Movie Academy Weighs Shifts That May Push Hollywood Back Into Culture Wars – Deadline

Filed in Movie by on July 23, 2022 0 Comments

Hollywood is spending a lot of time and money in its effort to steer around the culture wars, but some contend it’s a hopeless mission: A growing sector of society is so polarized that “left” and “right” have melted into a blur. Hence a same-sex kiss between Lightyear power rangers stirs angst in Florida and bans in the Middle East, while Elon Musk goes viral when he confusingly announces he’s no longer “a liberal” (he’s still the world’s richest man).

The studios are hiring consultants like Culture House or Color of Change to red-flag areas of risk, but danger zones still loom. Even branches of the Motion Picture Academy that represent the crafts – the working people of Hollywood – will confront political issues in coming weeks that they’d urgently prefer to avoid (see below).

Hollywood’s founders would be appealed by these firestorms. A new book titled The Disney Revolt reminds us that Walt’s father called himself a socialist and that Walt himself was a Democrat until his top animators joined a union. The author, Jake S. Friedman, reports that wounds were finally healed when the rebel animators were invited to the 50th anniversary of Snow White.

Walt surely would also be perplexed by the reactions to Disney-Pixar’s animated Lightyear given corporate efforts to find a middle road culturally. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet given his cinematic assessment but had earlier revoked Disney World’s special tax designations.

The notion in the DeSantis camp that Hollywood product, now or historically, embodied “a liberal mythology” was disputed this week by New York Times critic AO Scott, who argued, “The people who make movies may skew progressive in their beliefs but the movies themselves tell another story.” To Scott, Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick reflects the traditional Hollywood aim of creating “a nearly frictionless world of camaraderie and courage.”

The drive to remain frictionless will be challenged in the coming weeks as the various Academy branches — cinematographers, art directors, etc. – confront a chain of challenging decisions as the Academy’s governors have prodded branches to expand their membership in recognition principally of gender and race (total membership has soared to 10,665).

Should Oscar inclusion quotas be required for nominated movies? If a film is deemed non-inclusive, would that trigger penalties? “If my movie is disqualified for Best Picture because I didn’t meet, say, 50% inclusion, I see troubled waters,” one Academy governor declares.

The new Academy policies on morals and ethics could also stir dispute. Roman Polanski was banished from membership, for example, but his legal case will now undergo review as a result of recent court decisions.

“The Academy’s job is to judge movies, not members,” asserts one long-term member.

In dealing with these issues, one Academy leader fears his institution could succumb to the sort of polarization gripping society as a whole – identification of being “right” or “left” no longer holds relevancy. The fact that Bill Kramer, the Academy’s new CEO, represents a cool, friction-free management style, unlike his predecessor, is welcomed by some members.

A new book titled The Myth of Left and Right by Verian Lewis and Hyrum Lewis (both political scientists) argues that “leaders who define themselves as liberal or conservative have made such sharp swerves on key issues that they’ve left their followers in confusion.” Donald Trump alone has redefined “conservative” to become “nationalist, nativist and isolationist,” they write. Progressives, meanwhile, have fuzzed up the definition of “left.”

The upshot: The left-right model reflects “tribal hostility” rather than serious policy shifts, they argue.

Does Hollywood want to pick its tribe? Its denizens will stay tuned.

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