This is not a political article, although politics leads to this thought exercise. Namely, celebrities who plan to boycott movies, TV, music, and whatnot to protest Donald Trump, believing that if they can get all the current celebrities, creators, merchandisers, and anyone else connected to media creation to join in, they can force Trump out of office. Personally, while they can afford it, I don’t see enough of the entertainment industry or those who make money from said industry are stopping to make anything for a while. Although if this means Rosie O’Donnell won’t show up on Match Game anymore I can only hope she takes Alec Baldwin with her and they can find somebody who is actually funny to host it.
But this isn’t about their political stance or mine, but this statement by a spokesperson for activist group Refuse Racism.
Asked to elaborate on why the group is targeting Hollywood out of all the industries in the country as their bargaining chip, the spokesperson argued that Hollywood “is, simply put, the base of the entire modern American culture. It is the foundation of the country, so to speak, the glue that’s holding it together. And think about what happens when you destroy the foundation of a house. It comes crashing down, right? Well, that’s exactly what’s going to happen to America unless Donald Trump realizes how real the danger of that actually is, and chooses to step down as President of his own free will. And while we’re on the subject, between you and me – nobody wants Hollywood to stop doing its thing, but this is a necessary move.”
Oh, I’m sure they won’t. They wouldn’t risk being out of the spotlight for too long since they know they can fade away rather easily. But that brings up the question of just how much influence does the entertainment industry actually have on our culture and what actually would happen if Refuse Racism was successful.
The big question in all of this is whether or not these celebrities have as much sway as they think. Oh, they certainly have the influence. There’s a reason politicians on both sides of the aisle go to celebrities to help them win votes, and why companies seek them out to endorse their product or service. Fans of a certain celebrity give them a bully pulpit, and the more politically minded ones will have their every word. So I guess that’s not in question after all.
So I guess that makes the big question what would happen if they successfully strike and would it bring the entertainment industry to a halt? Not really. Whatever their political persuasion happens to be, entertainment studios and publishers are in this to make money, not to adhere to one creator’s dream vision or to make political statements. They make money. They will still want to produce movies, television and internet shows, DVDs and Blu-Rays, and CDs/MP3s. Books will still be on the shelves and comics will be in comic stores because comics don’t even try to sell in non-comic places anymore. (Sledgehammer commentaries aside I think that’s what’s really hurting the comic industry.) Even if they just recycle old shows and movies, somebody has families to feed who didn’t make a million dollars a day only for their scene to not be filmed that day. Movie theaters will follow suit, and maybe audio dramas will make a comeback.
And there won’t be a shortage of people wanting to make merchandise based off of those productions. They have families to feed, if not the business owners then the workers, some of whom won’t be liberals. They may be Conservatives, Libertarians, or just don’t care about politics or what’s going on in the world. And there are gays, women, and people of non-white heritage who fall into those three camps, some of whom even voted for Trump since he talked about security and financial stability as the focus his campaign along with eliminating Obamacare. College kids (since rules have pushed out high school kids from the workplace, or at least around here) will be looking for their first job and it may be in the entertainment industry or creating merchandise. The business of business is business after all.
The odds of new stories not being created is also very low. This would just mean no liberal voices in those movies and songs, which would be just fine to Conservatives, Libertarians, and anyone who doesn’t like sledgehammer commentaries in general disrupting the flow of the narrative. (Star Trek for example could both work a message smoothly into a story AND hit us upside the head with it, depending on who worked on it.) And there’s no shortage of wanna-be actors, writers, directors, and musicians just waiting for their opportunity. On Let’s Make A Deal host Wayne Brady is always making a joke that any contestant who is a waiter or waitress in LA is really an actor waiting for his or her big break, and sometimes he’s right. You think none of them would miss the opportunity to finally be noticed and achieve their dream if there were no more big name celebrities to immediately snatch up that role? Or a first-time director getting to show what he or she can do?
Heck, some directors prefer working with unknowns or little-knowns, hoping that the lack of a famous face will allow the audience to better connect to the character instead of just seeing the actor from a better-known movie. It’s the studios demanding that star power to better promote their program. Personally I don’t care who plays a role as long as they’re good, and I know plenty of voice actors who don’t like losing a part to someone who has never voice acted but will be better received on the daily and nightly talk shows and entertainment magazines, just pushing their animated production. (Which isn’t a problem when they can act or take it seriously. “Oh, all I had to do is sit there and talk into a microphone. It was so easy.” You aren’t fit to be in the same room with Jim Cummings, Tara Strong, or other professional voice actors. Who by the way don’t appear to be sought after for the boycott.)
Look at the original Star Wars. Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing were the only big name actors, but they blended so well into their roles that you didn’t see any of their previous characters. You saw Obi-Wan Kenobi and Grand Moff Tarkin, not Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson or Count Dracula. Everyone else? Maybe if you saw American Graffiti you recognized Harrison Ford but that’s pretty much it. Another example: Superman The Movie. At best Gene Hackman was known but most of the cast were not people you ever heard of. Christopher Reeves and Margot Kidder became famous after this movie. So theater-goers saw Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Heck, the original serial never even credited Kirk Alyn, the actor playing Superman, letting kids imagine this WAS Superman. Unknowns also cost less, which is great when you have a smaller budget.
And let’s not forget the new hotness of entertainment: the internet. With programs like After Effects and Sony Vegas people are making their own series and short films, or even long films. YouTube has plenty of people making shorts, reviews, comedy skits, news reports and commentaries, interviews, and all sorts of stuff. Before Maker Studios cut Blip off at the knees prior to selling themselves to Disney, numerous types of dramas, game shows, documentaries, and comedy shows were appearing on the system. Vimeo still hosts fan films and documentaries. Some of them are close the same quality as you get on TV, but supported by fans or out of the creators’ pockets instead of regular investors. Sites like Patreon (points to top of sidebar) and Kickstarter allow projects to be funded by those fans who now won’t have TV shows while the supposed Hollywood-wide strike is going on. And sites like Soundcloud and the refurbished MySpace should keep the music scene filled with new people who already self-publish music CDs instead of going through the record companies.
The point is I don’t think the culture is going to crash and burn the way the spokesperson said it would. It’s an empty threat. There’s already a new source of shows, movies, music, books, and comics, while people may discover an old work that is still good. They’ll be entertained, and the liberal celebs and creators protesting Trump would lose their big soap box, as people coming in may actually tell a story first and push an agenda second. Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Go ahead Ms. O’Donnell, Miley Cyrus, and George Clooney. Let the liberals who just want to entertain and aren’t carrying huge egos about their worth to entertainment have a chance to live their dreams, as well as your political rivals who would do the same. If Hollywood can survive the passing of so many celebrities lately, they won’t miss you, either. There are plenty of future big names waiting to take your place just like you took theirs, and no change will have happened in the White House. Nothing of importance would be lost, either, except to your fans who will have to go elsewhere to get entertainment. Who’s really getting hurt by this boycott again?