top of page

Spectrum Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Trigger Warning: Slight Mentions of Blood and Gore

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....” Sound familiar? These famous words belong to the pop culture sensation, ‘Star Wars’, and were first introduced to the world with the release of the movie ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ in 1977. But undoubtedly, the world’s come a long way since then. Pop culture is not only bigger than ever, it is now an elaborate and stealthily growing game of politics. It has been used as a symbol for liberalism, revolution and hope, the same hope that all rebellions are built on. But like any other act of domination, this polarisation in attitude sparked conflict as well, leading to the counterstrike that can be observed during the years of the Trump Administration in the United States of America. Was it the winning move the conservationists devised it to be? Here to answer all your questions and more is Perspectoverse’s Anvita Tripathi.


One of the fundamental conflicts that drives the Republican Party of the United States of America is its simultaneous hatred and desire to be a part of popular pop culture, which they believe has slipped irrevocably out of their hands. The entertainment business, at least in public, takes liberal positions, and it will continue to do so regardless of how much control the right has over every other aspect of our life. Conservatives are enraged that this one centre of power is still off-limits, and as a result, a disproportionate amount of conservative rage is aimed towards the politically weak but loud liberal celebrities, as well as the news institutions that cover them.

To elaborate further, ever since the election of Donald Trump, who is both more unpopular with celebrities and more personally interested with their opinions than any president since celebrities were established, this fear has grown to be even more severe. Trump's proclivity for picking altercations with fashion editors and the co-hosts of the American Talk Show, ‘The View’, was a great match for a Republican base obsessed with the opinions of an Emmy Award winning comic Kathy Griffin, who had made her unapproving views on Trump very clear by posting a picture of her holding a gory, bloody and severed head of former President Trump by its hair on her social media. Given that she was previously very much in support during the early months of the Trump administration, Trump was greatly upset by his old celebrity buddies freezing him out since after 2016, as his fans, too observed the once apolitical actors and singers come out as vehemently anti-Trump.

The conservative list of concerns includes the liberal bias of award ceremonies, which is approximately on par with impoverished people receiving health care and gender-neutral restrooms. Trump, who has been enraged by the Academy Awards' poor ratings since 2013, has brought even more attention to the apparently scourging issue of openly liberal celebrities receiving awards by retaliating against any star who dares to criticise him. The pundits also attack award events for being self-congratulatory, with Sean Hannity describing the 2018 Oscars as "the peak of Hollywood self-praise." This anti-wealth, ostentatiousness, and self-promotion is very selective; pro sportsmen and liberal actresses are constantly targeted, but the president and Kanye West, now that he is campaigning for the right, are suspiciously coincidental exceptions.

This is the background in which the Fox News team created The Patriot Awards, branded the "Oscars of What Really Matters" and broadcast live during November, 2019 on the FOX Nation streaming service from St. Petersburg, Florida.

“By the way, when are we going to have an awards show for carpenters and doctors who save lives and nurses and people who do plumbing and heating and make our lives better every day, and truck drivers who bring us all the food and materials we need?” Sean Hannity, a radically rightist American talk show host, asked during a rant about the 2017 Emmy Awards. “Is there ever an award show for them?”

This is the type of concept that would be best suited for a bumper sticker. The Patriot Awards were presented for the first time by Fox News weekend co-anchor Pete Hegseth. And to top it all off, the stars of the programme were the Fox anchors, who did not shy away from plugging their own shows when introducing prize winners. The crowd didn't seem to mind; one attendee was reported as stating, "I simply want to meet the Fox hosts in person because I watch them every day and they're my family," in a press release on the Fox News website. However, the rest of the nation had other thoughts as soon after the airing of the show, articles about overly politicized and justifiably rigged award show started rolling in which not only described the failures of the show, but also how there was not even an attempt to mask its clear political affiliation .

The crowd was compelled to stand for the National Anthem before the show began, a gesture that has taken on added partisan meaning for conservatives since the initial kneeling of Colin Kaepernick, the American Civil Rights activist and former football quarterback, in 2016. Kaya Jones, a frequent Fox News guest whose claim to fame is that she was once a backup vocalist in the Pussycat Dolls but departed before they released their debut album in 2005, sang the song. It’s interesting to note that Jones reappeared in 2016 on Sean Hannity’s The Sean Hannity Show as a vocal supporter of Trump and later on Twitter and Instagram, and he quickly established himself as a regular on Hannity's show.

The Patriot Award is a flimsy-looking metal flag on a stand in appearance. It's more difficult to determine what it implies. The categories are unclear, and the criteria are broad (Patriot Award for Service to Veterans, Most Valuable Patriot, Patriot Award for First Responders, Patriot Award for the Unsung Hero, The Most Patriotic Sportsman, and the Ultimate Patriot Award). Sergeant Rob Jones, a double-amputee veteran who runs marathons for charity, won the Patriot Award; this is the kind of honourable activity that one would expect to be recognised here, but it should be mentioned as it is absolutely riveting that Jones was running for Congress as a Republican.

Conservatives want not just to maintain all of the worst excesses of these forms in parallel versions of Entertainment Tonight and the Academy Awards, but to amplify them. The apparent conclusion is that right-wing hostility against mainstream culture derives primarily from a belief that they, not the great Other, should be pandered to endlessly.

To conclude, after years of leftist growth and populism, the right-winged, traditionalist and orthodox side of the spectrum knows how much of a prized possession the left’s domination over popular culture is. And of course, it’s aware of how much of an imprint it can leave on the common Joe. And so the Empire did what it does best: gather the blasters, yet shoot yards away from the target, as its attempts to take back this sector miserably failed. As for why, the variances between clearly liberal pop culture broadcasts and their explicitly conservative counterparts isn't in the quantity of political substance, smugness, wealth of the hosts, or how often they pander to the audience with applause lines - it's in who the applause lines are crafted for. It’s the idea of who the jokes plan to punch up, and who is punched down. Shall it have to be the people, a community of regular workers striving to put a roof above their heads or shall it be the privileged and noble, who are tucked away in oblivion of their responsibility to ensure equal opportunity?

The right question makes all the difference.

Written by Anvita Tripathi

Illustrated by Anushka Doshi


75 views4 comments

Recent Posts

See All
Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page