Why Hollywood Is Not Conservative

By Leo Gura - December 12, 2023

Have you ever wondered why Hollywood and most filmmakers are overwhelmingly progressive in their worldview and politics?

Contemplate it.

I suggest that there’s a deep reason behind it, which is this: in order to make great films, and great art, one’s mind has be open to more perspectives — and to respect and tolerate more perspectives. Otherwise your films and art will be lame and not thought-provoking.

Back in my college days, in a philosophy class, we were assigned to read an article by Steven Spielberg about his approach to filmmaking, where he talked about how he liked to show reality from various characters’ points of view, leading to a sort of perspectival relativity. And ultimately not telling the audience which view is right. For example, to show how the world looks through the eyes of a Nazi. The Nazi obviously does not see himself as evil, and it makes for a much more interesting and artistic film if the writer, director, and actor are able to humanize the Nazi so the audience can empathize and see the world from the Nazi’s perspective. This is much more interesting and intellectually stimulating than depicting the Nazi as an evil monster. This also requires more cognitive ability to achieve because you have to step outside your view that Nazis are all evil monsters and look at the world through their eyes. Your mind has to be flexible enough to imagine how a Nazi sees himself as a hero, not a villain. But this is not obvious nor easy for most minds to do. There’s a tendency to say to yourself, “Yes, we can pretend that Nazi’s saw themselves as heroes but they were in fact villains!”

As obvious as all this might seem to you, there was a fundamentalist Christian guy in my class who refused to agree with this article because he was so stuck on there being an objective good vs evil, right vs wrong. So, for him, a Nazi must be depicted as evil because he is in fact evil and that’s all there is to the story. When I heard this, I was blown away. How can someone think there is only one right way to see the world? But the conservative mind really struggles with relativity and perspectivalism. To this Christian college guy, the notion that you can have two perspectives of Nazis, one in which Nazis are bad and one in which Nazis are good, without either perspective being objectively right or wrong, simply did not compute!

Consider that to make great films and great art it’s important to have a mind which is comfortable with the relativity of perspectives. This is one reason why artists need to be very openminded. Because exploring new perspectives is more interesting than beating someone over the head with one “right” perspective. A film that moralizes and demonizes Nazis is just not interesting or intellectual stimulating compared to a film that humanizes Nazis. It takes quite a bit of mental flexibility to be able to write, direct, and even act out a Nazi without turning him into a cartoon caricature monster. The conservative mind tends to get stuck in moralizing and demonizing, thereby missing out on the delicious complexity of life. This delicious complexity is what makes for great art. If art was morally black & white, it wouldn’t be true to life. In real life moral issues are frustratingly complicated and multi-perspectival. Just look at the Gaza-Israel situation. It’s a moral clusterfuck, not a battle of good vs evil. Although, of course, a more conservative mind will tend to see it as a simple battle of good vs evil, further compounding the problem.

Imagine if you were a serious method actor, like Daniel Day-Lewis. When Daniel Day-Lewis took on the role of playing Abraham Lincoln, he told Steven Spielberg that he needed 1 year to prepare for the role, to get into character. So Spielberg gave him 1 year. By the time they started shooting, Daniel Day-Lewis WAS Lincoln. Now imagine doing that with a Nazi. Imagine how you would have to think to enter the mind-frame of a Nazi. That’s not as easy as it seems. If you were to seriously attempt this you would have to spend months studying how real Nazis think, to the point where you might start to agree with some of their ideas. Which takes you into dangerous territory. It’s no longer just “acting”. Your mind is genuinely expanding into new territory, nevermind whether this territory is good or bad for you. My point is that a liberal mind will have an easier time of this than a conservative mind. And at the end of that process you will be a changed person — which is exactly what the conservative mind fears!

Note: This is obviously a generalization. I am not saying that great actors cannot be conservative. James Woods is a great actor and a batshit MAGA conservative. So be careful not to over-generalize here. Openmindedness and multi-perspectival thinking is just one of the factors for good filmmaking, not the only factor. So be careful not to do a simplistic reduction here.

Note: Even though liberals have a higher capacity for perspectival and relativistic thinking, they are not perfect at it. They still struggle with it because getting stuck in ones own perspective is such a sticky trap.

Note: Many Hollywood films these days are bad art. That’s because they lack this kind of nuance, maturity, and verisimilitude. Superhero films are especially guilty of this because they cater to children. Morally complex and delicious films are rare these days as Hollywood has been corrupted by capitalism. This also makes it easier for writers, directors, and actors, since they don’t need so much mental nuance to make their living. It takes 3x more mental labor to craft a morally complex, multi-perspectival story than a one-sided, black & white one. Which is why most stories found in Hollywood these days are such juvenile trash they are not worth watching. CGI spectacle has supplanted nuanced story.

I found the following video interesting and related to this topic:

It’s interesting that, for example, I’ve seen conservatives who are Star Wars fans but don’t realize that all of Star Wars is Luke — a social justice warrior — fighting against right-wing authoritarianism and fascism — literally Nazi “stormtroopers”. Luke is basically Antifa. But when a conservative watches Star Wars he thinks the Empire represents leftist progressive neo-Marxist feminists and BLM. Some conservatives are so dense that they believe Nazis were left-wing socialists!

Guys like Alex Jones, Andrew Tate, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Steve Bannon, Aleksandr Dugin, etc. think that they are Luke Skywalker fighting the Empire. When really they are Palpatine overthrowing the Republic. They just lack the self-awareness to see that.

Note: I’m exaggerating a bit. I’m not saying these people are evil in any objective sense. The whole notion of evil is relativistic. But it requires an advanced mind to grok that. And when your mind is able to relativize evil you can make much more interesting stories and films.

Note: Don’t use any of this to demonize conservatives. That’s not the point here. Be nuanced.

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