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Box office blues stem from blue-state bigotry

July 10, 2005|Govindini Murty | Govindini Murty is an actress, screenwriter and co-director of the Liberty Film Festival. She is also a film columnist for Newsmax.com and editor of Libertas, a leading blog for conservative discussion on film: www.libertyfilmfestival.com/libertas.

Hollywood's box office has hit the skids, and the entertainment media are in overdrive trying to explain why. The most obvious explanation for box office malaise is consistently overlooked: Hollywood's ruling liberal elites keep going out of their way to offend half their audience.

Constant gibes about Republicans, Christians, conservatives and the military litter today's movies and award show presentations like so many pieces of trash on theater floors.

Did we really need to hear another anti-Bush diatribe from Chris Rock at the Oscars this year?

Did the industry have to go out of its way to snub "The Passion of the Christ" at award shows because of its perceived conservatism -- even though the movie saved last year's box office?

Did we need a movie like "Kingdom of Heaven" asserting moral equivalency between medieval Crusaders and modern Muslim terrorists, by putting lines in Crusaders' mouths such as: "To kill an infidel is not a sin"?

Did we need George Lucas implying that his latest "Star Wars" film is intended as an anti-Bush parable about the Iraq war, in which America plays the evil empire? (I thought the movie was an artistic success, but Lucas' comments spoiled my enjoyment and kept me from repeated viewings.)

Did we need to hear from "War of the Worlds" screenwriter David Koepp that the aliens in his movie are stand-ins for the U.S military -- and the innocent Americans they attack are stand-ins for Iraqi civilians? Or that Americans are guilty of post-9/11 anti-Muslim "paranoia"? (A question to Koepp: Were we "paranoid" after Pearl Harbor too?)

Hollywood could turn things around, but that might mean tolerating films with pro-conservative themes. Hollywood liberals are so consumed with hatred for George W. Bush and the right, they would rather go down with the ship than allow a conservative message. The result is a creative paralysis in which liberals are out of ideas and have to resort to endless sequels and remakes -- while conservatives who have new ideas aren't allowed into the mix.

Since Mel Gibson's "Passion," no studio movies have been made celebrating traditional religious faith. And post-Sept. 11, no studio movie has been made supporting America's war on terrorism, or denouncing Islamic terrorism.

A conservative writer/director friend was developing a script last year about the Iraq war and the capture of Saddam Hussein. My friend says that after $500,000 was spent developing the project, the studio head pulled the plug because, as he put it, any movie depicting the capture of Hussein might help Bush.

Another writer/producer friend, a former president of a major industry association, said that immediately after Sept. 11 he wanted to do a pro-American project that denounced Islamic terrorism -- but none of his colleagues would support it.

And my husband, Jason Apuzzo, and I wanted to make a film that depicted the realities of Islamo-fascism. Our script featured positive and negative Muslim characters (I was to play the lead positive Muslim character), and did the rounds of various independent production companies.

The script received great feedback but encountered a stumbling block when creative executives expressed concern that our Muslim terrorists "weren't sympathetic enough." They wanted us to "explain the terrorists' motivations more."

Even when the film industry isn't stopping conservative projects, its left-wing ideological rigidity is having a deadening effect on free speech and creativity.

A screenwriter friend who has written a number of big family movies described how stifling it was to sit in on story sessions and listen to executives rant for hours about President Bush. As my friend put it: "George Bush had nothing to do with the movie we were making, yet the executives would rather complain about politics all day than figure out how to make our project better." When asked why he didn't say anything, my friend responded: "If I did, I'd be fired."

Fortunately, a new conservative film movement is arising to give hope to those on the new Hollywood blacklist. Michael Moore's emergence showed us we could no longer passively yield Hollywood to the left, and Gibson's success showed us there was a market for films that lean to the right.

Everyone -- liberal and conservative -- acknowledges that a once-great film industry is out of ideas and in dire shape. Wouldn't it be smart, then, to let some new ideas in from the right, and give everybody a real choice again at the box office?

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