Hollywood reeled on Tuesday with the knowledge that the electorate not only rejected Hillary Clinton by electing Donald Trump, but rejected the entertainment elite.
But she lost soundly despite appearing on the New York Times cover this weekend with Jay-Z and Beyonce, and despite wrapping up her campaign with a final boost from Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.
It was impossible to read the verdict of a Donald Trump win as anything but a brutal rejection of Hollywood’s values and supposed influence.
“What is remarkable is that everyone believed Hollywood had a lot of power with these things,” said a shellshocked Janet Montgomery, star of the NBC hit “This Is Us,” who was at TheWrap’s Los Angeles offices Wednesday for a photo shoot.
“With so many celebrities, even smaller ones specific to social media, saying #I’mWithHer and huge stars doing concerts like Beyonce –they worked really hard and it’s not made any difference. That’s been shocking. It shows that people have problem with elitists.”
That certainly seems to be the message being sent — however unlikely it may seem that a billionaire reality star is a representative of average Joes.
But Hollywood and celebrities will have to draw the conclusions suggested by the electoral results. In the age of social media and direct connection to fans — Taylor Swift got hundreds of responses to tweeting herself at a polling station — the results suggest a fundamental disconnect between entertainers and their fans.
“We’ve underestimated how people are thinking, and how they’re going to act on their thinking,” said Sarah Banet-Weiser, Director of the School of Communication at USC Annenberg.
She added: “There’s a different relationship fans have with a celebrity than they want to have with a politician. Trump, first of all, built a platform based on anti-elitism and anti-intellectualism. The kind of celebrities that came out for Hillary are seen as elite, wealthy, untouchable, glamorous. Trump was smart — he’s a lot like Ted Nugent. Hillary and Bruce Springsteen? There’s a disconnect.”
Performers who stumped for Clinton were only part of the anti-Trump arsenal. The entire spectrum of late-night hosts fed off of mocking Trump week after week, month after month.
For broadcast late night hosts like Stephen Colbert, the anti-Trump drumbeat may have backfired among his middle America viewers. Other talk show hosts like Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee and Chelsea Handler took direct aim at Trump, both mocking his candidacy and criticizing his treatment of women, minorities and the disabled.
If Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon took a more circumspect approach to the election, they still skewered Trump on a nightly basis in their monologues.
Trump used his lack of celebrity suppport to his advantage, suggesting that he was in touch with real Americans.
“People like Jay-Z and Beyonce and Miley Cyrus wound up feeding the narrative Trump was building, one against that idea of elitism,” said Rajiv Menon, cultural analyst and media firm Civic Entertainment.
“This celebrity element felt like a negative to his voter base. Take his mispronunciation of Beyonce’s name at a rally — it perfectly illustrates a kind of anti-establishment attitude that appeals to his supporters.”
Whether this will have an impact on those celebrities in their popularity or fan base remains to be seen. But Hollywood has been warned.