Culture Clips: The Hunt for the Truth

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A swath of horrific violence across the United States may have claimed another victim—albeit one few families will weep over: The Hunt.

The Universal Pictures movie, which (according to its trailer) depicts a wealthy group of elitists literally hunting down and killing people called “deplorables,” was shelved Aug. 10, with a Universal spokesman saying in a statement that “now is not the right time to release this film.”

Universal didn’t pin its decision on any particular reason, though some speculate that this bloody movie—released on the heels of the shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas—just felt in particularly poor taste. “In the wake of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, any film that serves up, as megaplex escapism, the spectacle of Americans ritually shooting other Americans feels like the wrong movie at the wrong time,” writes Variety’s Owen Gleiberman. But the decision also came after political backlash against the film, too—backlash alleging  that The Hunt was literally taking aim at Red State America.

Was it? Todd Starnes of Fox News celebrated The Hunt’s cancellation, calling it a “victory for gun-toting, Bible-clinging patriots.” But the conservative National Review had a different take: Kyle Smith blamed the cancellation on the failure of some conservatives to understand irony and pushed for the film to be released anyway. “The Right ought to make it clear that we are not only not offended by the premise of The Hunt, we’re delighted,” he wrote. The Atlantic, meanwhile simply noted that the movie—even though no one has actually seen the thing yet—became something of a “political Rorschach test.” The magazine’s David Sims added this:

But if its release was canceled only because of the very real gun violence plaguing America, why isn’t a movie like Angel Has Fallen, distributed by Lionsgate and overflowing with brutality, also being pulled? That film is the third in a series that has been criticized in the past for its crass, button-pushing politics, for portraying Korean and Pakistani terrorists as one-dimensional psychopaths for its hero (Gerard Butler) to destroy.

(Perhaps if bloodshed is the problem, people might want to stop seeing movies and play a videogame, given that lots of game publishers are increasingly gravitating toward pacifistic experiences.)

Universal’s not the only movie studio mothballing movies. Since Disney merged with Fox, the House of Mouse has taken scissors to the 246 movies that Fox had listed on its forthcoming docket and sliced away all but six. (Sayonara, Assassin’s Creed 2. Farewell, Flash Gordon. See you later,um, Play-Doh pic.)

But if Disney is hacking away at its newest division’s movie slate, it’s all in on its upcoming streaming service, Disney+. Disney is already trumpeting its planned slate of Marvel-based shows (and yes, there are a lot of them), and plans to reboot (as Disney is wont to do) a bevy of classic movies for the service, including Home Alone. (Original Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin has some thoughts on that.) Oh, and Disney says says that it’s creating a streaming bundle with Hulu and ESPN+ for $13 a month.

Not to be outdone, Apple is trying to drum up interest in its own upcoming streaming service (perhaps a bit uncreatively called Apple TV+) by releasing a trailer for its upcoming drama The Morning Show. The show stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, so yeah, it’ll probably be a big thing. Meanwhile, streaming services are getting ready to bid for the rights to stream Seinfeld, one of Netflix’s most popular series. The price tag could be massive: NBCUniversal got rights to stream The Office for $500 million, and WarnerMedia plunked down $425 million for Friends. (And for those really hankering for another Friends fix, they can always go to the local multiplex: In honor of the show’s 25th anniversary, more than 1,000 theaters across the country will be airing what amount to big-screen reruns.)

Naturally, pundits are predicting that Disney and its fellow new streamers will pretty much squash Netflix, despite Netflix’s head start and bevy of original content. But others believe that Netflix may survive the onslaught of competition. They just won’t be able to raise their rates as much anymore.

Where are teens learning about this (ahem) stream of new shows? Potentially YouTube. That’s where teens are getting a lot of their news these days,  especially from celebrities who appear on the service. And that’s even though that less than 40% of those same teens believe that those same celebs and influencers “generally (get) the facts straight.”

YouTube and other forms of social media cause loads of other problems, too. Daniel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal’s  deputy editorial board editor, argues that social media and the internet as a whole push us to be self-absorbed. And because we’re not designed to be “so inner-directed,” he writes, that leads to a lot of angst.

“Forget alt-right, forget alt-left, that world online is an alternative reality,” he wrote. And that alternative reality is a hard habit to break—harder than an addiction to cigarettes is, experts say Oh, and if that wasn’t alarming enough, kids’ screen habits are forcing more of them into glasses.

Clearly, the entertainment/streaming world could use a good housecleaning. And guess what? It’s getting it—if somewhat more literally than we’d anticipated.

The latest YouTube stars are folks who record themselves cleaning their homes. That’s right: They vacuum their floors and scrub their kitchens as thousands—sometimes millions—watch. And these new internet stars, called “cleanfluencers” by The Atlantic, are seriously cleaning up. One says she was able to purchase a 4,500-square-foot house based on her YouTube income.

All the more house to clean for her audience, I suppose.