There’s a long standing cliche that there’s no such thing as ‘bad’ publicity. So long as people are talking about you, you’ve made it. If that’s the case then the creators of Hollywood on Netflix must be ecstatic.
Many reviews have ripped into the miniseries, accusing it of whitewashing and even pink washing the history of Tinseltown. They’ve called it dishonest and an insult to all the marginalised industry players who have suffered under the yolk of megalomaniac studio heads, and mainstream audiences who only want to see wholesome white heterosexuals in the movies they watch.
What a load of bollocks.
Hollywood is not a documentary series. It’s a fantasy soap opera from the people who dreamed up Glee for goodness sake. Glee wasn’t a fly on the wall reality series. It was a singing and dancing daydream about misfits determined to follow their dreams.
Hollywood is the grownup version, an alternative historical narrative about what the real Hollywood could and perhaps should have been. A place where talent is recognised no matter where it springs from. Where all human beings are treated with respect and dignity, and that the films themselves reflect back the true nature of society with all its multifaceted elements.
And in an age when Dr Who can be played by a woman, and Hermione Granger can be black, why not a depiction of Hollywood that gives equal weight to all the colours of the rainbow.
Hollywood the industry is supposedly about dreams. We all know it’s actually about money and power, but the idea of the ‘dream’ persists and it’s a very powerful one. How many stories, books, films etc are populated by outsiders who take on the establishment and win?
I wonder if all the borax being thrown at Hollywood is actually based on internalised prejudice? No, no, no say the critics – we want all depictions of black people or gays or women from that era to maintain the stereotypes. We want to see them suffer.
Well, Hollywood actually does show the prejudice. It embraces it and shows quite clearly who has that power and who is oppressed by it. Then, it does something rather clever. It shows change. It shows people standing up to the bullies and the bigots.
And most importantly is shows what happens when you create content that actually reflects society – people want to see it. That in a nutshell was the problem with the old tightly managed system, it kept reproducing stories that reinforced a very two dimensional view of society that hd never truly existed. Despite a lot more diversity, the film industry still reproduces that view.
I described Hollywood as a soap opera, and I stand by that, but it is actually a lot more because of the excellent cast and the very strong writing in many scenes. It can sometimes be a bit cheesy and predictable, but also touching and emotionally intense.
Throughout the history of film homosexual, and black characters were on the margins. The queers were either insane murderers or mentally tortured individuals who ended up committing suicide. Black people were often portrayed as loyal servants or dangerous criminals.
In Hollywood the black and gay characters are right at the heart of the stories and they are the ones who actually provide the most interesting elements. In the beginning they are powerless but over time, they courageously demand their equal place in society.
But this isn’t just a feel good story. Hollywood actually wrings out the internal agony of these characters and the cast deliver the goods superbly. No one watching Jim Parsons playing a fictionalised version of agent to the stars Henry Willson could doubt the intensity of Willson’s internalised homophobia. The man is just horrible, but in some extraordinarily powerful scenes we see the fragility and the oppression that has warped this man into being the sexual predator and awful human being his is.
None of it excuses his behaviour, nor does it lay the blame of his offending on that oppression, but it gives an insight into how a warped and toxic environment can give birth to toxicity further down the food chain.
On the positive side, their are decent people who have not let that toxicity harm them – rather they turn against it and courageously challenge the hierarchy and gain self-respect in the process.
Hollywood exposes the hypocrisy of the elites, the corruption in the police and the cruelty and bullying behaviours that result from that.
What it offers in its place is an alternative dream. One where courage and cooperation and respect changes the industry and the world.
If the real Hollywood is all about dreams, then Hollywood is a dream come true.