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Is There a Hollywood Agenda Against America?
by J. H. Huebert

The Collegian 
March 31, 2000

The Oscars were given out for the 72nd time last Sunday, with top honors going to American Beauty, Hilary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry, and Michael Caine and John Irving for The Cider House Rules.

In media coverage in the days following the awards, some observers noted a common thread among the big winners: topics that might once have been considered taboo.

American Beauty, for example, has for its heroes a homosexual, a drug dealer, and a man who lusts after his 16-year-old daughter’s best friend; and for its villain a gun-loving homophobe.

Boys Don’t Cry is based on the true story of a girl who decided to live life as a boy, and includes a strange sex scene between the lead character and another woman. The filmmakers hail the real-life woman, who was killed at age 21, as a champion of alternative lifestyles; the reality is that she was sexually abused and posed as a male to avoid further abuse.

The "hero" played by Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules is an abortionist in the days before abortion was legal. In case the movie’s position on the matter wasn’t clear enough, writer John Irving thanked Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion League in his acceptance speech.

Such high honors for movies like these have lead some to charge that this represents some sort of intentional Hollywood assault on the value of Americans. Culture critic Michael Medved has even gone so far as to suggest that Hollywood studios intentionally forego profits just to attack traditional values and give each other award statues for it.

Are such criticisms valid? The evidence suggests otherwise.

Someone has been going to see American Beauty—and presumably whoever they are possess American values, whatever those may be. In fact, the movie’s already made over $100 million. Are the people who are paying to see it choosing to have their deeply held beliefs assaulted? Or are their values different than we think? Or could it even be that many filmgoers can appreciate a film’s merits—such as excellent acting or a well-told story—without having their souls corrupted by whatever ideas it may endorse?

Anyway, if the Academy has some sort of ideological agenda, they sure are inconsistent about carrying it out. They do have a long history of recognizing films with controversial themes—like 1969’s best picture winner, Midnight Cowboy, which was rated X and had a male prostitute as its main character. On the other hand, in recent years, they’ve also awarded conservative favorites like Forrest Gump, Braveheart, and Saving Private Ryan. Last year even saw nominations for Waco: the Rules of Engagement, a documentary about the Waco atrocities and the Democrats’ efforts to cover them up, and Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, a glowing tribute to a woman who is fiercely despised by leftists everywhere.

Still, it may be true that most Hollywood types are inclined toward the politics and personal values of the left. But when it comes time to hand out the awards, maybe they just give them to whatever and whoever seems to be the most deserving, regardless of ideology. It’s kind of like how someone like me who doesn’t appreciate The Matrix’s gratuitous violence could still recognize it as having the year’s best special effects.

As for studios sacrificing profits for awards, that’s absurd—just ask any screenwriter who’s had his story changed by the studio to appeal to a broader audience. The bottom line is still Hollywood’s top priority, because it’s the only thing that allows them to exist. If there’s any "Hollywood agenda," it’s to make money by pleasing as many viewers as possible—and that’s an agenda of which I approve.

You still may not like the Academy’s choices—I myself find the values of the three controversial titles abhorrent. But I’m no more offended by a movie that differs from my beliefs than I am by an individual or a book that does, and there are lots of those around every day—yet I manage to not get too bothered by it.

This year it was American Beauty; next year it will be another Driving Miss Daisy, Forrest Gump, or Titanic, and the biggest Academy Awards controversy will be over what people wore. That’s Hollywood for you.


© 2000 J. H. Huebert