Hollywood: a fairy tale gone wrong?


By Maddy Raven, Second Year, Theatre & Film

Hollywood (2020), one of the latest Netflix mini-series, tackles the issues of sexual abuse in Hollywood and lack of representation, and does a fantastic job of making it clear that this was an issue both in post-war Hollywood, and now.

However, it fails to take sufficient risks: there’s no real sense of jeopardy. As it is - a fable about the marginalised making it in Hollywood and perhaps, history rewriting itself - it’s good. But it needs to settle into its status as a fairy tale more comfortably.

Perhaps this is because it is a Ryan Murphy creation. I’ve seen American Horror Story (2011-), American Crime Story (2016-) and even Glee (2009-2015), so I spent the entire time I was watching Hollywood waiting for the other shoe to drop. When one of the main characters is faced with marital problems, they’re resolved fast, and without much turmoil. This also means that aside from Roy, played by Jake Picking, I didn’t see much character development at all.

Darren Criss and Jeremy Pope star in Ryan Murphy's latest offering

Hollywood is a paradox because it seems to set out to be a parable about how Hollywood success was littered with sordid secrets, and how sexual abuse and homophobia were an integral part of the film industry. This is done beautifully through the use of the ‘gas station’ where two of the male leads work.

However, when it really comes to it: when we think our heroes will have to return to solicitation in order to hit budget on their pet project, they are rescued from having to get their hands dirty. So, it’s a story about the price of success - but in this case, someone else pays it.

It feels wrong to be arguing for historical accuracy in a show which resembles a fairy tale so much : this is perhaps, a tale of what could’ve been

However, Jake Picking gives a stand-out performance as Roy, or rather 'Rock', and it’s also delightful to see Jim Parsons shaking off Sheldon at last and having fun playing the detestable Henry Willson.

Samara Weaving plays aspiring actress Claire Wood | IMDb

The performances by Laurier Harrier and Michelle Krusiec were also fantastic – Hollywood creates a story for Anna-May Wong, played by Krusiec, illustrating how women of colour have been shut out of the film industry up until this point, and honouring those who were experienced with the racism prevalent in Hollywood, rather than just the fresh-faced Camille (Harrier).

Hollywood also sets a wonderful example of how to be an ally. In the end, all it takes is for someone to actually give a director like Raymond Ainsley (Darren Criss) and screenwriter Archie Coleman (Jeremy Pope) the opportunity to tell the stories they want to tell.

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It feels wrong to be arguing for historical accuracy in a show which resembles a fairy tale so much: this is perhaps, a tale of what could’ve been. And it also demonstrates how it is the responsibility of the privileged and powerful to create a seat at the table, or even a new table, for those they have historically oppressed.

Hollywood also doesn’t mess around with bothering to over-congratulate the - somewhat - straight, white allies of the main cast, and it is acknowledged that it’s their job to create these opportunities. Hollywood’s fairy-tale feel and slight lack of emotional depth left me at times unnerved, but it is a mini-series after all, and beautifully made.

Featured: IMDb

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