Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Do Political Movies Lean Right or Left?

Part 2 of our 5-part series: Hollywood Does Politics

Before we tell you our Top 5 Political Campaign Movies next week, we want to ask an important question that could influence our list: what are the agendas?

Are their even any agendas to these movies? If so, are they conservative or liberal?

Everyone knows that Hollywood is pretty liberal. Movie stars like Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Robert De Niro make no secret of their support for the Democratic Party. But do the films they star in have an ideological bent?

To find out, we’ll examine a sample list of campaign movies that our helpful intern Regan compiled, as well as a few non-campaign movies that still deal with politics.

They are…

• Recount (2008)
• Man of the Year (2006)
• Bulworth (1998)
• Silver City (2004)
• Black Sheep (1996)
• Malibu’s Most Wanted (2003)
• Primary Colors (1998)
• Head of State (2003)
• Poster Boy (2004)
• The Best Man (1964)
• The Candidate (1972)
• Bob Roberts (1992)
• Linda Lovelace for President (1975)
• Dave (1993)
• Wag the Dog (1997)
• The American President (1995)
• American Dreamz (2006)
• State of Play (2009)

We’ll then use the following tags for each movie: “liberal”, “leaning-liberal”, “neutral”, “leaning-conservative”, “conservative”, and “[insert ideology here] with a twist”.*

So what kind of breakdown do we see?

Of the 18 movies listed above, 7 can be considered “neutral”, 4 are “leaning-liberal”, 3 are “liberal, and 3 are “liberal with a twist” - and then there’s Wag the Dog, which is just twisted in general (although some readily compare it to the Clinton Administration).

None of these movies, however, are “conservative” or even “leaning-conservative”, and that’s fairly interesting.

Another interesting thing about the breakdown are which movies lean which way (we have the list again at the bottom of this post). Most of the comedies (Black Sheep, Malibu’s Most Wanted, Head of State, etc.) are neutral - they go for more of a “feel good” message than an ideological one. It makes sense too - just try creating a “feel good” atmosphere with your family over a holiday dinner this month while talking politics.

Similarly, all of the TV shows we examined on Friday were pretty neutral as well.

What’s more interesting is that almost every movie of the 18 listed portrays politics at least somewhat negatively - especially the “twist” ones. Sometimes the candidate in the movie rises above the manure of politics, sometimes they fulfill the tragic archetype and fall into it entirely.

Of course, this was not exactly a scientifically-sound examination. Our list was not a random sample of films, and there may be some conservative ones out there that we don’t know about, for instance.

But it does at least suggest that political movies (as a whole) lean further left than right.

Now we come to another serious question: as Democrats ourselves, are we simply going to pick the movies we ideologically agree with most when we select our Top 5 next week?

It’s something for us to think about.

The list with tags:

• Recount: “leaning-liberal”
• Man of the Year: “neutral”
• Bulworth: “liberal”
• Silver City: “leaning-liberal”
• Black Sheep: “neutral”
• Malibu’s Most Wanted: “neutral”
• Primary Colors: “liberal with a twist”
• Head of State: “neutral”
• Poster Boy: “liberal”
• The Best Man: “neutral”
• The Candidate: “liberal with a twist”
• Bob Roberts: “leaning-liberal”
• Linda Lovelace for President: “neutral”
• Dave: “neutral”
• Wag the Dog: “twisted”
• The American President: “liberal”
• American Dreamz: “leaning-liberal”
• State of Play: “liberal with a twist”

*To be clear about what we mean by “with a twist”, take Primary Colors as an example. Everyone knows the movie is about Bill Clinton’s primary battles in 1992, and - for the most part - it puts the candidate in a fairly positive light for much of the movie. Sure, he’s a womanizer, but that can be forgiven by his inspirational message and the passion he has for leading the country in a better direction.

As the films progresses, however, it exposes the dirty tactics he must wage in order to win his race. The protagonist says he hates the game, not the player, but for the audience it’s tough to love the player after you see how he has to play.

So the movie would appear to agree with the left, but there’s a twist.

Coming Friday: The Best Campaign Documentaries!

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Very interesting indeed. You left off one of my favorite political movies: "The Contender". I would say that it is also liberal or "leaning-liberal".