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February 08, 2012

Study: Conservative-Themed Movies Make More Than Liberal-Themed Movies

Interesting, but I've got some problems with the study, at least from what I know if it. Which is nothing.

Wanna make money in Hollywood? Release patriotic movies that promote conservative values and do not denigrate Christianity.

For two decades, that has been the message that Movieguide has been pushing, and on Friday when it celebrates its 20-year-anniversary with an awards show airing on The Hallmark Channel, the organization will present a 76-page report designed to back up its assertions.

This year’s annual report sells for $1,000

Hello!

and the price includes tickets to the Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala at the Universal Hilton Hotel.

...

Movieguide identified 91 movies in 2011 that scored high in “conservative/moral categories” and they earned an average of $59 million apiece. On the other hand, it identified 105 movies that scored high in “liberal/leftist categories,” and each of those titles earned an average of just $11 million.

I think there's definitely something to this, but I just want to note a couple of problems with direct comparisons here.

First, this list has a lot of children's movies on it -- which are big money-makers. A good comparison would omit children's movies entirely and only compare adult-oriented entertainment. The inclusion of children's movies on the money-making list is an unfair advantage for Team Conservative. I think Team Conservative would still win here, but including movies which tend to have very little offensive matter of any type and make big handfulls of cash stacks the deck.

Second, most of the conservative movies on the list are easy entertainments without any bite or tough messaging. (And note: You can have a movie with edgy bite and tough messaging from the conservative side too. The Gibson Passion of the Christ, for example, was hugely divisive and controversial, and tough sledding, as far as watching it.)

I don't see what you can do about this, as far as methodology goes. Just an asterisk to hang on the findings.

I think this is the result of the basic liberal slant of Hollywood, and the basic liberal slant of corporate culture generally.

Yes, corporations have a liberal slant, because corporations seek to mimic the dominant culture in the country as expressed through the media and other trend-setting institutions, and that dominant culture -- at least as relayed through the media -- is liberal.

In this case the media corporations are trying to remain politically correct, in line with the dominant media culture they themselves create, but still. Corporations will tend to adopt a liberal messaging because that messaging is "safest," given that it has the approval of the hegemonic cultural cohort in the country.

Now, the point of my mentioning this is that film-makers will toss in some conservative stuff (or at least avoid divisive liberal messaging) when they're seeking purely to make money. Paycheck movies, basically. When they seek to just make money, they declare a truce (in one movie) in the culture wars and just seek to entertain.

That means the movies that are the "most conservative" will naturally tend to be the biggest money makers, because the films were designed for exactly that purpose.

But what of the edgy, risky films? The ones Hollywood cares a great deal more about, as they do not represent just a business play but an artistic reaching?

Those movies will tend to be liberal-themed. Why? Because in Hollywood it is permissible to fail for the "right reasons," and seeking to push a liberal message is one of those "right reasons."

It would not be acceptable to fail commercially while pushing an edgy, contentious conservative message. That would be a double-failure -- commercial failure, plus the Hollywood cohort despising the film's aims in the first place.

Thus, as a structural matter, its going to be the case that liberal-leaning Hollywood is willing to risk commercial failure on what they consider an ambitious and noble project -- otherwise known as a "liberal themed movie," to them -- while they will not risk that for an ambitious, challenging conservative-themed movie.

Thor (which is on the list of conservative-tilting films for "mature audiences") was a nicely executed genre piece with a good deal of craft to it. No one would mistake it, however, for a profound movie, or an ambitious movie, or a "message" movie.

It was a money-maker, pure and simple, a business play, so Hollywood doesn't mind if it has no "ennobling purpose" like claiming that we're just as bad as the terrorists.

These comparisons will always be skewed by Hollywood's liberal bent -- they will gamble on the liberal film, but not on the conservative one. Anything conservative (or at least non-liberal) will be, inevitably, a safe bet sort of movie.

Now that isn't an absolute rule but it is a strong trend, pushing the money to the conservative-tilted side.

Tough, ambitious, challenging, provocative movies of any bent will tend to make less money than broadly-palatable crowd-pleasers. So it's difficult to get a true apples-to-apples comparison here, as Hollywood rarely makes any movies with a real conservative message, the kind of message that would draw as strong a reaction from liberals as, for example, Hollywood's large number of sexual-deviancy-themed movies provoke in conservatives.

Atlas Shrugged Part 1, for example.

Still, overall, the basic thrust of the study seems correct. It may be hard to get a truly rigorous figure for Average Gross of a Conservative Themed Movie versus Average Gross of a Similarly-Placed Liberal Themed Movie, but the general intuition that you will make more money if you don't deliberately offend 40-50% of your potential audience is demonstrated by the figures available.

It may not be a perfect comparison, but this is really just a case of common sense being backed up by some numbers.



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posted by Ace at 02:17 PM

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