Race + Entertainment
Hollywood’s Liberalism Doesn’t Match Its Actions on Race
The lasting impact entertainment has on society
The entertainment industry is known for its cadre of liberal actors.
Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, Sean Penn, George Clooney, Sarah Silverman, and other mega stars are well known for their activism and support for liberal causes and candidates. I, for one, welcome it.
Even years ago, the likes of Paul Newman, Charlie Chaplin, Kirk Douglas, Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Warren Beatty, and many others were strong advocates of a variety of important liberal causes.
Scores of top celebrities spoke out against former President Donald Trump’s nastiness, misogyny, and racism: Jimmy Kimmel, Meryl Streep, Cher, Chelsea Handler, John Legend, Lady Gaga, Samuel L. Jackson, Bette Midler, Robert De Niro, Miley Cyrus, LeBron James, Ben Stiller, and Madonna were the tip of the iceberg. I’ll pass on mentioning Kim Kardashian so we don’t get sidetracked.
At award shows like the Golden Globes, it’s become the norm for speeches to mention racial justice, LGBTQ rights, climate change, equality for women, and other human rights.
There have been a few exceptions. Matthew McConaughey, Clint Eastwood, and Arnold Schwarzenegger come to mind. But we all know these and a few others are the lone conservatives in a sea of left-wingers in Hollywood.
You would think, then, that entertainment would lead the charge in promoting a racially fair and just world. It would seem natural for these empathetic creators of our movies, cartoons, television shows, and fictional heroes to represent race and ethnicity fairly.
Yet the opposite is true.
Since the film industry’s birth in the early 1900s, sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen writes in her book, Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism, racism in film has come in many forms; including how certain races are excluded from jobs and are often put in racially stereotyped roles. Disney even started warning viewers in 2020 that some of its classic movies contained lots of racism. Dumbo (1941) features a crow named Jim Crow. Yeah, hilarious.