Only the Knave: Hollywood’s Embrace of Trumpism

The next time one of your MAGA-hat-wearing friends goes on some mindless rant about how “left-wing” Hollywood is, show them this story and shut them up:

Brad Parscale, the digital media director for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was hired by the makers of “Only the Brave” to help the action-drama appeal to red-state moviegoers, Variety has learned.

Black Label Media, the film’s financier, retained Parscale to supplement online and social media marketing efforts. Sony Pictures is distributing the $38 million production, which is on track to open to a weak $6 million when it debuts this weekend. “Only the Brave” centers on a crew of firefighters battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013. It was one of the worst wildfires in American history, having killed 19 firefighters.

“Black Label Media used several different data analytics firms and consultants to test new marketing approaches to complement Sony’s marketing efforts on the film with the goal to reach the broadest possible audience,” Black Label Media said in a statement to Variety…

The film is targeted at heartland audiences, a group of moviegoers that Hollywood, a liberal-leaning industry, has struggled to reach in the past. Parscale’s efforts have been somewhat effective. Despite the weak tracking, insiders say the film is resonating more strongly in the South and Northwest, areas that are more receptive to President Trump.

Leaving aside the fact that the East and West Coasts are the real heartland of this country, think about the twisted logic of the folks who decided to hire a Trump lackey to promote Only the Brave. You’ve made a movie about the lethal risks of wildfires, and you hire a man who helped elect a President whose refusal to take human-caused climate change seriously will make wildfires worse? Where’s the sense in that?

I imagine that Barbra Streisand, the stepmother of Only the Brave star Josh Brolin, is beside herself that a Trump acolyte is involved in the promotion of this film. Embracing Trumpian tactics to sell this flick is the epitome of raw greed—and demonstrates that for all the right-wing chatter about Hollywood hyperliberalism, the industry won’t hesitate to get in bed with reactionaries in order to make a buck.

We can stop the speculation now over whether Hollywood will change in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. It won’t. Did the folks behind Only the Brave think twice about working with a man who helped Trump, who has the exact same attitude towards women that Weinstein had, become the 45th President? Of course not. They didn’t care.

Speaking of Weinstein, when Quentin Tarantino announced that he knew of Weinstein’s abuse of women and said nothing, I couldn’t help drawing a comparison to the #ExxonKnew controversy. In both cases, people who could have stopped unspeakable behavior said nothing because they were benefiting from the perpetrators of said unspeakable behavior. In both cases, their silence has brought about generations of grief. In both cases, the moral horror of such silence can never be forgotten or forgiven.

Whether it’s protecting troglodytes or palling around with Trumpists, Hollywood has a lot of answer for. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to make needed changes. Start hiring more female directors and screenwriters. Make it clear that any executive caught engaging in Weinsteinian wantonness will be groping for an unemployment check. And for crying out loud, the next time you’re tempted to hire a devotee of the Donald to sell a would-be blockbuster to the Breitbart crowd, take the famous advice from the spouse of another celebrity Republican President and just say no.

UPDATE: Turns out the effort to pander to the Trumpists didn’t even work. Heh.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.