Monday, December 27, 2004

Liberal Hollywood

So, I was watching an episode of ER I had Tivoed, and it occurred to me that it probably displays what, according to conservatives, is the liberal bias in Hollywood. Now, to me, ER shows humanitarianism and care for your fellow humans. But I think maybe a conservative would look at it and say, "They're always acting like people who work should pay for the medical care of people who don't, and that lack of social services is the problem instead of people taking care responsibility for themselves."

Now, I have a lot of responses to that kind of criticism, such as the fact that initial conditions account for a huge part of how someone ends up (ie, if you grow up poor, your chances of being a poor adult are vastly higher than if you are grow up middle class or rich). But I'm thinking about something else right now.

Assuming, for a moment, that more TV shows and movies (I'm talking here about fiction, not about reality shows or documentaries, etc.) demonstrate a bias toward showing liberal causes and issues in a positive light than conservative, is it really so simple as saying that "Hollywood is liberal" and leaving it at that? That is to say, is the predominance of liberals in Hollywood the root cause or the proximate cause?

I think maybe it is the proximate cause.

Fiction is about conflict, drama, struggle. And it occurred to me that it is pretty obvious that when you're trying to think of situations that generate conflict, many of them require characters that are disenfranchised rather an enfranchised.

I'm not saying there aren't stories to be told about the enfranchised. Dallas, Falcon Crest, BARBARIANS AT THE GATE, and INTOLERABLE CRUELTY are examples of stories centering around enfranchised characters. I am saying there are a lot more stories in being disenfranchised than enfranchised.

Stories about criminals, the down and out, a guy on the run, a guy who hits rock bottom, the guy facing terrible odds against a corrupt system, etc. etc. all require disenfranchised characters (though the characters can start enfranchised and become disenfranchised during the story). But there aren't many stories that require the characters to be enfranchised to work.

The enfranchised face conflict in this world, but the disenfranchised face more conflict, struggle more to get what they want, and have to fight more for their rights and dignity. That is pretty much what it means to be disenfranchised. Disenfranchisement is a form of conflict: a character in conflict with his or her society. But enfranchisement is a state of non-conflict with his or her society. Therefore, stories about the enfranchised have no inherent conflict, whereas stories about the disenfranchised have built-in conflict.

So, it is no wonder, in my opinion, that there are more stories about the disenfranchised (stories with a so-called "liberal" slant) than about the enfranchised (a "conservative" slant). And, since writing is essentially about seeing conflicts in the world around you, it makes sense that there are more liberal screenwriters than conservative, because the liberal viewpoint is the one that tends to see people as disenfranchised -- in conflict -- and thus is the one more likely to move one to want to write stories, which are narratives of conflict.

I guess I am saying that I think it is the nature of storytelling that causes there to be more stories about the disenfranchised than the enfranchised, and therefore more liberals in Hollywood than conservatives, and thus is the true cause of "liberal Hollywood." Just like with professorships in universities and colleges, it's not that liberals have somehow evilly come to dominate the field and keep conservatives out, but that conservatives don't choose to be college professors or screenwriters as much as liberals. Conservatives are complaining about something that they have created by self-selecting themselves out of certain professions. The answer isn't to bitch at liberals about it. If conservatives want to see themselves represented more in the entertainment and academic fields, they should go into those fields more.

See how simple it all is when I explain it?


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