By Rey Banuelos
KTSW Guest Writer
Netflix’s Hollywood is an entertaining show about the Golden Age of movies. The series was released on May 1, 2020. As a viewer, I can say it is a captivating show with many great actors and actresses.
It stars David Corenswet, Jim Parsons, Darren Criss, Laura Harrier Dylan McDermott and Jeremy Pope, who portray characters living in the post-World II-era Los Angeles.
“Hollywood,” however, is a misrepresentation of the racial prejudice and homophobia ran rampant during this era. Hollywood, for many, is not a place that represents the entirety of society. The show has been criticized for its glamorized version of history.
It tries to represent itself as a progressive dreamland where attractive young people arrive full of hopes and ambitions to have a shot at making it on the big screen. Except for the harsh reality, many end up working low-wage or degrading jobs to pay the rent.
The show mispresents the truth about young working-class people arriving in Los Angeles to achieve a version of the American Dream.
The story starts off showing Jack Castello (David Corenwet), a WWII veteran, arriving in Los Angeles to become a famous actor. However, Jack begins to struggle in the industry and begins to find it hard to be cast.
Jack then meets Ernie West (Dylan McDermott). Ernie reveals that he runs an underground male prostitution ring disguised as a service station for female and male clients. He quits after Ernie tries to sell him to a male customer.
However, he returns when he finds out his wife is having twins and continues to struggle financially. Castello finally gets a gig acting when he provides service to a female casting director.
The service station turned prostitute ring was based on a true story. The truth behind this station understates the homophobia that was happening during the Golden Age of Hollywood. In the late 40s and early 50s, many actors, directors, and producers were not open about their homosexuality.
It allowed for an environment that permitted male-on-male exploitation. It also makes little of the degrading work aspiring actors/actresses do to survive the politics of real-world Hollywood.
The story tension starts to pick up by telling the tragic story of real-life actress Peg Entwistle who committed suicide by jumping to her death from the Hollywood sign.
After the news broke, Darren Criss’s character, Raymond Ainsley, then tries to convince Ace Studios to cast Camille Washington (Laura Harrier), a black supporting actress, to replace the dead Entwistle in the lead role.
The show then creates more tension between Southern theater owners’ unwillingness to not show the movie and the hesitation of the studio to release it. Rather than be defeated, Ainsley continues to pressure the Studios head producer, Dick Samuels (Joe Mantello), to release the film.
Samuels finally agrees to allow the movie to be wide released. The storyline here touches the border of the “White Savior” trope, Hollywood’s misrepresentation of Black achievements by installing a white character to be the protagonist hero who fights injustice.
Usually, this trope always uses the stereotypical Southern as the antagonist. Therefore, the show downplays the true history of Hollywood’s racism. The show’s portrayal of the real-life prejudices that Hollywood for decades had tried to shake off is not represented accurately.
I do not want to bash the show or talented cast that has helped the show become the second most viewed show on Netflix. The show itself is a must-watch. The storyline itself is entertaining; however, it romanticizes the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The glamorous portrayal of the Golden Age outshines the harsh reality of the racism and homophobia that existed during this era. If the show wanted to tell the true human struggle, it would have represented the true lives of its characters not one of the idealist visions of La La land.
Featured image by Rey Banuelos.