We saw how Hollywood tried, and failed, to drag Hillary Clinton across the finish line in the 2016 presidential election.
Celebrity PSAs. Campaign appearances. Speeches at the Democratic National Convention. Cold, hard cash. And lest we forget endorsements. Lots and lots of endorsements.
We’ll likely see all of the above again next year. Hollywood stars can’t stop speaking out on political issues, and even after getting mocked for those cliched PSAs during the 2016 campaign they kept cranking them out shortly after the election.
The upcoming presidential campaign will be different, though. Stars loathe President Trump with a ferocity that turned some into raging fools.
When the industry’s comedy titan, Judd Apatow, warns that Nazi Germany 2.0 is en route, there’s a cognitive issue afoot.
We’re already seeing the industry’s blueprint for taking back the White House take shape. And it could make its 2016 campaign contributions look puny by comparison.
Let’s start on the small screen. TV shows now routinely inject anti-Trump material into storylines. For Comedy Central’s “Broad City,” that meant having the main characters flip a Trump building the bird mid-episode.
Other programs deliver Trumpian villains or demonize issues near and dear to MAGA fans’ hearts, like the Second Amendment. A recent “Grey’s Anatomy” shoehorned a strong anti-gun message into a tale of an accidental gun wound.
Television fare has a shorter window from creation to execution than movies do. That means programs can address current issues more easily than a given film project. That’s why existing programs like “Supergirl” praised #TheResistance shortly after it took shape.
What’s coming next? More of the same on the small screen, along with shows with progressive messaging in their creative DNA.
Take the upcoming “Party of Five” reboot on Freeform. The original show centered on five siblings who lost their parents following a car crash. The new version’s twist? The kids are young illegal immigrants trying to survive in Trump’s America. Such a sympathetic portrait will humanize what it means to enter the country illegally, and the talking points will not stop there.
The show’s executive producer, Amy Lippman, tipped her hand during a recent press gathering.
“There is no path to citizenship—this is what it is like,” she said. “If you have come here [as an undocumented citizen], there is no path to citizenship unless you go back to your country,” Lippman said.
Expect similar projects in the next year-plus from the small screen, including potential content from Netflix’s mega-deal with former President Barack Obama. You can bet the two-term commander-in-chief didn’t embrace the streaming giant so he and Michelle could create binge-worthy rom-coms.
Documentary films, with their smaller budgets and leaner productions, can often compete with television on the speed front—witness Michael Moore’s 2018 belly flop “Fahrenheit 11/9.” That feature tried to pin the Hitler card on President Trump, too, among other hard-left messaging.
That’s only the beginning.
Documentary filmmakers are hard at work lionizing key figures in the progressive movement. This year alone we’ll see an ode to Beto O’Rourke, courtesy of Crooked Media. What’s that? It’s a media firm founded by former Obama officials. HBO already gobbled up the rights to the O’Rourke project.
Another high-profile documentary will grace Netflix soon. “Knock Down the House” follows four far-left women and their unconventional campaigns. The most notable of the quartet? Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). The film’s early reviews praised it as well as its lionization of AOC and company.
Another critical front on Hollywood’s 2020 battle plan involves late night comedians. Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers started leaning sharply to the left during the 2016 election. They rejected any semblance of bipartisanship to actively cheer Clinton on to the White House.
Sorry, Johnny Carson, your bipartisan template rests in the circular file.
Now, they’re redoubling their efforts at propaganda. Trevor Noah (“The Daily Show”) and Colbert (“The Late Show”) throw softball questions to Democratic candidates such as Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke. That will continue indefinitely, until the primary season declares a winner.
Then what happens?
Team Late Night will pound Trump on a daily basis during their monologues while their couches will be available to the Democratic challenger. And said challenger won’t have to open up his or her coffers to make it all happen.
Free of charge!
If a negative media narrative emerges about a particular candidate, a late-night host will be there to debunk it. Remember when Kimmel had Clinton, rumored to have health woes, open a jar of pickles to prove she had the strength to occupy the Oval Office?
The industry certainly wants the aforementioned programming to make money. It’s not mandatory, though. Did anyone think spending $60 million on a vicious Dick Cheney biopic like “Vice,” complete with generic GOP bashing, would be box-office catnip?
It didn’t matter. The film earned rapturous press, a gaggle of Oscar nominations and, of course, will live on via streaming services and home video for years.
The industry will take a financial hit or two if it means getting its message out. It’s a key lesson Team Trump should realize as it heads into re-election mode.
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