Prominent figures in the entertainment and politics industries came together on Tuesday at Tommy’s Place to discuss how entertainment affects the political atmosphere of America.
The discussion was part of a weekly series sponsored by the Department of Political Science and was moderated by Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics director Bob Shrum.
Dee Dee Myers, who served as White House Press Secretary under President Bill Clinton, and Jon Macks, a Hollywood writer and producer, spoke on the panel.
The discussion covered how Hollywood and politics intersect, particularly through political television programs such as “The West Wing” and “House of Cards,” and talk shows like Jay Leno’s and John Oliver’s.
Macks spoke about the relationship between news and late-night comedy shows. He said that recently, the relationship has changed in that the premise of the jokes are no longer necessarily factual. Late-night comedy shows have evolved into a “source of humor.”
“In a sense, you could get the news and then you could get the jokes,” Macks said. “Today, people are getting opinions more than they are getting the news.”
The discussion covered how monolithically partisan Hollywood is. Macks said that while she worked at “The Tonight Show,” there were two Republican writers on a staff of 18.
“Creative people are inherently not conservative,” Myers said. “I think that’s part of the reason why communities like Hollywood are more progressive … The creative instinct is to look at things a different way and that’s part of why there isn’t a conservative analogue.”
Shrum said that in 2016, Hillary Clinton campaigned with a string of celebrities, and posed the question about whether it was helpful or hurtful. Myers said it was “mostly hurtful.”
“I don’t think it’s good for the politicians, and it’s generally not good for the celebrities,” Myers said. “They politicize themselves and divide their audiences.”
Myers and Macks both agreed that celebrities’ involvement in causal campaigns can have a beneficial impact instead of a detrimental one. Myers said the effect on celebrities’ image is different for causal campaigns, like the #MeToo movement.
“#MeToo was born in Hollywood and grew out of the behaviors that came out of Hollywood,” Myers said.” For women celebrities to step forward and hold the industry and the system accountable is a little different.”
When discussing the overall impact of Hollywood on American politics, Myers said that Hollywood has a “tremendous impact” on culture, which affects politics.
“There is no question that when you start to see something in your living room it becomes normal,” Myers said. “I think that starts to give people context to start thinking differently about LGBT people [and] colored people who have not necessarily been in their lives. That is very powerful.”