Why This Election is Bad for Hollywood

12/04/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Regardless of who wins Tuesday, Hollywood is in deep trouble. I don't mean that they'll be threatened with censorship of sex and violence from Congress. What I mean is that this election will quite possibly kill the political film as we know it.

There is no way that Hollywood can top what we've been living with every day for the past six months. What wacky stories are left to put into a political film? Seriously, what is left to make up? I know that "truth is stranger than fiction" is the most annoying cliché there is, but this crap is just bizarre. Just look at these pitches:

Wacky comedy in which respected politician plucks anonymous nobody out of the political wilderness and chooses her to be his running mate. That's the Sarah Palin Story. I guess you could have them start sleeping with each other, but that makes for too icky a mental image when tied to reality.

How about a First Black Candidate Movie? It took nearly the entire primary season for the media to say anything else about Obama. Besides, Hollywood's already shot its wad on the idea of the Obama candidacy every which way. You've got the comedy that imagines "What if?" an African-American became President (Head of State), the right wingnut horror film where the Antichrist is elected President (The Omen III), or the psycho-political thriller where a Communist puppet runs for office (The Manchurian Candidate... which has been made twice). I guess you could do the Secret Muslim movie, so long as you don't cast anyone as Mohammed. Of course, the one movie they won't make is the one in which an honorable candidate gets smeared with everything but racism in a covert racist attack. That's too complicated for Hollywood, and since so few people see it in reality, why would they see it in a movie?

Here's another pitch: inspirational comedy about an Average Joe who asks a candidate a question at a rally and suddenly becomes the star of the campaign trail. Joe the Plumber's story proves how dumb of a movie idea this is, and, in a way, it's a good thing it's happening in real life, because the only thing worse than hearing about Joe the Plumber would be hearing about Larry the Cable Guy: Political Inoperative.

How about a really subversive, sinister political drama like this one: Backroom politicos replace the real President with an impostor? We already got that film, and its sequel: it's also known as two terms of the Bush Administration. Plus, they made this movie already too. It was called Dave. And it, unlike the past eight years, was kind of funny. Maybe we should have elected Kevin Kline. At least we would have felt in on the joke.

What this should tell us is not that Hollywood has run out of ideas or that life has somehow trumped the creativity of art but rather that the last few months have been pretty frickin' twisted. Let's face it: if even half of this shit was in a movie, we wouldn't believe it. And yet there are people who, day after day, continue to try and force us to watch these awful films. And they're not even producers.

This is what has happened to the democratic process: politicians and their handlers have gone from trying to reach us with relevant issues to trying to distract us with empty spectacle. It's been said that this election cycle is the ultimate reality show and the hottest show on television. What bothers me is that every time I've heard either of these statements, each has been said without the slightest hint of irony, shame, or anger. The fact that this campaign resembles American Idol should not be a good thing. This is not some reality show. This is not entertainment. This is the fabric of the country, and if we don't recognize these bad movie ideas for what they are, this will be what every election season is like.

We need to end this bad movie now and greenlight the Obama movie. He's the one leading man in this surreal election movie who wouldn't agree to appear in its sequel. If he gets cut out of the movie, then we're stuck with these other ridiculous movie ideas. And if one of these movie ideas becomes a reality, then Hollywood's really going to have its work cut out for itself. It's going to have to make enough films to keep us in the theater so we won't have to watch the bad movie going on all around us.