Conservatives (and President Donald Trump) may have made a mistake in launching a cancel campaign against the social satire film, "The Hunt," with recent reports indicating that the movie would have portrayed the deplorables from flyover country in a fairly nuanced light.
Earlier this month, in the wake of the horrible shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, controversy swirled around "The Hunt" when it was revealed that the movie's plot would focus on liberal elites hunting down Trump supporters for fun. Fearing that the film would stoke the flames of political hatred and lead to more gun violence, NBC pulled several ads for "The Hunt" from TV and eventually decided to delay the film's release. Though the plot description sounded grotesque on paper, the trailer indicated something more nuanced by actually depicting the Trump supporters as heroes. Speaking with Variety, director Craig Zobel indeed confirmed that the movie offers more than meets the eye.
"If I believed this film could incite violence, I wouldn't have made it," Zobel told Variety, noting the movie satirizes both political parties. "Our ambition was to poke at both sides of the aisle equally. We seek to entertain and unify, not enrage and divide. It is up to the viewers to decide what their takeaway will be."
Though the film's depiction of gun violence rubbed some people on social media the wrong way, the most vocal critics against the film were conservatives, who believed "The Hunt" would be some "liberal fantasy." Trump fueled the flames to this cancel campaign when he publicly weighed in.
"Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate!" President Trump tweeted at the time. "They like to call themselves 'Elite,' but they are not Elite. In fact, it is often the people that they so strongly oppose that are actually the Elite. The movie coming out is made in order to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!"
Conservative commentator Mark Steyn simultaneously referred to the film as a "liberal tweetstorm fantasy taken to the next level."
In a bizarre twist of dramatic irony, the cancel campaign only served to underline the film's message, which Zobel said was about political opponents failing to communicate and listen properly.
"I wanted to make a fun, action thriller that satirized this moment in our culture — where we jump to assume we know someone's beliefs because of which 'team' we think they're on … and then start shouting at them," he wrote. "This rush to judgment is one of the most relevant problems of our time."
Despite all that, however, Zobel agreed with the studio's decision to delay the film out of respect for the gun massacres.
"I was devastated by going to sleep to El Paso and waking up to Dayton," he wrote. "These types of moments happen far too often. In the wake of these horrific events, we immediately considered what it meant for the timing of our film. Once inaccurate assumptions about the content and intent of the movie began to take hold, I supported the decision to move the film off its release date."
When the movie finally hits theaters, Zobel hopes that it will teach people to calm their political bigotry and listen to the other side for a moment. "My hope would be that people will reflect on why we are in this moment, where we don’t have any desire to listen to each other," he said. "And if I'm lucky some of us will ask each other: how did we get here? And where do we want to go moving forward?"