From Cheney-hating Vice to Fox-bashing Bombshell: How Hollywood’s new genre of ‘factual’ films puts leftist spin on recent news
Hollywood is no stranger to rewriting history in a light that is more favorable to the left but recently it turned its sights to internal political targets, as much as shadowy foreign baddies. Over the last few years, the noticeable trend coming out of Tinseltown has been gathering an ensemble cast of big-name celebrities to bring down a figure or institution that has long been an enemy of the Hollywood left. In the case of Bombshell it is the former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.
What can be termed ‘takedown cinema’ (or as the Washington Post somewhat ponderously calls it “accountability filmmaking”) has become the latest tasty dish that is receiving praise within the industry, not for its quality, but its target.
The takedown formula, presenting a story as a true retelling of events while fictionalizing your fast-paced narrative, and adding dashes of broad humor, has been perfected by Adam McKay, the writer and director of the Big Short and Vice. McKay used these films to aim fire at Wall Street and the George W. Bush administration, respectively, by bringing together a large cast of A-listers to blur the lines between truth and editorializing. McKay’s distaste for the American right-wing is well documented and he didn’t shy away from it in the making of Vice.
From blaming Cheney for 600,000 dead bodies in Iraq to satirizing his multiple heart attacks, McKay was able to tuck in his venom for the Bush administration within the guise of telling an entertaining and exposing story, at least from the progressive perspective. While Vice included the truly groundbreaking performance of Christian Bale, the sell of the movie was not Bale acting in heavy make-up, but the character assassination of the former vice president. Bale himself even thanked Satan for inspiring him to play the role of Cheney in the film… subtle.
While McKay is the hip king of the genre, even respected senior filmmakers have joined in on the trend. In 2017, Steven Spielberg was the driving force behind the hastily-assembled The Post. A movie that was created shortly after the election of President Donald Trump. The film’s purpose was to defend the nation’s media (especially the Washington Post) while hammering home condemnations of former Republican President Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974, in order to draw a parallel with Trump. The Post gave journalists the platform to vocally pat themselves on the back and stress the importance of their jobs. The message was clear, the target was clear, and the industry ate it up during awards season.
That brings us to Bombshell, a film which takes aim at Roger Ailes and the Fox News network. The film was announced just days after Ailes died from a fall in his Florida home in May 2017, and the purpose was to bring to light sexual harassment allegations brought against him, at a time when there could be no resistance from Ailes himself. Fox News has long been an enemy to the American left due to its success as a right-leaning news outlet.
The magnitude of this ire can be perfectly shown through leading actress Charlize Theron, who said during the promotion of the film that it was harder for her to play former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly than it was for her to play a serial killer in Monster.Also on rt.com What HBO got wrong: Chernobyl general gives hit TV show a reality check
The subtext of the movie allows the industry to kill two birds with one stone, condemn their most hated news outlet, while positioning themselves as the champions of a problem they created. However, Bombshell has one fatal flaw that is not present in the other takedown cinema. With films such as Vice and The Post, you are not meant to sympathize with whom the film decides is the antagonist. However, with Bombshell, the movie wants to sympathize with the women on Fox News while condemning the company as evil. A sentiment perfectly depicted by Forbes Scott Menderslon who says: “It’s easy to say that this story could have/should have been written and directed by women, but no matter who tackled the material, the film never really confronts the conundrum of wanting us to root for outright villains just because their superiors were worse.”
In short, audiences feel no sympathy towards the devil which would explain the current lack of praise that critics have towards this film on Rotten Tomatoes. Even if Bombshell doesn’t receive the industry victory lap others have enjoyed, the trend of takedown cinema will only continue to grow in today’s politically-hostile environment.
By Jacob Smith, editor of the libertarian entertainment site Society Reviews.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.