Conservatives in Hollywood are like male calico cats: You know they exist, but they’re tough to find.
The Los Angeles Times recently came out with a piece on what it’s like to be Republican in Hollywood and how -- even during this Era of President Donald Trump -- GOP'ers must remain undercover. You’d think things would be different in 2017. After all, liberals in cinema circles were anything but hidden during the Barack Obama administration.
But Hollywood wanted Hillary; they got The Donald and so there’s still a lot of wrath in La La Land. And so the Times set out to find the folks who are swimming upstream, as it were. Did they see any "religion ghosts"? We will come back to that question.
As an Academy Award-winning producer and a political conservative, Gerald Molen has worked in the entertainment business long enough to remember when being openly Republican in Hollywood was no big deal.
“In the ’90s, it was never really an issue that I had to hide. I was always forthright,” recalled the producer, whose credits include “Schindler’s List” and two “Jurassic Park” movies. “It used to be we could have a conversation with two opposing points of view and it would be amiable. At the end, we still walked away and had lunch together.”
Those days are largely gone, he said. “The acrimony — it’s there. It’s front and center.”
For the vast majority of conservatives who work in entertainment, going to set or the office each day has become a game of avoidance and secrecy. The political closet is now a necessity for many in an industry that is among the most liberal in the country.
The article then touched on Friends of Abe, a conservative organization whose membership of some 2,500 persons is secret because getting outed is a career killer.
Leaders of Friends of Abe said its members have sharply divergent views on the current president.
“There are very conservative people in FOA who are troubled by his rhetoric,” said executive director Jeremy Boreing, a filmmaker and self-described Trump skeptic. “There are others who are very gung-ho and supportive of him. There are people who are cautiously optimistic and others who are just cautious.”
He said it was too early to tell how Trump will affect the organization, but “if Hollywood continues to overreact to Trump and toxify people’s professional lives, FOA will grow. We got started under [George W.] Bush, not under Obama. Hollywood was a more pleasant place for conservatives during Obama’s tenure because Hollywood was in a good mood.”
The reason I’m commenting on that piece for this column is because a lot of conservatives are people of faith, yet religion isn’t mentioned at all. The absence of this factor -- which I referenced earlier -- is what the team here at GetReligion has, for 13 years, been calling a religion “ghost.”
You see, there are different kinds of conservatives in Hollywood. It isn't all about politics.
I’ve known a few religious folks who’ve tried to make it in Hollywood and not one said their faith was any help to them. Rather, it was something to hide unless you’re asked to explain why you refuse to do nude scenes in movies.
There are the famous ones: Patricia Heaton, Jim Caviezel, Martha Williamson (pictured with this blog), Denzel Washington (video above), Angela Bassett, Tyler Perry, Martin Sheen, Ralph Winter, Kristin Chenoweth, Scott Derrickson, Tom Hanks and many others who've risen above any prejudice and can say what they want. (Although Caviezel said years later that appearing in "The Passion of the Christ" destroyed his acting career).
But what about the behind-the-scenes people with the bit parts, the grips and camera people who feel they must keep their convictions silent and their mouths shut? Not all may be Republicans, but everyone of them keeps their piety and cultural politics private.
Like the Republicans in the Times story, people of faith –- usually Christians but not always -– are a varied lot on the political and cultural spectrum. Some are a mix of pro-life and pro-gay marriage; others are similar to evangelical Protestants like Pat Boone or traditional Catholics like (when he is sober and going to confession) Mel Gibson. Many feel the odds are not in their favor if their religious leanings are known.
Hollywood’s antipathy toward conservative believers is no secret, according to this Jewish actress who told Fox TV in 2015 her pro-Israel stance cost her fans.
So, there was journalism gold to be mined in finding a religion angle to all this.
So when you read a section from the article like what’s below, you wonder: Are these folks are cultural conservatives who oppose euthanasia, abortion and same-sex marriage or are they libertarian political conservatives? The latter can be quite secular.
In such a charged climate, many conservatives in Hollywood keep a low political profile.
“There’s a McCarthyism coming from the left,” said one prominent TV and movie actor who requested his name not be used for fear of professional repercussions. The actor, who is conservative but not a Trump supporter, said political shouting matches have erupted on the set of one of his shows and that a conservative producer he works with has been shunned by colleagues.
“In 30 years of show business, I’ve never seen it like this,” said the actor. “If you are even lukewarm to Republicans, you are excommunicated from the church of tolerance.”
The article ends by saying the animosity is lessened if there’s money involved and that even the most profane personality will latch onto a Christian-themed movie if there’s money in it.
Not all of Hollywood follows this trend. The music industry is completely the opposite. Mark Joseph, an old friend and author of “Rock Gets Religion: The Battle for the Soul of the Devil’s Music” (out this summer), tells me the existence of Christians in that genre “really is hidden in plain sight and I'm not sure the mainstream music culture really understands just how many of them have snuck in under the tent. Either they’ve left the Christian music industry or avoided it altogether and gone straight to mainstream labels. Justin Bieber, Chance The Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, 21 Pilots, Tori Kelly, Mumford & Sons; the list goes on and on."
The movie industry is not unique in its demonization of religious people and conservatives. News media folks can be the same way. I worked 14 years for the Washington Times and experienced my share of hatred because of what I worked for. I wish the reporter had explained that among the conservatives he writes about, some receive a double whammy for being both politically conservative and culturally conservative, the latter usually because of their religious convictions.
It would have only taken a few sentences to add that being Republican in Tinseltown is bad enough. Being Republican and a religious believer is even worse.