Seth Macfarlane, Steve Levitan, Paul Feig and Judd Apatow have sparked a movement to boycott Fox in protest of Fox News’ coverage of government policies. Should this movement gain traction? What should we do?
In the aftermath of our national realization of the human rights violations occurring to children on the American border, Seth Macfarlane, creator of Family Guy, took the first step in what is becoming a small movement when he said that he was “embarrassed” to work for 21st Century Fox, which owns Fox News and has steadily become more and more controversial:
In other words, don’t think critically, don’t consult multiple news sources, and in general, don’t use your brain. Just blindly obey Fox News. This is fringe shit, and it’s business like this that makes me embarrassed to work for this company. https://t.co/kC7MPYxdgZ
— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) June 16, 2018
A few days later, he was joined by Steve Levitan, creator of Modern Family, who stated that he would not be returning to work for the company after Modern Family is over.
Let me officially join @SethMacFarlane in saying I’m disgusted to work at a company that has anything whatsoever to do with @FoxNews. This bullshit is the opposite of what #ModernFamily stands for. https://t.co/dnvIbgoIyA
— Steve Levitan (@SteveLevitan) June 19, 2018
Fox Studio has been a wonderful home for most of my career – so many amazing people there who share the concerns about @FoxNews but aren’t in the position to speak out.
— Steve Levitan (@SteveLevitan) June 19, 2018
Director Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids and 2016’s Ghostbusters, also expressed his anger at the corporation.
I have made two films for 20th Century Fox and love the people in the movie and TV divisions. But I too cannot condone the support their news division promotes toward the immoral and abusive policies and actions taken by this current administration toward immigrant children. https://t.co/6JqIQPjepV
— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) June 19, 2018
And Judd Apatow, director of The Big Sick, spoke up to say that he has chosen to not work with Fox since 2002, and that Hollywood should speak up. “We all choose who to work with.”
I haven’t worked with Fox since 2002. That family promotes evil ideas and greed and corruption. We all choose who to work with. I understand why that is easier for some than others but many powerful people are powerful enough to speak up to their bosses at a moment like this. https://t.co/8NtsqsR8Xj
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) June 18, 2018
With the political climate we have today — and the new social awareness that comes naturally as a society begins to examine itself — TV shows have surpassed a status of mere entertainment and have come to be seen as what they are: powerful tools both for education and for propaganda.
Shows like The Handmaid’s Tale have been hailed as great examinations of our moment in history, while shows like Brooklyn 99 and One Day at a Time are inclusive comedies that illustrate a standard we aspire to, while analyzing relevant social issues. At the same time, shows like Roseanne are recognized to be harmful portrayals that lift racist voices instead of being constructive.
Various movements by fans this year prompted a new style of decision-making when it comes to television. Roseanne’s cancellation was a statement of the extents racism studios will tolerate, and how fan pressure can remove dangerous mentalities from the big screen. Brooklyn 99’s rescue, on the other hand, was proof that society can mobilize itself to bring back the kind of content we want to see.
Social justice and television have been overlapping for a while, but boycotting Fox is a new step no one has taken so publicly before now. Should this become the next movement that takes over Hollywood?
Should entertainment overlap with politics to this extreme?
Never have movies and films been analyzed so deeply as they are now, especially under the magnifying glass of politics and social justice. Audiences are more and more aware of the messages that the entertainment they consume is trying to spread — and with the added access to the personal opinions of the people involved, these messages become easier to identify.
Many, however, say that entertainment has no place in politics. Entertainment is supposed to be a way to escape the real world; why pollute it with political or ideological disputes? Maybe we’re being hyper-aware and just unwilling to “take a joke.” Maybe the problem is in our holding Hollywood idols to the standards we hold the President.
But it’s important to note that, especially in 2018, entertainment has become the currency of politics. The President of the United States has extensive experience in the world of reality shows. Celebrities are weighing in on important decisions at the White House. Social media has become the channel by which all sides of the political spectrum communicate ideas, gather followings, and even announce new policies and decisions.
We can’t ignore the impact the media we absorb has on our psyche as a culture, on an individual, national or global level. When we are exposed to as many different sources as we are today, it becomes crucial to analyze the intentions behind and the means through which these sources operate — and to what degree we, too, may be complicit in their actions.
Are Fox News and 21st Century Fox really the same thing?
The facts: 21st Century Fox, the multinational mass media corporation, owns 20th Century Fox, the Fox television network, and Fox News, among other things. Although they are all owned by the same corporation, the branches have developed significantly different brands: for example, the Fox TV network happily broadcasts shows like Modern Family, which notoriously feature gay and Latino immigrant characters, while Fox News is outspoken against almost everything the show stands for.
A corporation this big, which has vastly different people involved in each branch, makes it very easy to consider Fox News and everything else as completely separate. This is especially the case since recently, The Walt Disney Company purchased pretty much everything entertainment-related, leaving Fox the network and stations, and the ability to focus more on its news and sports content than its entertainment.
So at what point in the hierarchy can we say that both Fox News and the Fox entertainment we all enjoy are being controlled by the same people?
It’s hard, as a fan, to get a clear-cut image of where the line blurs. But Apatow and Feig have made it clear that they definitely all, eventually, answer to the same people. And no one knows these things better than the directors and showrunners involved.
Pressure in any way is pressure. At some point, the loss of these talented creators and others — should they choose to follow suit — is bound to bother someone who is involved with Fox News and the kinds of things they broadcast. At some point, Disney will get uncomfortable with the association of Fox with their child-friendly, inclusive brand. At some point, this could all unravel, one way or the other… and Apatow may be onto something.
Is this the way to fight back?
Is this extremely complicated, steep hill, the one that we want to die on? If we start doing this to Fox, when does it stop? How do you dismantle a culture of corruption and propaganda when it’s very, very likely that most people in power in the media — not only in Fox! — have a hand in it, in some way?
Waging a battle in the entertainment front of Fox could eventually prove to be meaningless. Or it could be the next #TimesUp movement, except this time a much more political statement that could bring about a purge of Hollywood’s connivers. But Hollywood seems much less equipped to face this dilemma than it was equipped to face #TimesUp — a (for the most part) non-political movement that even the layman could understand.
But in times of desperation, people want to do something. And what better way for those involved in the higher rungs of Hollywood to use their power, than to speak up? They hold much more weight than the average viewer does, and the stances they take on this matter can actually lead to more than to just a “bad press is good press” kind of effect. This is the way they can stand up for something, using their power, and demand more from their industry.
The fact that 21st Century Fox uses different names for its different brands doesn’t mean that we can’t see the convenient money-making scheme their mixed-messaging is. Creators speaking up against the network could finally begin to change things. It could alert 21st Century Fox to the fact that they can no longer keep their brands so separate — to the fact that they either have to raise the standard of their news coverage or pick a side.
What do we do?
The workings of media companies are much more difficult to understand from the perspective of the average viewer. It’s hard to know how the business operates, or what the actors really think when they are bound by contractual agreements. As a fandom, an analysis of shows on Fox and to what degree they are complicit would have to be carried out with lots of care.
It is extremely important of us to do what Apatow was calling his peers in Hollywood to do: look around us, and see what things in our life are coming from dangerous sources. To what degree are we, whether it’s vocally or just by virtue of staying silent, supporting messages we don’t believe in, just because it’s more convenient to do so? At what point does it become impossible to ignore and still have a clean conscience?
As fans, can we call out problematic things in our fandom? Can we take action to change them? Can we make sure that our voices are always being used in a way that is constructive rather than destructive — that lifts the voices of the oppressed, rather than give more power to the corrupt? Can we be compassionate and open-minded in our conversations, but still strong in our convictions of what is morally correct?
It’s up to each person to decide how to approach each question, and if we as an audience should push for Apatow’s movement to become more.
Again, we return to the question: How much power are we giving our idols?
And more importantly: How are we choosing who gets the power?