Universal Pictures canceled the release of The Hunt, one day after Donald Trump ripped Hollywood as “racist” in a week of national anger following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
Though Trump did not specifically mention The Hunt, Universal had already put marketing for the Sept. 27 film on hold. The Hunt is a satirical thriller, in which a dozen strangers — called “deplorables” — are hunted by wealthy elites. They fight back against their antagonists; trailers that did air showed stars Betty Gilpin and Ike Barinholtz with assault rifles and handguns.
“After thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film,” Universal said in a statement. Variety reports that Universal and the filmmakers came to a mutual agreement to shelve the film.
In El Paso on Aug. 3, a 21-year-old white nationalist killed 22 people and injured 24 more in an attack on a Walmart store that morning. The next day, a 24-year-old self-described leftist and antifa supporter killed 10 people; a total of 27 were hurt after a gun battle between police and the perpetrator.
Recriminations over which political partisans are to blame for what shootings are only one component of an ongoing wave of anger, much of it aired in social media and by public figures in statements and interviews. Trump’s remarks about Hollywood have also come after he has gone after several Congressional members of color (all Democrats) and surrogates have said inflammatory things about white supremacy on opinion broadcasts.
The El Paso attack was said to be inspired by the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand in March, which involved a white supremacist manifesto being published on 8chan. That dragged 8chan into the public eye once more, and an unrelated controversy got Mitch McConnell’s campaign Twitter account suspended, further enraging conservatives and Republicans.
Trump’s remarks on Friday were part of a long-running grudge that holds Republicans are treated unfairly in social media and the media at large. He also scapegoated video games in a speech on Monday. The Hunt’s characterization of the rural prey as “deplorables” was also, clearly, a problem for Universal. Hillary Clinton referred to Trump supporters as “a basket of deplorables” during the 2016 campaign.