Hollywood should be euphoric today. The entertainment industry woke up to election results that reflect a country a lot more like the fictional place they’ve been depicting on screens large and small for decades: more ethnically diverse, more gay-friendly, with powerful women and where it’s just fine to light up a spliff.
Yes, our black president won re-election decisively, but not only that. Todd Akin went down. Elizabeth Warren got in. Maine approved same-sex marriage. The first Wisconsin woman and the first openly-gay person -- Tammy Baldwin -- was elected to the U.S. Senate. A record number of women were voted into the Senate. Latinos voted for Obama by an overwhelming 75-to-23-percent margin, while Asian voters came out at 73-26. Marijuana legalization passed in two states – two!
The election delivers the most stunning rebuke to supposedly conservative values, and by consequence the most vibrant affirmation of the liberal values for which Hollywood is often stereotyped, in more than a decade.
Phyllis Schlafly is raging from on high. And Pat Robertson must be staring in the mirror in despair. Hollywood Babylon brought us this world on screen before voters were ready to embrace it at the polling station.
Long before they were digging in their wallets and logging miles as surrogates in the battleground states, Hollywood let us imagine Barack Obama. Before we actually got him in real life, we had Morgan Freeman in “Deep Impact” and Dennis Haysbert in “24” to be credible, solid leaders on the screen.
We’ve had gay, married parents on “Modern Family” to lead the way to the election results in Maine, Washington and Maryland. We’ve had gay teenagers in love on “Glee.”
“Veep” is a show that reflects the Sarah Palin moment. But we’ve had fictional women in the White House and in Congress on TV and on film for years before today’s historic result of 19 women in the Senate.
Marijuana movies? “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Cheech and Chong,” “Harold and Kumar,” “Dazed and Confused.” Need we go on?
As this stuff filters into the cultural bloodstream, eventually it seeps into the body politic. And it certainly matters that the alternative offered by the Republican Party, which today must admit it has banked too hard to the right, has driven voters toward the left-leaning alternative.
It’s hard to take the measure of how many issues were pushed in the direction that liberal Hollywood has depicted on screen for years.
One exception was the survival of the death penalty in California, which was upheld by voters 53 to 47 percent. I will submit that this issue could have gone down if it only had a PAC to raise money and put some ads on television. Convicted killers on Death Row don’t make much of a special-interest group.
But overall, the affirmation of liberal values in this election is remarkable.
Is it fair to conclude that the country has changed this dramatically to reflect what Hollywood’s screenwriters and showrunners wish were reality? Is the Bush era really so far behind us?
I doubt it. Nearly half the country did vote for Mitt Romney. And it is likely that the rejection of the Republican Party agenda was more of a factor than an embrace of left-wing values.
But you cannot ignore the result this morning: that the United States looks more tolerant, more diverse, and more like the new normal – as in “The New Normal” -- than it did the day before.