Ben Shapiro’s attempt to create a ‘conservative Hollywood’ will fail, like those that came before it

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Carano was lucky she got fired when she did. She was able to dovetail her grievance into being the face of Ben Shapiro’s delusional plan to become a film mogul. Shapiro plastered her mug all over his site, offering a discount for his streaming service app, with code “GINA.” That should probably give her a paycheck for at least a few months.

Going from Disney to Daily Wire is a giant step down. Carano still bragged about this development on Twitter, boasting that Shapiro promised she could produce her own film, only available to subscribers of the app, of course. Twitter clapped back pretty hard—since her new gig isn’t exactly the “own” of the libs Carano thinks it is.

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For those unfamiliar with the controversy, Gina Carano had a pretty good gig playing Cara Dune on Disney+’s hit show The Mandalorian. Apparently, she is not a great actress, as she has repeatedly had her lines shortened, cut and even dubbed over by other actresses. Already on thin ice, Carano decided to make enemies of her fans. Last year, she waded into the Black Lives Matter movement by “liking” several social media posts attacking them. She mocked people who wore masks, and promoted Donald Trump’s election fraud conspiracy.

She also insulted her co-stars. Pedro Pascal has a sister who came out as transgender, and even after a discussion with Carano were she feigned support, she stabbed him in the back. Carano used her Twitter profile to make fun of the trend of including one’s preferred pronouns in email signatures or social media profiles.

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Not satisfied with the number of fans she’d already alienated, Carano then shared anti-Semitic posts like the one on the right. She also falsely declared that being a Republican was comparable to being Jewish in the time leading up to the Holocaust. She even posted a photo of a bloodied Jewish woman, getting beaten by Nazis, to represent her point.

Lucasfilm finally had enough of her and let her go. In any other job, she would have been fired long before it had gotten to this point. Putting her blatant bigotry aside, you’d  think conservatives would just appreciate the calculated business decision: The liability of keeping her greatly outweighed any benefit. She was not a fan favorite, expressed no desire to improve her craft, and was way more trouble than she was worth. In the end, Carano had only herself to blame.

Maybe she hopes Shapiro’s venture will really take off, but I can promise you it won’t. The fact is that the people behind these ventures all have something in common—they are all really and truly terrible. I mean, really bad. The sad but true reason so many conservative pundits attack Hollywood is because most of them have experienced rejection by Hollywood. Ben Shapiro is only one such bitter failure.

Brian Kilmeade, host of Fox & Friends, loves to attack the “Hollywood elite,” but his own website talks about him trying to become a stand-up comedian for 10 years. (I can’t even imagine.) Kilmeade literally begged Jimmy Kimmel to help him get work in Hollywood. Dana Loesch, spokeswoman for the NRA before it filed for bankruptcy, has always railed against “movie stars, singers, comedy shows and awards shows,” even though she tried very hard to join their ranks. A Hollywood producer told a story of one sitcom Dana pitched to him that would have starred herself as a “young, hot mom who does a far-right radio show.” He found her to be “obsessed with potential fame and money,” and told her to get lost.

Even Shapiro’s mentor, Andrew Breitbart, admitted he came to Hollywood “with the hope that I’d eventually become a comedy writer.” He failed miserably as well.

US President Donald Trump's former Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon exits Manhattan Federal Court following his arraignment on fraud charges over allegations that he used money from his group "We Build The Wall" on personal expenses on August 20, 2020, in New York. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)
“They hang out shooting pool and think they know what’s going down—who’s up, who’s out, who bounds, and if there’s crack enough.”
-quote from the rap musical penned by Steve Bannon

George Clooney described Steve Bannon as a “schmuck who literally tried everything he could to sell scripts in Hollywood.” This included a “Shakespearian rap musical” on the L.A. riots that was just as awful as it sounds.

It’s a whole lot easier to tell yourself that you can’t find work because of your beliefs than because of your abilities. None of these people are good at comedy or writing. They are, however, very good at insulting and degrading marginalized groups and their allies. Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of people on the right think comedy is supposed to be.

The right doesn’t understand satire. Going after the rich and powerful is one thing, but attacking the poor and oppressed just isn’t funny. The common thread with conservative comedy is always two things: a victim and incessant mocking.

“Comedian” Steve Crowder relentlessly made fun of a Vox reporter for being gay and Mexican. Jesse Watters viciously insulted Asian-Americans in an appalling “comedic” segment on Fox News. Ann Coulter goes after … well, everyone. It’s not really comedy so much as it’s targeting a group that’s different, then insulting and laughing at them, known as “punching down.” When the inevitable backlash comes, they portray themselves as martyrs. If only Michael Richards’ racist outburst had happened after the Trump era, he’d probably have his own show on Fox News, railing about cancel culture.

Speaking of Fox News, if you want to see what a “conservative comedy show” would look like, you can check out their short-lived ½ Hour News Hour. Featuring both Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, it was designed to compete with Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Here is one of their segments insulting sexual harassment victims. The fact that this appeared on Fox News while Ailes and O’Reilly were still around makes these jokes even worse.

Turns out that Jon Stewart never had anything to worry about. The widely panned show performed so badly it was pulled six months after the pilot, although Fox promised it would return after it was “retooled.” That was 15 years ago.

There are few good examples of other right-wing media productions that showcase the conservative viewpoint, which we can expect to see if Shapiro’s dream of a conservative alternative to Hollywood ever becomes a reality. This means shows featuring their ideological viewpoint on things like gun control and abortion.

NRA TV was just a goldmine of bad television. Despite its rabidly dedicated audience, the channel still failed spectacularly before going completely broke. Turns out there is a limit to how much gun propaganda people will watch, even amongst gun fanatics. There are so many ridiculous shows to choose from, but I agree with John Oliver that the best and worst was one called Love at First Shot. It was a “reality” show about a group of gun-toting women friends.

Evangelical Christian movie studios already exist, of course, such as Pure Flix, ReelWorks Studios, and Liberty University Films. The latter two collaborated on The Trump Prophecy, which attempts to show how God chose Trump. (No word on the sequel, where God had enough and chose Joe Biden.) Liberty was also behind Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, which was once voted the worst film of all time (as of this writing, it’s ranked as the sixth worst). We can thank Pure Flix for God’s Not Dead, starring conservative darlings Kevin “Hercules” Sorbo and Dean “Superman” Cain; the film portrays all atheists as either violent or cruel, and spawned two sequels.

The common theme of all these films is Christian persecution, which is the biggest part of evangelical identity. A 2014 mess of film entitled Persecuted, starring the dad from Dexter, the D.A. from Law & Order, and the sassy hologram from Quantum Leap, discarded subtlety entirely.

How the sensitive topic of abortion is handled can be best represented by the 2019 Pure Flix film Unplanned, funded by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who makes a cameo in the film. The film is based on the highly disputed “memoir” of a former Planned Parenthood employee turned anti-abortion wingnut. The plot features an evil director of Planned Parenthood who tries to convince the heroine of the film to upsell abortion to patients. “Abortion is our fries and soda,” she says, in a dark fast food profit margin metaphor. The movie disingenuously portrays protestors as nonviolent heroes and Planned Parenthood as a greedy corporation determined to kill CGI fetuses that fight for their lives. 

Obviously, the film is chock full of dangerous lies. It’s also infuriating to watch, especially knowing that every single “Christian” forced birther in this awful film that we are supposed to cheer were all justifying permanently traumatizing children not long ago. Tearing toddlers away from their parents and locking them in cages is okay because Trump said so.

Speaking of traumatizing, Shapiro’s Daily Wire already released its first film, which makes an action film … out of a school shooting. Seriously. It’s entitled Run, Hide, Fight, which Shapiro’s partner Jeremy Boreing claims Hollywood was “too scared” to distribute. The trailer for this train wreck cherry-picks quotes from real reviews to make it seem like everyone liked the film, but the reviews are universally negative. You can find the trailer if you want, but I won’t link to it.

The movie has a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, along with a review that called it “wildly tone-deaf.” I can’t find figures on how the film performed, but since Shapiro would be crowing if it was the slightest bit successful, I’m pretty sure it flopped.

The film is literally the plot of Die Hard, but with a school shooting, heavy on the gore. It’s essentially a horror film disguised as an action film disguised as propaganda. Viewers are supposed to cheer when the heroine slaughters bad teens because the only thing that can stop a school shooting is more guns, or something. Critics have called it “fundamentally tasteless,” and a “braindead fiasco … that doesn’t have enough on its mind to be provocative.” Could this movie be made even worse? Yes, thanks to the disgraced producer with a history of overlooking sexual assaults with minors on set.

On a less horrifying note, let’s go back to God’s Not Dead, and see how it portrays “liberal” bloggers like myself. The backstory? A Daily Kos-style writer promises her editor a big scoop, which turns out to be her just verbally assaulting the Duck Dynasty guy and his wife for going to church. Big scoop there.

I tried to imagine what my boss would say if I pitched an ambush of a has-been fake reality star over his religion. I’m not sure what exactly she would tell me, but I do know it would end with the phrase “you’re fired.”

Just for the record, if I was ever forced to interview Jeb Robertson for some reason, I wouldn’t ask him why he prays to Jesus. I might ask him why he and his preppy brothers decided to pretend to be fake hillbillies for their stupid show, but I (and everyone else) just don’t care.

There’s plenty of more examples I could find on conservative entertainment, but I don’t have the stomach. I do, however, agree with Ben Shapiro and Andrew Breitbart about one thing: People are shaped a lot more by culture than by politics. We discuss movies and TV shows with our friends and family a lot more than we discuss political figures and elections. It’s no wonder conservatives hate that liberals dominate the cultural landscape.

However, there’s a fundamental misunderstanding conservatives have about Hollywood. And it’s this: Conservatives are, by nature, very susceptible to misinformation and propaganda. In turn, they believe most people act like them. It is easy to manipulate people who allow themselves to be fed a steady diet of hateful lies.

Their misperception lies in their constant belief that if only they had a robust conservative film industry, with studios cranking out shows telling people what to believe, they could change the culture to align with their toxic vision. They truly believe the culture is controlled by Hollywood, but that’s not true. Not at all.

Studios are a business first, and they know that the best, most profitable content reflects the culture, instead of trying to control it. If there was an appetite for bigotry, misogyny, and celebrations of greed, the studios would deliver just that. This is why Shapiro and his ilk can make all the autocratic productions they want, but they are all doomed to fail. There is nothing funny or entertaining about white grievance or right-wing fascism, and no amount of slick production values and bad acting will ever change that.

Most people recognize propaganda for what it is. Those who want it can tune in to conservative talk radio—that’s what it’s for. However, if people want thought-provoking entertainment, they will go to the films and shows made by the people who want to make art—you know, the writers and creators who are actually gifted. They are far preferable to the litany of resentful, conservative hacks who scream about Hollywood elites because they couldn’t cut it in show business.





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