At a certain point in this show, three central characters decide to change the ending of the movie that they are making within the show. Why make it a sad film? They decide they want to rewrite what had actually happened. And this I think is the most accurate way to describe Hollywood, the miniseries on Netflix.
You may call it revisionist history. Wish-fulfilment seems more accurate in my understanding. This show follows a set of characters at a studio in post World War II America who attempt to make a film written by a black gay man, starring a black female lead, directed by a half-Asian man, produced by a closeted gay man, in a studio run by a woman. These are things in today’s Netflix diversity projects era that still seems too ludicrous to happen. How many times do we see such movies even now gain mainstream success, and make it to the Oscars, forget winning the Oscars? But in this alternate universe of Hollywood, everyone is willing to take a chance. Everyone is willing to be brave. To change the course of history.
Sex runs L.A or so it seems, especially in the first two episodes. These episodes seem the closest to the truth in all of the episodes. It’s important to have been at the right place, have slept with the right person, to be sleeping with the right person, to get the attention of the right people. It’s very sad and Hollywood-esque. The most difficult bit to watch is when a character Roy Fitzgerald is signed on by Talent Agent Henry Wilson, played out in all of its grotesque glory by Jim Parsons. The casting couch situation, the harassment that is usually shown using a female actor is now shown with this gay man and it is horrible to say the least. At the end of the show, when all loose ends are tied up and there are probably way too many Happily-ever-afters going around, I liked the fact that they didn’t completely do that with Roy’s character. He doesn’t forgive Wilson, he still holds him accountable for the horrors he was put through. I felt that this was an important message. But soon after this, he gets cast in Wilson’s film, so what does that mean for anyone? I don’t really know.
The characters seem a little unidimensional, too uncomplicated to be believable. Everyone seems to be “woke.” Maybe it is because we rarely watch dramas where people don’t backstab friends, where everyone doesn’t do terrible things to everyone, where someone doesn’t do something evil just for the joy of it, where people don’t do things for ambition that cause harm to everyone around them. None of this happens. I mean, of course, the really bad guys are still the bad guys. The Klan burn crosses, racists are still racists. But every time a character says good luck to someone, they genuinely mean it. Every time they try to help someone, there seems to be no ulterior motive. Every time the guys get together, they genuinely seem to like each other’s company and don’t trash talk women. Actors are nice to each other. Everyone is accepting. No one bats an eyelid when characters come out as gay, or when the past lives of certain characters as prostitutes come out.
Maybe it says something about us, the audience as movie/show watchers, because the second last episode with the burning of the tapes seemed very comforting to me, because that’s what I have been told to expect and accept from movies or shows. The last episode turned this all around. This goes against everything that “Mad Men” and the other shows and movies have told me about this era and Hollywood in general. The truth is that Hollywood probably was and never will be the kind of place that Hollywood, the show portrays it to be. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were?
The audience is taken through a different kind of Hollywood, and through it, we the audience are forced to face a different kind of a drama show where what we expect is not what we get. It makes us question every negative trope we associate with a drama series. Older men are shown with older women, women stand up for each other, men respect the women running the show, an older woman finds love late in her life. It’s a show fulfilling all your wishes. You root for the characters, and your support is rewarded. They end up with love and awards. It’s a show that makes you feel good watching it, that you will have fun watching.
Hollywood doesn’t challenge any systemic problems. It is more along the lines of American individualism, with the “if you try, you too can make it” attitude. It doesn’t address or try to break the structural problems that doesn’t enable this “trying” in itself. It’s somewhat shallow point is that if some (white) people had designed it fit to improve things, they could have. Ideologically, it sticks to its conservative roots. And I hadn’t expected any better from it. Watch the show to see a range of diverse experiences that is simply meant to be fun, entertaining and enjoyable. You will definitely have fun watching this show about Hollywood that is quite different from the other shows and movies about Hollywood.