How Hollywood and the Media Fueled the Political Rise of J.D. Vance

Accepting the nomination, Mr. Vance attacked “a Democrat party that bends the knee to major American corporations and their woke values, because the Democrats actually agree with those ridiculous values, you know, 42 genders and all the other insanity.”

The fact that a rising star in the Republican Party, which has recently emphasized cultural grievances with the likes of Twitter, CNN and Disney, came to prominence through elite media institutions is not surprising to scholars and cultural critics who have long understood the symbiotic relationship between those ostensible antagonists: the conservative movement and the media-entertainment complex.

“To establish populist bona fides — since they represent economic elites — cultural elites are the ones they can rally against,” said Neil Gross, a professor of sociology at Colby College.

Frank Rich, an essayist, television producer, and former New York Times critic and columnist, said that some of the contemporary Republican Party’s biggest stars — including Mr. Vance, Mr. Trump and Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri — are “the products of elite institutions” whose “constant railing against the elites is just odd, because it’s so disingenuous.”

“Where would Vance be if it hadn’t been for mainstream publishing and book promotion, if it hadn’t been for Ron Howard — an important person in show business who identifies as liberal — and Glenn Close and Netflix?” Mr. Rich asked. “Where would Trump be without NBC Universal, Mark Burnett, the whole showbiz world?”

Kathryn Cramer Brownell, an associate professor of history at Purdue University, situated Mr. Vance in a lineage of figures from the entertainment world who became Republican politicians, including George Murphy, an actor turned senator from California; Ronald Reagan, whose success as a film actor helped him become California governor and president; Arnold Schwarzenegger, another movie star and California governor; and Mr. Trump, a longtime tabloid fixture who gained newfound celebrity during the 2000s as host of the NBC reality competition show “The Apprentice,” created by Mr. Burnett.

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