Created by Ian Brennan and Ryan Murphy, Hollywood provides a satisfying re-imagining of the corrupt world of stardom for the undermined and discriminated.
Hollywood is a mini-series that sees post-world war two filmmakers and actors scrambling their way to stardom, and the corrupt means they must take to make it. The show seems to hit all levels of injustice within the entertainment industry from sexual assault to nepotism, however, is most effective in its exploration of racial representation in U.S. cinema. We initially follow Jack Costello who is arguably the ‘leading man’, however, the most inspiring narrative can be found in Archie Coleman, a screenwriter we watch in awe as he becomes more defiant in his story being heard on and off-screen as a gay black man. Jeremy Pope gives a stellar performance as Archie, his personal charm and growth as well as his representation of creators undermined by their race causing him to dominate any scene he is in. More known for his Broadway work, Pope has certainly secured a future as a film or TV actor should he wish to pursue it.
Intertwining reality with fiction (Rock Hudson being a prominent character throughout the show) enables a hopeful feeling for the future and a re-imagining of how Hollywood and the audience could have responded to diversity on the silver screen. While some may argue that this could undermine the sufferings of the LGBTQ+ community and ethnic minorities, racism and homophobia is certainly not solved within this world but merely recognised for the evil that it is. It should be known that Hollywood is not an easy watch for those unaware of certain figures on the scene in 1940s and 50s U.S. cinema, as while it is possible to view clueless of whose a genuine figure and whose entirely made up, without the knowledge or research the power of their inclusion won’t hit home. The intertwining of fictional characters with genuine figures of the time is particularly powerful as a consequence; Rock Hudson feeling able to come out fearlessly and agent Henry Wilson clearly being exposed for his predatory actions giving us a peek into a more progressive history of Hollywood. Most powerfully, Hattie McDaniel acting as an inspiring mentor for Camille as the first person of colour to win an Oscar for Gone With the Wind yet having to sit at a segregated table providing a triumphant watch acknowledging the suffering of actual people, yet leaving us lamenting for what could have been. As we well know, while our characters have survived these obstacles, our journey towards inclusivity in cinema has been painfully slow and there is still so much more to be done.
Hollywood definitely gives off a Tarantino-esque style with the ‘what ifs’ intricately explored. The result is both a marvel and shaming of Hollywood; the beautiful shots and motifs of crowds scrambling to be recognised and given a leg-up towards stardom conveys the powerful influence cinema and corporations have, however, the detailing of how it would have been more than possible to diversify the silver screen is simply embarrassing for whitewashing heteronormative reality that was standard at the time and still done now. While our characters must jump through corrupt hoops to reach their dreams, it would have felt more triumphant to see some of those orchestrating cinema around their own bigotry to face stronger justice. While it is clear real figures and scenarios created a grounding reality for the show as those we rooted for getting closer to Hollywood, it would have been a particularly satisfying watch this subverted for the corrupt characters who represent the antithesis of creative passion.
Hollywood was released just before Pride month and the George Floyd protests and so perhaps garners a more emotional viewing as we reflect on how little things have improved after all these years. That being said, Brennan and Murphy’s insistence on a mainly positive tone throughout the show pictures a Hollywood more justified for its depiction of the ultimate dream than it was in reality; Hollywood’s message of solidarity and active anti-racism and homophobia is so important today and is definitely a relevant watch.
All episodes of Hollywood are available to watch on Netflix.