This weekend, the Senate passed the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military. The Senate decision suggests an increased acceptance of homosexuals, particularly from Republican members who are known for opposing gay marriage. Politics Daily's Walter Shapiro points out that social issues such as gay marriage and repealing DADT, as well as legalizing marijuana--another issue that has gained recent popularity--are not usually high on the agendas of Washington lobbyists or even the politicians who support them. This leads him to propose that Hollywood, not Washington, is responsible for influencing the public's attitudes and creating greater acceptance of these key social issues. "An obvious guess is that these positions correspond with the world view of the entertainment industry. Whether it is gay rights, sexual permissiveness or just-say-yes attitudes on recreational drugs, Hollywood has long been at the barricades," Shapiro writes.
Matt Lewis, another Politics Daily writer, agrees with Shapiro's theory. "For decades now, Hollywood has introduced American families to gay characters. There is little doubt this contributed to changing attitudes toward homosexuals," he notes. Lewis cites George Bush's 2004 campaign strategy of airing close to five hundred commercials during the television program Will & Grace as an example of this influence. The campaign's research had found Republicans, young Republican women in particular, were fans of the show with two gay main characters. "It should be noted that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' would not have passed without the support of Republican senators," Lewis concludes. "Clearly Hollywood (as well as the music industry) has played a part in changing attitudes on a bipartisan level."
Obama is enjoying some unusually good press right now. But did Hollywood win this one for him?