From Portside Culture <[email protected]>
Subject Netflix’s ‘Hollywood’: Ambitious Love Letter to A Tainted Industry
Date May 11, 2020 12:10 AM
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[Hollywood on Netflix serves as a love letter speaking to what
the future may hold through a bold retelling of the past and what
could have been.] [[link removed]]

PORTSIDE CULTURE

NETFLIX’S ‘HOLLYWOOD’: AMBITIOUS LOVE LETTER TO A TAINTED
INDUSTRY  
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Chauncey K. Robinson
April 29, 2020
People's World
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_ Hollywood on Netflix serves as a love letter speaking to what the
future may hold through a bold retelling of the past and what could
have been. _

Laura Harrier and Darren Criss in HOLLYWOOD., Courtesy Netflix

 

_“Movies don’t just show us how the world is, they show us how the
world can be.”_ – Hollywood

The film and television industry is a complex terrain. Creative
workers come together in order to produce stories that can be
reflections of the time they live in, the world they wish to live in,
or the world they hope never comes to be. Movie magic can happen, but
it often comes at a high price for those pursuing a life of cinematic
narratives. A recent report showed that only 2% of actors can make a
living solely through their craft
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that doesn’t stop thousands upon thousands of hopefuls from flocking
to the film epicenter that is Hollywood, California, looking for their
chance to be on the big screen. Netflix’s new limited
series _Hollywood_ serves as a homage to the history of Tinseltown,
managing to sprinkle in hope of what can still be while airing the
dirty laundry of what was (and possibly still is) when it comes to
discrimination, inequality, and labor exploitation.

_Hollywood_ is executive produced by co-creators Ryan Murphy
(_American Horror Story_) and Ian Brennan (_Scream Queens_), along
with Alexis Martin Woodall (_The People v. O. J. Simpson: American
Crime Story_) and Janet Mock (_Pose_), who also serves as a writer and
a director. The cast includes David Corenswet (_The Politician_),
Darren Criss (_American Crime Story_), Laura Harrier (_Spiderman:
Homecoming_), Samara Weaving (_Ready or Not_), Jim Parsons (_The Big
Bang Theory_), and a whole host of familiar faces mixed with
newcomers.

The series follows a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers in
post-World War II Hollywood as they try to make it in Los Angeles.
Over the course of seven episodes, each close to an hour long, the
main characters offer a look behind the curtain of what is considered
Hollywood’s Golden Age. This includes placing a spotlight on
discriminatory practices and biases across race, gender, and
sexuality. _Hollywood _has a good amount of comedic moments
interlaced with melodrama that clearly aspires to paint a bigger
picture of an imperfect industry with imperfect people that has so
much influence in society. The writers’ aim is pretty good as the
manage to hit the mark on many of their intended subject targets.

Subversion is definitely the name of the narrative game when it comes
to the series. The normal tropes you’re used to when it comes to
plotlines and a focus on characters who are given central stage—none
of these apply when it comes to _Hollywood_. The program makes it
known in the very first episode that it won’t be following the plot
formula viewers are familiar with (and perhaps tired of) in mainstream
film and television. This series is about exploring the bold _what
if_ even in a time when discrimination was much more pronounced (and
legal) than what we witness today.

Could a Black gay man become the head writer of a major studio film?
Could a woman of color have a real shot at being the lead actress?
What if a film that didn’t follow the status quo was given the
resources and support to be a potential triumph instead of a tragedy?
Many of these questions are seen as milestones even by today’s
standards as the entertainment industry still falls behind the curve
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it comes to diversity. _Hollywood_ places these puzzle pieces in the
late 1940s, and it makes for an imaginative rollercoaster ride to
discover whether the series will follow through on its bold choices or
do a bait-and-switch and settle back into “safe” plot devices.

Many of the plotlines put a focus on groups that have often had a
history of being marginalized in not only entertainment but society as
a whole. Discrimination towards homosexuality is a major theme in the
series. This, of course, is not purely imaginative as there have been
plenty of stories about classic Hollywood stars and starlets who had
to hide their sexual orientation
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order to pursue their careers in film. The famous American actor Rock
Hudson, whose career spanned decades, had much talk around his
sexuality, although it was never confirmed until his death due to AIDS
in 1985. Hudson is one of the main characters in _Hollywood_, played
endearingly by Jake Picking, and the series chooses an interesting way
to tell (or re-tell) his story as it is interwoven in the fictional
plot.

This highlights another engaging aspect of the
series. _Hollywood_ brings in actual historical figures in a major
way within their new story. Because of this, and the _what if _angle
of reshaping Tinseltown’s history, even those who consider
themselves classic Hollywood history buffs will be at a loss to know
how the series will play out even for the real-life characters.
Liberties are taken with history but very clearly for a purpose.

_Jeremy Pope and Darren Criss in HOLLYWOOD. | Courtesy Netflix_

Issues of race and racial discrimination also come into play. Laura
Harrier gives a vulnerable performance as the young Black actress
Camille trying to play a role other than the hired help. While
Broadway actor Jeremy Pope treats viewers to a star-making performance
as the young Black gay man Archie, who wishes to show the world he has
what it takes to be a writer. Darren Criss takes on a role that
addresses the idea of racial passing
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the half-Asian director Raymond.

A great choice by the series is adding real-life icons, women of
color, who actually endured the minefield of attempting to establish a
career in a white-dominated arena filled with stereotypes and glass
ceilings. If nothing else, hopefully, the series will entice viewers
to find out more about Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American movie
star, who appears in the show with a scene-stealing performance by
Michelle Krusiec.

Other topics briefly touched upon are sex work, anti-Semitism, sexism,
and sexual harassment. There’s a lot there. _Hollywood_ has a lot
to say because the real Hollywood, and the entertainment industry in
general, has yet to fully tackle much of what the series attempts to
“rectify.” This show is ambitious, and some will inevitably
complain that it is overly preachy and not subtle in its messaging.

Is it preachy? Perhaps. Is the message that discrimination based on
race and sexual orientation is wrong overt? Yes. Is that a bad thing
that makes this series less entertaining and engaging? No.

It is not a perfect series. Some of the dramatic moments and character
turns feel a bit rushed. Some of the plots are squared away just a
little too easily. Then again, it is clear that this series isn’t
trying to make the hardships the centerpiece of the story, but the
triumphs. At a time when so-called “edgy” storytelling relies so
heavily on tragic figures and miserable endings for the sake of
“realism,” _Hollywood’s _attempt to give a little glimmer of
joy is a breath of fresh air. The pretty and vibrant vintage aesthetic
doesn’t hurt either.

In a time when a pandemic has thrown the entertainment industry, and
society as we know it, into uncertainty, _Hollywood _serves as a
love letter speaking to what the future may hold through a bold
retelling of the past and what could have been.

_Hollywood _is available on Netflix May 1, 2020_. _The trailer can
be seen here [[link removed]].

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CONTRIBUTOR

[Chauncey K. Robinson]
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Chauncey K. Robinson
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Chauncey K. Robinson believes that writing and media, in any capacity,
should help to reflect the world around us, and be tools to help bring
about progressive change. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she
has a strong belief in people power and strength. She is the Social
Media Editor for People's World, along with being a journalist for the
award winning publication. She’s a self professed geek and lover of
pop culture. Chauncey seeks to make sure topics that affect working
class people, peoples of color, and women are constantly in the
spotlight and part of the discussion.

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