Turner Classic Movies ran a ten-year-old interview with Chuck Heston on Friday Night. When they got to his politics, Heston said that that there were more closet conservatives in Hollywood than closet Homosexuals.
There are a few ways to being rightwing in Hollywood. One way is to be up front about it and then make liberal themed movies. This seems to be the approach of Clint Eastwood, a man who used to send criminals to the eternal dirt map, and now tries to exonerate them. He was a man that once created iconic American heroes and now questions the authenticity of American heroism.
Another way to be conservative in Hollywood is to make conservative movies but criticize conservative politicians. Mel Gibson, for instance, makes movies about Scottish and American independence and knocks Bush for freeing the Iraqis.
I have recently noticed a third way. Tom Hanks identifies as a Democrat and supports Democrats financially, but he makes conservative films. He has now produced three mini-series for HBO and nearly 30 hours of programming and I have yet to hear a liberal note. Hanks might see himself as a progressive of some sort, but his inclinations are about American exceptionalism. FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON and BAND OF BROTHERS are about individual bravery and the greatness of Americans without the usual mitigating political correctness that the heroes fail to achieve.
There was a time when Democrats would make these kinds of movies when America was in a war, but doing so now could justify current American wars so they make Redacted, Platoon, etc. Not only is the war wrong now, but individual Americans that fight the wars are wrong. For most filmmakers, our national character on-screen has gone from hero to animal in two generations.
So it’s hard to figure Hanks among their ranks. He’s like a criminal that can’t retire after a few scores. His crimes must get bigger and the chance of getting caught must be greater. And JOHN ADAMS is his latest caper. Here you have the founding fathers, the essence of libertarianism. And while you can cherry pick quotes from Franklin or Jefferson to demonstrate “leftwing” thoughts, Adams is an out and out conservative. He hated the French Revolution and instead respected the gentile traditions of England. So here you have Hanks who not only lionizes a bunch of dead white men, but he finds his hero in the least radical among them.
JOHN ADAMS is a thoughtful and unique mini-series with the brilliant Paul Giamatti in the title role. The series captures these men as real men and these issues as unsettled and need of leadership. It’s easy for us to say the creation of America was so natural, but the men that sacrificed to bring us this nation had to fight every step of the way and we see it episode after episode. We don’t get the white man of privilege arguments that are so common on college campuses today. Through four episodes the only patriot villain is the authoritarian Alexander Hamilton, a man who doesn’t like our hero.
There’s a great scene after the war is over when Thomas Jefferson comes to Paris to take over as ambassador for the aging Ben Franklin. The three men discuss politics and the future of the nation. Already we see the schisms that will breakup the friendship of Adams and Jefferson and we see the great shame of it as the same time. It’s also touching because we know it’s the last time we’ll see Franklin on screen. He delivers a short piece about the tenuousness of a new nation and how it will be hard to keep it together. He anticipates the in-fighting at the beginning of the new nation and the cause of our eventual Civil War.
There was a time in this country and in Hollywood where Democrats were as Pro-American as Republicans, but I don’t remember it. I was born during the summer of love. Tom Hanks may not see any politicians on the Right he can agree with, but he also has nothing in common with the “G-D America” candidates either. Whether it’s by calculation or instinct, Hanks has inoculated himself against his political leanings by supporting the “correct” candidates. It’s a small price to pay for the work it allows him to do.