Why Action Stars Are War-Mongering Republicans

Psychologist Aaron Sell and his team have found a strong correlation between physically formidable action stars and pro-war right wing politics.

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Apr 11 2012, 3:00pm

Experience tells me that most meatheads are of the war hawk probably-Republican persuasion, but does this logic hold for the prime-rib-heads, the meatstars of Hollywood film fame? However much Billy O'Reilly espouses the elitist, liberal cesspit characterization of Hollywood, flickdom has its prominent conservatives. And, according to some new research, there are some clues as to why most of Hollywood's Reagan-lovers are indeed more likely to be sturdy Schwarzeneggers rather than reflective Redfords.

Psychologist Aaron Sell and his team found a strong correlation between physically formidable action stars and pro-war right wing politics, and a similar correlation between physically meeker comedy and drama stars and left-leaning anti-war politics. Though correlation does not necessarily mean causation, Sell et al make the argument that because aggressiveness evolved in men as a tool for so many important physical behaviors – like successful fighting, territorial dominance, and showing off to mates – it makes sense that a muscled, aggressive-looking build would be coupled with a similarly aggressive mental disposition.

Having muscles not only wards off competitors, they also help you manipulate objects with force, say, someone's head with your hands. Furthermore, this line of reasoning contends, aggressive behavioral dispositions could be linked to a penchant for fighting writ large – support for war. So while the biological mechanisms that cause one to be aggressively built and have hawkish international policy views are rather unknown, the connection is there. The team writes:

Physically stronger men have been shown to feel more entitled to better outcomes, to set a lower threshold for the triggering of anger and physical aggression, to have more self-favoring attitudes about income redistribution, and to believe more in the utility of warfare.

Of course, there is no better way of making this point than looking at actors, our species' favorite physical specimens.

Using common aggression predictors like upper body strength and height, and admittedly simplified political data about supporting of wars and party affiliation, Sell found that action stars are, overwhelmingly, war-supporting right wingers.

Chart via Sell and team. Disembodied heads added by the author.

Interestingly, some exceptions actually support the rule:

Consistent with the hypothesis that physical strength is linked to positive views of the utility of warfare, many of the action stars categorized as left-wing were indeed physically less imposing than their right-wing counterparts. For example, Nicholas Cage, Tom Cruise, Pierce Brosnan, and Keanu Reeves are prominent left-wing action stars but do not appear to have the same physiques as Schwarzenegger, Stallone, or Chuck Norris.

That right there is the difference between James Bond and The Terminator. Bond is quick, cunning, and has some suspiciously liberal-dude tastes (martinis), and The Terminator is a robotic war machine who clearly voted for McCain and "dhat hot cheek vif glassez." God forbid The Terminator ever has political power.

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