|Things are getting weird in Donald Trump’s Hollywood.
And it is Donald Trump’s Hollywood, because the shadow of this Presidency is starting to fall everywhere upon it: whether, in whispers and rumors, or in major plays to keep on the right side of or ahead of an administration that wishes nothing good to the industry at large.
While talent may pose as The Resistance, this is certainly not a fight the corporate overlords would have chosen. At a time when the poohbahs are trying to claw out a future for Hollywood, trouble from Washington is the last thing they want.
Trump didn’t bring about this moment of total insecurity for Hollywood. It’s not because of Donald Trump that the streaming onslaught began, that Harvey Weinstein was exposed, that movie marketing costs are exploding through the stratosphere.
But add to that a new element of instability and uncertainty, and you have Donald Trump’s Hollywood, in a bottle.
Here are the ingredients that brought about this moment:
1. The entertainment industry is at an extremely volatile crossroads. It’s at a moment when it is trying to reshape itself, an operation that is reliant to some extent on government acquiescence.
2. A President with a volatile history with Hollywood, both as an entertainer himself and as the subject of commentary from arms of the industry.
3. A President who is either not above using his administration to settle scores with the industry, or not above letting people believe he’ll use his administration to settle scores with the industry.
4. A lot of people acting very squirrelly and strange about issues touching on the administration, Washington, and government interference
5. One company that sits outside all this, Netflix, gleefully cackling on the sidelines and grabbing up the spoils that fall off the wagon.
So much of this stuff happens in shadowy, twilight Star Chambers that the dots are not quite connectable without subpoena power.
But if we can’t quite connect the dots, we can put them down on the board, and right now the Hollywood skies are ablaze with constellations. So let’s dot them out and leave it to others to decide whether they look like an archer or a big bear or a city so freaked out that it’s stampeding itself into very questionable territory in regard to a Presidential administration with a big chip on its shoulder.
For your consideration, some dots:
- In the very early run-up to the Great Entertainment Semi-Finals, The Telephone People of AT&T plan to purchase Time-Warner in hope of fielding a credible team. En route to approval, they mock the idea that there will be anti-trust issues, ignoring Trump’s statements during the Presidential campaign that he sees anti-trust issues.
- The Telephone People proceed apace. Time Warner’s news channel, CNN, postures itself as Trump’s leading TV antagonist.
- Upon taking office, The Trump Administration announces anti-trust action to block the acquisition.
- Rupert Murdoch, perhaps the one man Trump holds in awe, positions his news network as a slavish defender of the administration.
- Despite the precedent unfolding with AT&T/Time Warner, Murdoch plots his own sale and proceeds as though there isn’t a problem in the world.
- Disney’s Robert Iger, would-be future Democratic Presidential standard bearer, joins with Murdoch and proceeds as though this is a move forward for his company and not a path to spending years tied up in court.
- Disney’s ABC pulls a “politically themed” episode of its celebrated sitcom, Blackish. The episode, I’m told, dealt heavily with Trump-related topics.
- Disney’s ABC scores an out-of-the-park homer with its Roseanne reboot, America’s only Trump-friendly or at least Trump-agnostic sitcom.
- Alongside the rebooted American Idol, ABC’s entire profile shifts to the Middle American, family-friendly network.
- Donald Trump attacks one of Hollywood’s new streaming encroachers, Amazon. Amazon’s stock tanks.
- Unlike cable networks, which can nestle in a little resistance niche of a few million people, Amazon’s business model is to become the only business on Earth, selling everything to everybody. When that’s your plan, you can’t really afford to piss off anyone, not 30 percent of America, not three percent.
- The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, someone the Trump administration seems very eager to curry good relations with, invests $300 million in a talent agency run by Donald Trump’s ex-agent, for reasons TB Clear down the road.
- Disney’s ABC frontman, Jimmy Kimmel, in late transition from Man Show Juggy Girls impresario to Conscience of the Resistance, after delivering a largerly Trump-free Oscarcast on Disney’s ABC, gets into a spat with Trump/Fox henchman Sean Hannity.
- After an interval, Kimmel tweets an apology.
- Blackish creator Kenya Barris lets it be known he is trying to get released from his contract to go to Netflix, potentially following the paths of Shonda Rimes and Ryan Murphy, both of whom left Disney + Fox for Netflix.
- Comcast waits in the wings for the results of the AT&T trial. Unclear whether the owners of MSNBC would fare any better at this than the owners of CNN. Sony, Paramount, Lions Gate, MGM, STX, Annapurna, you name it, all considering what sort of new alliances they might become part of, gaze on and take note.
Again, maybe all this adds up to a lot of huffing and puffing and there’s no organized plan behind a bit of it. I’m open to that. But there are still enough dots on the board to suggest that in the midst of all the other forces of chaos pulling us into the whirlwind, there is a Trump factor at play here, around which people are stepping carefully, or manipulating to their advantage, and the cumulative affect is skewing the landscape in not-insignificant ways.