One of the most refreshing things to come out of Hollywood in recent times is Tom Cruise’s “thank you” message before the start of this summer’s biggest blockbuster, Top Gun: Maverick, a film mercifully free of shoehorned social commentary. There is nothing particularly profound about Cruise’s statement, which is unpolished, as if delivered off-the-cuff in one take. Some moviegoers may even find his words a little odd, especially if, owing to Cruise’s adherence to Scientology, they find him a little odd.
But for me, Cruise’s message is odd only because it is precisely the sort of thing Hollywood does not do anymore. Cruise knows we have made him rich and famous beyond his wildest dreams, and he has no interest – and no right – to act like our moral superior.
Contrast Cruise’s simple message of gratitude with the political grandstanding to which we have become inured. If we want to consume mainstream movies, television shows, and music, we know they will almost always be accompanied by heavy doses of progressive messaging within the content, and with predictable outpourings of virtue signals about “the current thing” from the entertainers themselves.
The pro-abortion crowd has found particularly strong allies among entertainment elites for a long time, and in recent years, we have seen their program intensify. At the 2020 Golden Globes ceremony, for example, actress Michelle Williams used her victory speech to confess to having had an abortion, which facilitated her successful career. Her words were met with wild applause. Responding to Texas’ abortion law passed in 2021, actress Uma Thurman took to the pages of the Washington Post “with great sadness, and something akin to horror” at what the Lone Star State had done. She then patted herself on the back for her own decision to have an abortion as a young woman. We can assume our “sadness” and “horror” at her story would be considered inappropriate in elite circles.
Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court’s June 24th landmark judgment in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health has already sparked outrage among many luminaries in our popular culture. Elizabeth Banks decried the “devastating news,” and fellow actress Alyssa Milano predicted “deadly consequences.” Singer Taylor Swift declared she was “absolutely terrified,” and fellow pop-star Lorde shouted “f*ck the Supreme Court” from the stage at the Glastonbury Festival. Former President Barack Obama declared that the Court was “attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans.”
Corporations including Disney, Netflix, and Amazon – together responsible for a large share of our entertainment – all promised to pay for employees to procure abortions in other states if they live in a place where abortions become illegal.
In light of the Dobbs decision, my first instinct was to resign myself to more ham-fisted pro-abortion messages in the media. No doubt, someone will try to one-up Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, adapted from the novel by Margaret Atwood. Likewise, there will now be even greater pressure on studios to weave abortion plotlines into popular films and shows. The faux-brave moralizing about abortion at Hollywood awards shows will now be over-the-top.
On further reflection, however, I wonder if the end of Roe in America may actually help break apart the progressive Hollywood consensus. After all, Dobbs makes clear for those with eyes to see that there is no inevitable outcome to progressive goals. There is not just one story to tell about humanity – namely, that we are marching further away from the Natural Law and the revelation of moral ordering that Christians have traditionally held. A screen giant like Tom Cruise knows that, at the very least, he needs to maintain neutrality on sensitive matters upon which he knows his fans may disagree. As NBA great Michael Jordan once said, “Republicans buy sneakers too.”
Dobbs also comes at a time when the cultural impact of any one film, television show, or even the collective output of studios or streaming services, may be weaker than we think. A water-cooler conversation at the office these days usually reveals more differences than commonality when it comes to entertainment choices. For example, Euphoria, HBO’s most popular show since Game of Thrones, drew 6.6 million viewers for its Season Two finale in February 2022. The finale of M*A*S*H in 1983 garnered 106 million. We simply do not watch or care about the same content as each other anymore – a social atomization which may, ironically, open new avenues for entertainment options that do not conform to the blue-checks’ values.
The Daily Wire, for example, has started producing feature films meant to contrast with normal Hollywood fare, beginning with Terror on the Prairie starring Gina Carano, the “cancelled” former star of The Mandalorian for Disney+. Crowd-funding has made The Chosen wildly successful. Man of God and Father Stu are two recent mainstream feature films with overt Christian storylines.
These developments are promising; but perhaps something even better and more holistic is possible, where various “conservative” content may flourish over the longer term outside of counter-culturally Christian or institutionally Right-wing marketing categories. How about something akin to a Federalist Society for film schools? After all, the Dobbs decision is the product not only of shrewd politics and ardent activism, but of the patient cultivation of an intellectual movement committed to goodness, truth, and beauty.
The greatest artists in the history of western civilization are, in various ways, life-affirming. Young artists who do not toe the modern party line on progressive values must find ways to come out of the shadows and work to fill as much space as possible in the entertainment industry.
The post-Roe landscape offers new opportunities for creativity grounded in gratitude. When liberal elites preach at us in the days ahead about the same old things in a slightly more intense way, let’s turn them off and go make something great instead. In time, we can win the culture wars, with God’s help.
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In addition to Tom Cruise, we might also recall actor Clint Eastwood when, in a recent election cycle, he debated on stage with an empty chair accommodating an absent Abomi-nation.
Who really cares, anymore, about Hollywood, its empty suits, and its self-admiring and politicized awards ceremonies? As backward-moving as reruns of “Amos and Andy.” Hollywood hitched its wagon to the wrong stars and has aborted itself. Well done!
This article is encouraging and I am in hopeful agreement. However, to attribute the Dodds decision as the “product not only of shrewd politics and ardent activism, but of the patient cultivation of an intellectual movement committed to goodness, truth, and beauty” is to fall into the same trap that the propagandists on the pro-abortion side are using. While those attributes are present in the pro-life activists, no argument, the decision in Roe v Wade was simply bad law. It was a political act that was manufactured by application of words to give meanings they did not possess. The Justices of the US Supreme Court were simply performing their duties as brave, courageous and honest lawyers, in -not banning abortion- but placing the issue in the hands of the legislature where it belongs. The intellectual dishonesty of the decision of Roe was reflected in the poisonous hearings for nominations that have ensued ever since, from Clarence Thomas, to Brett Kavanagh, to Amy Coney-Barrett. Roe was a political act by a Court that, in a constitution which specifically provides for the separation of powers, was simply not available. If the decision in Roe had been legally sound, this anxiety would not have existed on the part of those who were seeking to enforce a legally unavailable decision. All that has occurred by the decision in Dodds is that the zillion dollar abortion industry is now subject to the whim of the state voters – and they don’t like that.
However, that is not how it is portrayed by any of the celebrities you mentioned. That is not how it is portrayed by anyone who is the unsuspecting victim of the main stream media – to them, the Supreme Court “banned abortion”. That is why, in your acknowledgment of the virtues of the situation, you must be scrupulous to correct the propaganda of those who push the agenda.