Gina Carano’s recent dismissal from Lucasfilm has brought back the old discourse regarding Hollywood’s relationship with politics.
Last night, during his closing “New Rules” segment on Real Time, comedian and television host Bill Maher went on another extended rant against political correctness, citing Gina Carano’s removal from the cast of The Mandalorian as yet another example of something that he views as new form of McCarthyism. Maher, never one to let facts get in the way of a good rant, specifically repeated the misconception that the actress was dismissed by Disney and Lucasfilm due to a single social media post associated with her conservative beliefs.
Carano herself has used this as an opportunity to claim people with even the slightest inclination to the right are being discriminated and bullied in Hollywood. She recently signed a deal with The Daily Wire, run by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, and returned to Twitter to reiterate her claim that she is being treated unfairly for not being part of a hive mind.
Her claim was dubious to begin with, and received a major blow (though it’s doubtful she or Shapiro followed the news in question) when ViacomCBS announced that a Frasier revival, with Kelsey Grammer returning as the famous psychiatrist, will be part of the Paramount+ lineup. Yes, Kelsey Grammer is back as Frasier, even though, by Carano’s logic, that shouldn’t be possible, since he’s a lifelong Republican who openly endorsed Donald Trump.
And he’s not the only one: his friend and former Cheers co-star John Ratzenberger also voted for Trump, and yet that doesn’t seem to have affected his working relationship with Disney and Pixar (he is reprising his role as the Abominable Snowman in the upcoming Disney+ series Monsters at Work). Clint Eastwood, whose support for the 45th POTUS was a source of controversy, has a new film coming out later this year.
Similarly unimpeded in their careers are other prominent conservative movie stars, such as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kurt Russell, Bruce Willis and others. Granted, it should be pointed out that they weren’t necessarily pro-Trump (in fact, Schwarzenegger very publicly opposed him), but they still hold beliefs that would be deemed incompatible with the image of liberal Hollywood (Russell and Willis are staunch defenders of gun rights).
The difference, of course, lies in how they express their beliefs. What many of Carano’s defenders omit to mention, whether by design or genuine ignorance, is that her post comparing conservatives to Jews living in Nazi Germany was the proverbial last straw, the most recent in a string of controversial social media uses.
In fact, per The Hollywood Reporter (and her own admission), her employers had already warned her at least once, and then quietly removed her from a Mandalorian spin-off that was supposed to feature her in a starring role (the announcement of her involvement was to have occurred during the Disney Investors Day presentation in December). In other words, she was deemed damaging to the brand before January, most likely because of tweets that were anti-mask, anti-vaccine and supported Trump’s baseless claims about voter fraud.
Compare that with Ratzenberger who, when Trump started spreading misinformation about voting by mail, went on to reprise his Cheers role as Cliff Clavin, a mailman, in a video extolling the virtues of the United States Postal Service.
Carano’s situation is basically a repeat of what Disney experienced three years ago with Roseanne Barr: her politics were not an issue (in fact, her support for Trump was a major part of her show’s marketing), until her increasingly deranged tweets became a liability for the company’s bottom line (Roseanne cast and crew members had already departed the show or were in the process of doing so when the program’s renewal was rescinded and then retooled into a Barr-less spin-off).
Going beyond the issue of specific people, there is also the fact that Hollywood has, historically, always been very conservative. The action genre in particular is inherently right-wing, as it often focuses on an American everyman taking the law into his own hands to defeat (usually) non-American antagonists — basically a Republican’s wet dream.
Case in point: one of the most popular shows on television in the last two decades, 24, called out corruption at the government level, while at the same time devoting large chunks of an entire season (its seventh) to why Jack Bauer should be allowed to continue torturing people who may have valuable information.
And then there’s the superhero genre, which does the same thing on a larger scale and also made the more problematic elements of its status quo — heroes operating without supervision — into plot points.
More often than not, it’s a question of how a film or show functions as an audiovisual construct as opposed to just having a problematic message. To use Bruce Willis as an example, Die Hard is tightly built thriller with a compelling script and a relatable protagonist played by a charismatic actor; conversely, the Death Wish remake is an unimaginative slog with a lethargic central performance, which makes the distasteful elements stand out even more.
Which brings us back to Carano’s deal with Shapiro, whose company recently distributed the thriller Run Hide Fight — easily the worst film I saw in a movie theater last year (it played out of competition at the Venice Film Festival). As Jessica Kiang put it in her review for The Playlist, it’s basically “Die Hard With Attendance”: a school shooting occurs, and one of the students — the daughter of an army veteran — decides to fight back (Guy Lodge’s Variety review offers an equally apt comparison: “Elephant meets The Hunger Games”).
The film is morally reprehensible, as one might expect, but what really brings it down is the shoddy execution (bare minimum script and characterizations, wonky shot composition, terrible editing), which lays bare the questionable soul of a film that doesn’t even bother trying to do something with the incendiary material at hand. That such a film even exists is further proof that, if any producer or studio head thinks there’s a market for it, no idea is deemed too toxic. And, depending on their public persona, no actor is too toxic either. To quote the show Carano won’t be appearing on anymore, this is the way.