A 21st-century prayer to the Golden Age.

From the minds of Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, the limited Netflix miniseries, Hollywood is a catharsis for the realist-optimist. A re-visionist story that begs the question, how adapted could Hollywood be today, if toxic judgements were abandoned long before?

 The series invites viewers in, through the easily-digestible storyline of the white, hetero, everyday chappie, Jack Castello – a handsome veteran and aspiring actor in Hollywood. He faces the well-known struggle for veterans to secure employment after their services; the sense of undervalued dejection and lack of experience in any other trade. 
Through the initial guise of this palatable portrayal of the classic ‘Hollywood Dream’, viewers are gradually exposed to the realities of manipulation in show business and then, the real message – a portrayal of the devastating effects of racial stereotyping and racism and the quest to overcome societal degradation. Murphy and Brennan accomplish both accurately representing the vulgarity of Hollywood, whilst offering it an alternate redemption. 

Some things I loved: 

  • Queen Latifah as Hattie McDaniel elevated the intensity for me, which was very welcome. As the passionate recalling of her mistreatment at the Oscars felt so real – whereas I simply didn’t believe Camille Washington’s despair over the matter. 
  • Just as Anna May Wong’s story was conveyed so beautifully by Michelle Krusiek with an organic rehabilitation from the tortured addicted artist, shunned by the industry, to the achievement she so deserved. 
  • Patti Lupone’s character, Avis Amberg is the best TV character of 2020 so far for me. 
  • Jim Parsons portrayal of Hollywood talent agent, Henry Wilson should be applauded. His sexuality is his weapon, offering it in exchange for opportunities. In an obscure parallel Dylan McDermot’s character, charismatic Ernie West (who he plays extremely well) also uses sexual favours as a way to survive in Hollywood.
  • I appreciated how the show works with certain frameworks, eluding to movements such as #MeToo (initially begun in 2006, peaking in 2017) whilst opting to showcase the male actors’ experience in the power struggle of sexual manipulation. 

Some things I didn’t:

  • Laura Harrier as Camille Washington – I didn’t feel as connected as I think we as viewers were supposed. I don’t feel Harrier was the best choice as her performance as lacklustre 99% of the time.
  • Depth of exploration – a few more episodes would satisfy my curiosity about some of the other characters. Perhaps Jack and Claire’s relationship could have been axed as it was an utterly superfluous in the ‘everyone wins’ trope in the finale.
  • I would much rather have gotten a bit more of writer Archie Coleman’s backstory – as a black, gay writer in the 1940s – as opposed to the white ‘it’ couple getting together. 

(You’d think that the first black leading lady, that wasn’t playing a slave or maid winning an Oscar would be the main event at the awards show – not Jack stealing a single moment of it to propose to Claire. I mean, why?)

All in all, I love that Murphy and Brennan shone a spotlight on sexism, ageism and racism along with presenting how award shows have historically overlooked ethnic minorities. And what better sub-plot could be better than the meta-cinematic trope of a film within a film?
Despite a couple of dodgy casting issues, I enjoyed Hollywood as a 21st-century prayer to the Golden Age.

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