How to Make Hollywood Liberalism Smart

I am loath to give anything Ben Shapiro is involved in an iota of attention, especially something as obvious as a pearl-clutching book about the liberalism of Hollywood. That said, I think some of the quotations that are coming out of interviews he’s going to release to promote the cursed thing are worth highlighting as an example of a using-your-powers-for-good fail. It’s obnoxious to boast that you don’t hire people based on their politics, and worse, it’s un-strategic*:

Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman…acknowledges she “put together a staff of mostly liberal people,” which is another major point of Shapiro’s book: that conservatives aren’t welcome in Hollywood. Maybe that’s because they’re “idiots” and have “medieval minds.” At least that’s what Soap and Golden Girls creator Susan Harris thinks of TV’s conservative critics….Another video has Leonard Goldberg — who executive produces Blue Bloods for CBS and a few decades ago exec produced such hits as Fantasy Island, Charlie’s Angels and Starsky and Hutch — saying that liberalism in the TV industry is “100 percent dominant, and anyone who denies it is kidding, or not telling the truth.” Shapiro asks if politics are a barrier to entry. “Absolutely,” Goldberg says. When Shapiro tells Fred Pierce, the president of ABC in the 1980s who was instrumental in Disney’s acquisition of ESPN, that “It’s very difficult for people who are politically conservative to break in” to television, he responds: “I can’t argue that point.” Those who don’t lean left, he says, “don’t promote it. It stays underground.”

As Libby Holden says at the end of Primary Colors, “If it’s clean, we win — because our ideas are better.” Deliberately avoiding hiring Republicans and conservatives because they’re “idiots” doesn’t make liberals look tough and decisive: it makes us look like we’re scared of the marketplace of pop cultural ideas. John Ratzenberger’s Republican politics don’t make him too stupid to participate in one of the best comedies about class ever made.

Maybe I’m an optimist, but I think makes a lot more sense to let conservatives into the writers room and the directors chairs and see what they come up with. Walden Media’s Narnia adaptations may have started out as an experiment to see if Christian conservatives could make it in Hollywood, but the movies don’t seem to have converted unbelievers in droves: rather, the movies have been successful because they’re handsome fantasy movies not overly in love with their central Jesus metaphor. There are structural reasons movies about say, practicing abstinence, or maintaining a small business, or getting yourself off welfare aren’t that engaging: they bring characters into less contact and into less conflict with other people because they’re stories about self-reliance (an exception might be stories about vigilante justice). I tend to think the mere presence of conservatives won’t make Hollywood stupid or create particularly conservative products because there are elements of liberal politics that are just more attuned to storytelling. Progressive should be confident, and avoid mugging themselves.


*A side note, I really wonder what kind of sense the people who agreed to be interviewed had of who they were talking to. As with this, James O’Keefe, etc., it seems wise to do your due diligence before you agree to interviews or meetings of any kind.