Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hollywood Faces Identity Crisis After Donald Trump's Election

I don't expect much to change.

When I took my young son to see "Hell or High Water" a few months back, I remarked as the film ended how it was mostly older white patrons exiting the theater. Those movie-goers wanted to enjoy something other than the far-left fare of Hollywood's politically-correct, identity-obsessed culture mavens.

"Hell or High Water" is mentioned at this piece as perhaps the kind of content of which Hollywood should be producing more frequently.

At LAT, "From panic to possibility: A reeling entertainment industry regroups after Trump's win":
Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, the executive producer of the CW series “Jane the Virgin” decided to make a few changes: She nixed the Ivanka Trump shoes from wardrobe and urged the show’s writers to make a key character zealous about registering Latinos to vote.

Trump’s victory is redrawing many narratives and story lines across the country, including those at the center of the entertainment industry. In addition to the new activism and footwear, “Jane the Virgin,” a family saga of a young Latina in Miami, will be recalibrated in other ways to address America’s unsettling cultural and political climate.

“The writers and I talked about it a lot, about how we should and can approach it most effectively within our storytelling,” said creator and showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman. “I think our show has to live in this world.”

Those sentiments echo across town. Trump may be a colossus of Hollywood’s own making— it was “The Apprentice,” not real estate, that made him a household name — but his defeat of Hillary Clinton was a stinging repudiation of the political correctness, diversity and liberalism celebrated by much of the entertainment business at a time of bitter argument over the nation’s ideals.

The question now is how will Hollywood, which for years has nudged gay rights and other contentious social issues into the mainstream, speak to Trump’s agitated, disillusioned and God-fearing rural America. Will we see more insightful TV shows about working-class lives, such as the 1990s hit “Roseanne”, or will we encounter an uptick in artistic defiance, as when the cast of “Hamilton” recently briefed Vice-president-elect Mike Pence on multi-culturalism?

Trump’s furious response to that incident could provoke a chilling effect, but conversations with Hollywood creators suggest they will remain resolute in advancing civil rights and artistic freedom while also moving toward programming that seeks common ground. A top ABC executive acknowledged last week that the network could do more to illuminate working-class lives.

“With our dramas, we have a lot of shows that feature very well-to-do, very well-educated people…. They all drive very nice cars and live in extremely nice places,” Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, was quoted as saying at a media summit in London. “We have not, in recent history, paid enough attention to some of the true realities of what life is like in a day-in and day-out way for everyday Americans in some of our dramas.”

Even more than the drawn-out contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore, this election has left America in the clamor of a culturally defining moment, much like the tumult of the 1960s and the insecure, rattled aftermath of 9/11. Trump’s rightist leanings and nationalist populism, and the angry anxiety they have provoked, will likely influence many of our films, books, songs, social media musings and even the images we hold up as emblematic of our times.

This catharsis over the country’s cultural divide is unfolding even as the media landscape and the power of Hollywood celebrity have been splintered; streaming and platforms such as Netflix and Hulu have made our entertainment pathways and content more vast and diffuse than at any time in our history. A former reality-TV star, Trump’s mastery of Twitter shows how cultural and political narratives, from jingoism to veiled racism, can be targeted and refined to rally audiences in an increasingly us-versus-them atmosphere.

 “It’s a turbulent, unsafe time for most of us in this country,” said Sadie Dupuis, songwriter for the indie band Speedy Ortiz. Dupuis, whose new solo album “Slugger” focuses on empowering feminist themes, will be one of many musicians attending the women’s march in Washington planned for the day after Trump’s inauguration. “What art will take shape will depend on what happens in his presidency,” she added. “He is appointing white supremacists to his Cabinet.”

Trump’s election was a gut punch to a liberal Hollywood that had backed Clinton. Chelsea Handler teared up on her Netflix talk show. Aaron Sorkin wrote a public letter to his 15-year-old daughter that stressed getting involved to fight injustice.“The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah self-medicated during the show’s election-night broadcast with Pepto-Bismol and sobering humor: “This is it, the end of the presidential race, and it feels like the end of the world,” Noah said. “We are going to be making jokes tonight, but I am very much afraid.”

The mixed emotions even prompted unexpected disclosures: Kanye West drew boos at a San Jose concert after revealing that if he had voted in this year’s election (he said he didn’t), he would have chosen Trump — commending the president-elect’s politically incorrect command of social media as a way of galvanizing his constituency. (His comments prefaced a breakdown that led to the cancellation of his tour and his hospitalization.)  Such revelations along with scripts, lyrics and plays will factor into how the cultural map will be redrawn during Trump’s administration.

And this is not only an American cultural moment. The world is reverberating with economic anxiety and racist and anti-immigrant fervor, marked by Britain’s impending break from the European Union and the ascent of right-wing parties and nationalist voices from France to the Philippines. Such forces will challenge Hollywood, where more than 70% of the box office comes from overseas, to tap into the complicated story lines of a planet that may not so easily embrace the simple heroics of a Marvel blockbuster.

The fear of “the other” that Trump leveraged during his campaign is starting to reshape certain story lines. Like “Jane the Virgin,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” the ABC comedy about an Asian American immigrant family, recently took on immigration, in this case against the backdrop of the 1996 race between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. Viewers learn that Jessica Huang, the matriarch of the family played by Constance Wu, has a green card, but she never applied for U.S. citizenship because she felt intimidated by the process.

“With the results of the election, it just sort of confirmed to us that this is a dialogue that needs to happen,” said executive producer Nahnatchka Khan, who plans to continue lacing the comedy with current themes. “These are issues that, even though the show takes place 20 years ago, are still so relevant — even more so now, with the heightened level of fear and anxiety that people are feeling.”

She added: “You can either retreat and cower away from tackling those issues or you can embrace it. I think we’re going to see a lot of art trending toward not being afraid.”

Cinema and television may be overpopulated by upwardly mobile urban professionals, but sympathetic portrayals of the white middle and working classes fuel shows such as ABC’s “The Middle”, a sitcom about an Indiana family, and this year’s “Hell or High Water,” a film that touches on financial hardship and despair in west Texas. Finding the right blend of such stories will be crucial in coming years if specific narratives on culture and class can extend beyond the typical Hollywood fare to find universal resonance...
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