Misulonas: GOP TV
October 2, 2012
It is universally accepted that the vast majority of power players in Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general are more liberal than the general population. Though Clint Eastwood and his magic stool publicly campaigned for Mitt Romney, most high-profile celebrities have donated and supported President Barack Obama.
However, last weekend’s Emmy Awards showed that underneath all the liberal showmanship lies the conservative underbelly of the entertainment world.
Take, for example, “Homeland.” The show is about a CIA agent who suspects that an American POW who has been held by al-Qaida for eight years may be a sleeper agent. The show portrays government officials as ignorant and incompetent. When the main character suggests the soldier may have been turned by his captors, they tell her to leave it alone (apparently having never seen the countless episodes of “Law and Order” that have used Stockholm Syndrome as a plot device). In the face of government incompetence, the CIA agent has to take the law into her own hands and run her own investigation, violating several laws in the name of protecting the citizens of the United States. It’s basically “24” without the constant nuclear bomb threats and Kiefer Sutherland screaming every two minutes.
Another show that has a conservative ideology is “Mad Men.” While many conservatives would criticize the adulation of adultery on the show (I’m pretty sure Mormons are banned from watching people smoke and drink on television), “Mad Men” is essentially a Republican wet dream. Upper-middle class white men dominate society. They live in their suburban enclaves away from the race riots and student protests of the early 1960s, pleasantly ignoring everyone who disagrees with their politics. The main characters work at an ad agency, prostituting themselves to corporations so they can sell toasters and poorly designed airplanes to the American people, never pausing to question the morality of their profession.
On that same channel, you can find “Breaking Bad.” At the beginning of the show, Walter White was a high school chemistry teacher who began selling meth to support his family after he was diagnosed with cancer. As the show progressed, Walt became a drug kingpin, continuing to cook and sell meth despite not needing the money. The show portrays drug dealers as narcissists and sociopaths who deal drugs as a way to garner power, ignoring the socioeconomic conditions that force many people to deal drugs. The show portrays the DEA as incompetent (the head DEA agent does not realize his own brother-in-law is a kingpin running an empire right under his nose). Additionally, it ignores the tremendous amount of violence and death in Mexico that has been a result of America’s conservative-led War on Drugs. It could also be argued that by using his education and his creativity, Walter White has built himself a successful small business in the face of government regulation. This kind of ambition fits right in with Mitt Romney’s adopted campaign slogan, “We Built It.”
Even shows that discuss liberal causes often do so through a conservative lens. On “Modern Family,” a gay couple adopts a Vietnamese baby, prove to be loving and supportive parents and attack the illusion that gay parents are detrimental to child development. However, the show ignores the issue of gay marriage and other forms of homosexual discrimination that are prevalent in our society. Though one of the central storylines involves a mother and son who immigrated from Colombia, the mother marries a wealthy American businessman so she is able to avoid the less-than-minimum wage jobs and poverty that many immigrants face. Her son also speaks an astonishingly fluent and almost Shakespearean style of English despite it not being his first language.
That is not to say that any of these shows are bad. I watch all of the shows I mentioned regularly. Perhaps the issues raised would bog these shows down and make them unwatchable. It’s weird that while we consider Hollywood a liberal bastion, there are a number of dominant conservative elements in our popular culture.
I will keep watching these programs, if only because “Downton Abbey” is boring as hell.
Joseph Misulonas is a Medill junior. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to email@example.com.