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As Sony analyzes the disastrous box-office performance of White House Down, one interest group is celebrating the studio’s pain: conservative commentators who have been attacking the film as thinly disguised left-wing propaganda. Some, in fact, have been encouraging their audiences to boycott the movie, which stars Jamie Foxx as a liberal president under attack from pro-military types who object to the commander-in-chief’s plan to withdraw troops from the Middle East.
“If you spend one damn cent on this crap, you’re spitting on our troops,” wrote Kurt Schlichter at Townhall.com on Monday. “Repeat after me, conservatives: Not one damn cent.”
Schlichter, a veteran of Desert Storm and the NATO Kosovo campaign of the 1990s, reminded readers that Foxx once compared President Barack Obama to Jesus. He wrote that White House Down is evidence that, “In the eyes of Hollywood, the military is an all-white, all-male organization so dedicated to unfocused imperialism that it is willing to commit mass murder of fellow Americans for the chance to die in some Middle East hellhole.”
The political right also has been excoriating director Roland Emmerich, who, according to Breitbart.com’s Christian Toto, is known for “dumping ideological sludge atop his bloated disaster films.” He also called it “unrelenting liberal propaganda.”
Nonpartisan analysts offered a variety of reasons for the film’s poor showing at the box office: A plot very similar to Olympus Has Fallen, which opened March 22 and earned $161 million worldwide (since its opening last Friday, White House Down, which cost $150 million to produce, has earned $32 million worldwide). And there is no shortage of male-skewing action films currently playing, including World War Z and Man of Steel.
Sony Pictures did not respond to requests for comment.
Despite his conservative detractors, Emmerich has a solid track record at the box office. His summer 2004 film The Day After Tomorrow opened to $68.7 million despite similarly being excoriated by conservatives for its plot revolving around global climate change. And Independence Day, which also portrayed the violent destruction of the White House, opened at $50.2 million in July 1996.
Still, one 2011 poll, conducted by polling firm Penn Schoen Berland for The Hollywood Reporter, suggested that as many as 52 percent of Republican moviegoers take the political messages in movies — and even the political leanings of stars — into account before purchasing tickets. And there has been no shortage of conservative media outlets offering vigorous criticism of White House Down as anathema to conservative values.
On Sunday, David Stein at CounterContempt.com wrote that White House Down is “pure, 100 percent Obama porn” — citing a largely unfavorable review by the liberal publication Mother Jones, in which reviewer Asawin Suebsaeng wrote: “Jamie Foxx, Channing Tatum, and the liberals win the day, and the hawkish, Fox News-adoring, reactionary killers wind up either in jail or ripped to shreds by explosives and ammunition. It’s typical Hollywood liberalism with gigantic firearms.”
Suebsaeng dismissed the film as “one enormous pander to the most naive impulses of your average dime-store liberal.”
ConservativeTimes.org wrote that, “fortunately, the movie tanked,” then wrote in a note addressed to Hollywood that conservatives have typically been fans of action movies. “You might want to consider not shoving your Blue sensibilities down their throats if you actually want them to see your movie.”
Then again, as Kenneth Morefield wrote on ChristianityToday.com, Emmerich is probably hoping that politics rather than the quality of White House Down dominates the discussion. Reviews of the film generally were middling to poor.
Which may be the easiest explanation for the film’s poor showing. It is, Morefield wrote, “drearily, predictably bad.”
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