What a country we live in, these days. If you have been following the controversy surrounding the now-delayed movie “The Hunt,” you know that this is — according to mainstream media reports — yet another controversy about politics, anger, guns, violence and America’s Tweeter In Chief.
Oh, and there is no way to avoid the dangerous word “elites” when talking about this Hollywood vs. flyover country saga. However, if you probe this media storm you will find hints that religion ghosts are hiding in the fine print — due to the movie’s alleged references to “deplorables” and “anti-choice” Americans.
But let’s start with a minimalist report at The Washington Post that ran with this headline: “Universal cancels satirical thriller about ‘elites’ hunting ‘deplorables’ in wake of shootings.” Here’s the overture:
Universal Pictures has canceled its plan to release “The Hunt,” a satirical thriller about “elites” hunting self-described “normal people,” amid a series of mass shootings and criticism that the film could increase tensions.
“We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film,” Universal said in a statement.
The studio already had paused its marketing campaign for the R-rated movie, which was slated for release on Sept. 27. … “The Hunt,” directed by Craig Zobel (“Z for Zachariah”) and produced by Blumhouse Productions, follows 12 strangers who are brought to a remote house to be killed for sport.
Everything in this media-drama hinges on how this movie is alleged to have described the beliefs and behaviors of these “normal” Americans — who are stalked by rich, progressive folks defined by high-class culture and political anger issues. The elites are led by a character played by Oscar-winner Hilary Swank.
If you are looking for facts in this oh so Donald Trump-era mess, journalists at The Hollywood Reporter claim to have details deeper than the innuendoes glimpsed in the hyper-violent trailers for the movie (trailers that appear to be vanishing online). Here is a chunk of that story, which is referenced — aggregation style — in “news” reports all over the place.
Let us attend (yes, I did a slight edit here for family audiences):
"Did anyone see what our ratf***ker-in-chief just did?" one character asks early in the screenplay for The Hunt, a Universal Pictures thriller set to open Sept. 27. Another responds: "At least The Hunt's coming up. Nothing better than going out to the Manor and slaughtering a dozen deplorables."
Later on, there are additional details:
The script for The Hunt features the red-state characters wearing trucker hats and cowboy shirts, with one bragging about owning seven guns because it's his constitutional right. The blue-state characters — some equally adept with firearms — explain that they picked their targets because they expressed anti-choice positions or used the N-word on Twitter. "War is war," says one character after shoving a stiletto heel through the eye of a denim-clad hillbilly.
"Employees in different departments were questioning the wisdom of making such a movie in these times," says one filmmaker with ties to Universal. "In light of the horrific [recent shootings], is this not the most craven, irresponsible, dangerous exploitation?"
That point is countered by a Universal executive, who says the movie "is meant to show what a stupid, crazy world we live in," adding, "It might even be more powerful now."
So we are dealing with flannel-glad folks in “trucker hats” who hail from red (“Jesusland”) states and are (1) gun owners, (2) racists and/or (3) opponents of abortion.
Since there are no references to any of these “deplorables” clutching rosaries, it’s probably safe to say that a few of the hunted are supposed to be white evangelical Protestants of some kind. I doubt that team flyover includes any Catholic pro-lifers or folks from Latino or African-American pews.
It’s interesting to watch various news publications tip-toe around the religious and cultural — as opposed to strictly political — implications of some of these hot-button terms. Here, for example, is a key snippet from USA Today:
The film, which was set for release in September, has sparked controversy due to its subject matter in the wake of recent mass shootings. The film follows a group of wealthy elites who hunt people in rural America for sport, according to Rotten Tomatoes and The Hollywood Reporter.
Ah, we are talking about “rural” Americans. That’s the ticket.
The team at Variety was even more vague about who is who in this violent thriller:
Swank co-stars in the Blumhouse film about a group of strangers who wake up in a forest, only to discover they’re being hunted for sport by rich vacationers.
Well, that’s exciting. Just a pack of rich people on vacation, slaughtering random “strangers.” And that’s that.
It also helps, of course, to unpack the cultural information hidden in the term “deplorables.”
Where, precisely, did that term come from and what does it mean? After a few quick searches online, it would appear that journalists at The Hill (a political website, after all) were the only people who were willing to connect that series of dots:
The nickname became a hot-button term during the 2016 White House race, when then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton referred to some of Donald Trump’s supporters — ones who held “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic" views — as a “basket of deplorables.”
So what is the bottom line in this latest red vs. blue blow-up?
The progressives over at Snopes.com decided that all those allegations about “The Hunt” are “unproven” at this moment in time, in part because conservative media-types were the ones who pounced on this story.
However, the crucial issue is whether pros at The Hollywood Reporter — as opposed to Fox News — have the sources to support the claims made in their story.
Will anyone else attempt on-the-ground reporting in Hollywood about this case? Don’t hold your breath. Check out all the qualifying statements in this Snopes piece:
THR’s article described “The Hunt” in ways that were reflected in subsequent coverage on right-leaning websites, reporting that the film “follows a dozen MAGA types who wake up in a clearing and realize they are being stalked for sport by elite liberals.”
THR claimed to have seen the script for the film, which allegedly once had the title “Red State Vs. Blue State,” adding: “The script for ‘The Hunt’ features the red-state characters wearing trucker hats and cowboy shirts, with one bragging about owning seven guns because it’s his constitutional right. The blue-state characters — some equally adept with firearms — explain that they picked their targets because they expressed anti-choice positions or used the N-word on Twitter.”
We asked Universal Pictures whether it could confirm the accuracy or authenticity of those elements of the script published by THR, but we did not receive a response in time for publication. It’s unclear whether the script allegedly seen by THR was at an early stage of development, or a final draft, or whether those elements that suggest a liberal-conservative enmity between the characters made it into the final cut of the film itself.
Without having confirmation of those important details or being able to watch “The Hunt,” we cannot confirm the accuracy of the claim that the movie features “liberal” or “left-wing” characters hunting “Trump supporters” for sport. As such, we are issuing a rating of “Unproven,” until and unless such corroborating evidence becomes available.
As you can see, this is all about “Trump supporters.”
Stay tuned. Straight to Netflix?