It was really funny, to me and a lot of other people, when back in December a group of conservatives pledged to boycott “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” because they heard it was anti-Donald Trump propaganda. The filmmakers had reshot the ending of the movie, the ringleader of the boycott claimed, to make it about Trump.
It was a ludicrous concept, of course. Disney didn’t change the ending of its biggest tentpole of the year at the last second to turn it into some kind of grand political statement about current events.
There was a punchline to the “controversy”: “Star Wars” already was liberal propaganda. It’s a film series about freedom fighters battling against an oppressive far-right galactic dictatorship. Space Nazis, if you will. For some reason, the proponents of the boycott had only just figured out what the premise of “Star Wars” was and decided to pretend that “Rogue One” was granting new, shocking subtext to this saga which has a central conflict that can best be summed us as “leftist rebellion led by women vs racist fascists.”
Not that they should be surprised that “Star Wars” has a liberal bent, considering pretty much all of Hollywood does. That’s why I have relatives back in Alabama who call it “Hollyweird” unironically. Though those relatives love “Star Wars” and movies in general so they’re not as pop culture-aware as they seem to think they are.
Specifically what they don’t seem to grasp is that for every movie they realize is liberal propaganda, there are a dozen others that lean just as liberal — they just couldn’t be bothered to read the subtext. Have you watched any movies lately about people banding together by overcoming their differences and learning to get along in order to accomplish something that ultimately makes everyone happy? Of course you did. Guess what: that’s liberal propaganda.
Take “Zootopia,” a movie everybody loves because it makes them feel good. That one is about how racial stereotypes are bad and everybody should be friends with everybody else regardless of our differences. “Racism is bad” is a liberal platform.
Take “Selma,” the powerful Civil Rights film about the Martin Luther King, Jr-led march to Birmingham — a march which was contested at every turn by racist conservatives who were intent on maintaining their free-market race-based discriminations against black people.
Take “Mulan,” another Disney cartoon, about a badass warrior woman who saves the Emperor despite not being allowed to fight with the army because she’s a woman.
Take “The Visitor,” the small-scale drama from the director of “Spotlight,” about the plight of a family of illegal immigrants from Syria and Senegal who face deportation, humanizing the exact sort of people who Donald Trump and his supporters are apparently so terrified of.
Take “Syriana,” the George Clooney film that lays the blame for radicalization of Islamic terrorists squarely at the feet of the U.S. and American corporations for their never-ending interference in Middle Eastern countries.
Take “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” about the First Avenger fighting far-right fascists who value security over freedom. Uh, it’s not liberals who are madly in love with prisons and unconstitutional law enforcement tactics like stop and frisk. (Not to mention a certain horrifically overreaching executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals,” which sounds like something Hydra would be extremely into.)
Take “Bridge of Spies,” Steven Spielberg’s love letter to civil liberties, due process and American ideals — ideals which, not coincidentally, are liberal.
That’s the real punchline here. If a movie every made you feel good — like the way “Bridge of Spies” makes you feel good about what it means to be American — it was probably because it was making some very liberal point. After all, “We should all be able to get along, regardless of what we look like or which church we go to” is a liberal stance, and “We can’t get along because you’re different” is a conservative one.
But hey, what do I know? I’m just going by what everybody agrees are American ideals — you know, the great Melting Pot, everybody’s created equal and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, stuff like that. With movies, we generally agree on those principles, like how in Disney’s sports drama “Remember the Titans,” about desegregation in a Virginia high school, we all get excited when the white people stop being racist. We agree on those principles in theory, but not so much in life. Which is why a lot of white people can enjoy the hell out of “Zootopia” before turning around and complaining about the recent increase in brown people who shop at the local Wal-Mart. Or painstakingly explain how poor people definitely deserve to be poor because they don’t work hard enough and also the minimum wage should be abolished.
Relatedly, you’ll notice also there aren’t a lot of movies about how awesome corporations are. Humans tend to make better protagonist than massive exploitative corporate entities — both in movies and in life. But given the Republicans’s decidedly pro-corporation stance, that makes movies about corporations exploiting individuals (like “The Rainmaker”) liberal propaganda.
Even seemingly brainless blockbusters like the “Transformers” franchise can’t help but be tinged with a liberal bias just because storytelling tropes are steeped in them. “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” by the way, is about corporate greed run amok and the government, in its racist quest to genocide all the Transformers, trying to kill a self-employed inventor and his daughter.
Look, we could go on and on about this. The liberal propaganda from Hollywood will never stop, and for good reason: without the liberal bent, most movies would just be sad and depressing. I mean, imagine the Empire being the heroes of “Star Wars.” That seems absurd on its face — and yet a number of real-life conservatives claim to be pro-Empire (they’re probably just joking, but most comedy is also liberal because conservative jokes aren’t funny). Stephen Bannon even compared himself to Darth Vader and Satan, as though those comparisons are positive, a while back.
These jokes bear some meaningful truth, though. If conservatives ran Hollywood, there’d be a lot more movies about governments putting down sinister rebellions. “Star Wars” from the perspective of Darth Vader. “The Hunger Games” from the perspective of President Snow. Basically any YA dystopia from the perspective of the controlling parents.
That doesn’t really sound fun, so I’ll stick with the liberal propaganda. And so will you, because you like it.