Hollywood: Lights, Camera, and Rewriting History
Smriti Nambudiri, Undergraduate’ 22
Pull back the curtain on the enigma that is the Hollywood Golden Age and get a glimpse of the various hidden stories that go into the industry that we think we know so well: that’s what the 7-episode miniseries ‘Hollywood’, streaming on Netflix, promised. It’s an ensemble show, starring David Corenswet, Darren Criss, Laura Harrier, and others, all playing characters drawn into the movie industry, willing to go any length to make it big. The show is an attempt to ‘rewrite history’ as it were, showing how different the entertainment landscape would be if the age-old established power dynamics and biases had been dismantled.
Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, who worked together on Netflix’s ‘The Politician’, once again teamed up to deliver a miniseries packed with drama, romance, and scandal. The show has a cast of diverse characters, each with a different perspective on the tempestuous and cut-throat competition in Hollywood. Each character’s journey and role portrays what it was like in the Hollywood Golden Age of post-World War Two America. All of this is shown through the production and making of the movie ‘Meg’ by Ace Studios, directed by Raymond Ainsley (Darren Criss), and written by a gay black screenwriter Archie Coleman (Jeremy Pope). The characters Jack Castello (David Corenswet) and Roy Fitzgerald (Jake Picking) are competing for the role of Meg’s boyfriend, while Claire Wood (Samara Weaving), and Camille Washington (Laura Harrier) compete for the leading lady role, everyone carrying their own ghosts and burdens.
Hollywood relies on its characters and their unique interactions with the world of late-40s Hollywood to showcase its various faces, the struggles, and the lengths to which some people are willing to go for a taste of the fame it can offer. The show successfully captures such a large amount of plot and development within 7 episodes. All the characters are complex and fleshed out each with clear belief systems and motivations, and none without flaws. Despite their bad decisions and often selfish actions, you cannot help but cheer for all of them to achieve their dreams. The characters and their journeys are what keep you clicking onto the next episode.
The show handles the topics of the racism and homophobia that were especially prevalent in the late-40s, showcasing them primarily through the characters of Archie Coleman, Camille Washington, and Roy Fitzgerald. By allowing the characters to speak and fight against discrimination, and gain success, gives the show a hopeful tone. While people have strongly critiqued the show for ‘changing’ the course of history by having these characters succeed and gain a small victory against discrimination, in my opinion, it was a good decision. Everyone has seen enough ‘historically accurate’ media that tackle this discrimination with no happy endings. So a show that is willing to show audiences a world where it’s defeated, even just once, is refreshing and entirely welcome.
A disadvantage of the show is the enormous amount of plots and subplots packed into 7 episodes. With a large ensemble like this, it is difficult to give each character their own stories and development, all while tying it into the main plot, while also having compelling character growth and payoff. Not to mention, having to complete all of this in a miniseries. What this results in is an oversaturated storyline that can confuse viewers, even losing them at times. While the finale does a pretty decent job in closing up the main plot of the show, some relationships depicted are unexpected, and some of the emotional moments in the show aren’t allowed their due space to breathe.
While there are some problems in the pacing and the story, ‘Hollywood’ is an incredibly enjoyable show, that will leave you stunned and satisfied. Its diverse and complex characters are enough to pull you in and leave you emotional. So, if you want a feel-good show to tide you over the last dregs of quarantine, then this is the show for you.