to take the traditional television series format and throw it away. They realized that in order to create enough tension, drama and conflict (what every good story is made of), they needed to work in a particular genre of storytelling, the thriller. Only then would they be able to create enough cliffhangers to make it work. A comedy would not work as a show like this, for instance. And once the creators had their format, they chose a terrorism theme because this, again, helps create the tension and conflict they require to make the show work in a 24-hour period.

24 was created prior to 9/11. The first season's bad guys were Eastern European gangsters, ex-Soviet military or something (led by a horribly-accented Dennis Hopper). Sure, some of the seasons following 9/11 latched onto the Islamic terrorism angle, because art imitates life, not the other way 'round, but the idea that the show's creators are using their 24 hours of airtime to propagate Right-wing ideals is nuts. They simply want to tell a story, a taut thriller with thrills and chills, that's it. They want to tell their story and the studio wants to make money off them. Believe me, if people stopped watching 24, Fox would yank it from the schedule so fast it'd make your head spin.

It's not about Red vs. Blue (insert Halo multiplayer joke here). Like everything else in Hollywood, it's about the Green.

1 comment:

the artist formerly known as Boston Jen said...

I agree with what you're saying, although I do think you give people more credit than they deserve when youy assume that they don't project what they see on TV into their outlook on real life situations. I, for example, have watched X-files and SG-1, and as a result have no doubt that our government is hiding proof of the discovery of alien life from the general public. :) so there you go.