Dear Entertainment Business: America Is Just Not Into Your Politics
Popular culture is now littered with self-appointed pundits and liberal social agendas — but lower ratings aren't the only problem here
When the Oscars telecast ratings fell to an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers, it was a revealing moment in popular culture.
Bill Goodykoontz of USA Today tried to claim the ratings were not about Hollywood’s bombardment of liberal political posturing from the stage, but merely about “audience fragmentation.” But the American public knew that the predictable Hollywood jabs at President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Fox News viewers, and NRA members, along with the outsized celebration of illegal immigrants, were on the menu for the night.
And they actively chose not to watch.
Americans are tired of being preached at like children and shamed for injustices they never committed, which is the essence of liberal identity politics.
Conservatives and moderates are often silent protesters because they vote with their pocketbook and their remote controls.
It is undeniable that the overpoliticization of every element of our society has become a significant factor in consumer choice. ESPN has plummeted in ratings, the Winter Olympics were a ratings disaster, and even the Super Bowl saw an audience dip this year.
You could claim audiences now have an array of other options they are turning to instead, but let’s look at the history of why the eyeball exodus has become so high on these select programs.
For starters: Jimmy Kimmel, the host of this year’s Oscars, was once a middle-of-the-road funnyman who celebrated masculinity on “The Man Show” with his co-host, Adam Carolla. But in 2017, Kimmel became a cocktail party darling among the Hollywood and media elite for using his late-night show to trash Republicans on health care and gun control.
Earlier in February, Kimmel condescendingly claimed conservatives were not smart enough to be talk-show hosts because hosting “requires a level of intelligence” that they don’t have.
Kimmel’s hosting of the Oscars in 2017 was full of jabs at President Trump about immigration and racism. The American public knew what was being offered and said, “No thanks.” Preaching is for church on Sunday mornings, not for Sunday night awards shows.
Preaching is for church on Sunday mornings, not for Sunday night awards shows.
Then: It was no surprise when the 2018 Grammy Awards saw a ratings dip this year, too. The show was jam-packed with political agendas. Singer Camila Cabello claimed from the stage that “this country was built by dreamers and for dreamers.” Bono, the lead singer of U2, took time in his band’s performance to mock the president by yelling, “Blessed are the s***hole countries!” The crowd later went wild when failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came on the screen to read a passage from the widely discredited book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
Last September, the Emmy Awards hit a new all-time low, with ratings of 11.38 million under host Stephen Colbert. Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer played the good sport by making a special appearance — but Colbert mocked him from the stage, referring to him as a “wizard of lies.” When the film cast of “9 to 5” gathered for a reunion on stage, actress Lily Tomlin took the opportunity to reference the president as a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”
The program celebrated “Veep’s” Julia Louis-Dreyfus for her jokes about the impeachment of President Trump, and the lovefest was overflowing for television mogul Oprah Winfrey.
At the 2018 Golden Globes, which also saw a massive drop in ratings, the Hollywood and media elite tried to use Oprah Winfrey’s lifetime achievement award speech to spur chatter about a 2020 presidential run. Actress Reese Witherspoon gushed that Oprah’s “hugs end wars.”
After a football season filled with social justice statements and kneeling during the national anthem, even the 2018 Super Bowl, television’s most-watched annual event, saw its ratings drop by 7 percent. While the game itself remained politics- and kneeling-free, Americans had already become uninterested in mixing the escapism of their favorite sport with the political statements of sportscasters and overpaid athletes.
The Olympics were also fraught with politics in the lead-up to the games. Athlete Lindsey Vonn bashed the president and said if she were to win a gold medal in the Pyeongchang Olympics, she would not visit the White House. (Vonn’s skiing ensured it wasn’t an issue, as she only won bronze on the slopes.) And openly gay figure skater Adam Rippon made a spectacle of how he wouldn’t meet Vice President Pence because of his views on gay marriage. Skier Gus Kenworthy even blasted first daughter Ivanka Trump for merely attending the closing ceremony.
In all of these instances, the American people simply passed. What they once loved no longer interested them, as those events became less about competition and more about a platform for liberal points of view.
What has become more apparent, though still denied by its perpetrators, is that these self-appointed pundits — Jimmy Kimmel, Jennifer Lawrence, Oprah, Colin Kaepernick, and more — are turning Americans off from being consumers of one of America’s greatest and best exports: the entertainment industry.
This is dangerous, as it’s alienating a large percentage of the American public from our culture. Our popular culture includes our shared experiences and values — but this intruding, insistent liberalism is leading to a depletion of this.
“We thought there was something frivolous about the movie business, but Ronald Reagan did not. He viewed it as an honorable profession, one that required talent and hard work, and he often reminded us that, as a business, the motion picture industry was quite successful,” wrote former Reagan speechwriter Mark Weinberg in his book “Movie Nights with the Reagans.” “I remember him pointing out on more than one occasion that the export of American culture and values — primarily through movies — was how many countries got to know and form opinions of the United States.”
Americans should not live in a cultural wasteland. And it is unfortunate that the entertainment industry has become so sanctimonious that it is driving the average consumer to boycott its works, even passively.
Liberal activism in every field now seems to demand the embracing of identity politics and virtue-signaling whenever and wherever an avenue is found. At one time, the autos, sports and weather sections in the local newspaper were the most innocuous collections of straightforward news reporting.
Now, only “green” and “environmentally friendly” cars are revered as the best in the car section, and the weather section somehow continues to share climate change spin in the fluctuations of temperature. Even sports stories now have to carry some element of racial division or push an unnecessary gender or trans-inclusive battle.
There is no escape from the angry, divisive liberal world view, even in our escapist outlets.
Most Americans would likely not care about Hollywood’s knee-jerk liberalism if it were to remain playful and open-minded — but its comedy and sense of entertainment has turned hostile, humorless, condescending and accusatory.
The highly paid entertainment industry has existed in an echo chamber for too long; now it’s paying for it in ratings.
The late Andrew Breitbart’s mantra was, “Politics is downstream from culture.” One hopes that one day, we will find a way to reclaim the entertainment business from liberal activists — and restore it to the business of entertaining, because boycotts and tuning out are not good for the health of our culture.
As President Reagan noted, it’s how the world learns about the greatness of America. Or at least it used to be.
Heather Hunter is a talk-radio show producer based in the Washington, D.C., area.