Hollywood is a Mirror. It varies depending on who's looking at it.
Updated: Mar 12, 2020
This much is true and can be agreed upon: Hollywood, once elitist and exclusive, is still elitist and exclusive.
But at least it's finally (maybe, just a tad), perhaps a little less ignorant and a smidgen more diverse. It's finally starting to reflect the people who tell the stories, whom the stories reach, whose stories need to be told and ultimately stories that everyone and anyone can relate to: stories by people for the people that will never perish from this Earth so long as we remain a part of it.
And the resulting art from that slow shift has been glamorously gritty, sometimes hard to stomach, sometimes leaving us scratching our heads, sometimes challenging everything we stand for or assaulting what we hold dear (aka what we're 'used to'). Now, Hollywood is growing up and reaching out, increasingly releasing its grip on fairy-tale ideals and narcissism, sucking pride up and gradually (however reluctantly) embracing a more honest representation of the highs and lows of what it means to be sentient; What is means to survive and the desire to thrive.
And maybe, in a sense, it always did. What else was the Golden Age of Hollywood but a dream of what "could be"? We got a glimpse into the psyche of the storytellers and what they maybe wished were true, or an observation of the way things had been. What we learned is that the people with the power to create will use it. But they weren't always thinking of the fallout.
Over the ages and stages of cinema, as the power to create became more possible for the average person, more accessible and more applied, stories from around the globe began been trickling in, helped along by the many dream chasers who made The City of Angels their home; uprooting their lives from across the country and across the seas for the chance of opportunity. And some didn't let not having the ability to leave home stop them from making an impact on the idea of Hollywood.
The doors of Hollywood seemed as sealed as the gates of Heaven themselves, but the requirements for entry wasn't talent, work ethic or honesty. It was: Be rich. Be white. Or at the very least, be a sex icon. And if you were none of those things, you needed to know the secret password, delivered only by someone already "in the club". And when you got in, you had to fit the narrative the powers-that-be made their living off of. Seldom was a black person not a criminal, janitor or slave, was a Russian not behind the threat of mass destruction, was a Mexican not a maid or a gardener, was the white man the hero or was the woman the love interest, the catty distraction or object of sin.
While, the idea of Hollywood derived from the physical location that served studios as a central hub, its spirit truly began with the intention of exploring a moment. The first act of cinema in the 1650's, known as a "motion-picture" projection was literally that: A moving photograph. Cinema was a snapshot expanded upon; a delving into the moment-before-the-moment to the moment-after-the-moment, celebrating the concept of 'beyond'. Cinema was an innovation from photographers who felt unsatisfied with a single frame. Cinema was the answer to showing there was "more to it".
Motion-picture goers who embarked upon this journey with the filmmakers would be rewarded with the wonder of life outside the confines of their own. Truly, a mind blowing achievement in understanding sympathy and empathy to evoke genuine emotional reactions from audiences in response to obviously fictional characters and play-pretend scenarios. The magic "What IF" that radio teased and theater was incapable of delivering instantly to masses suddenly had a face and we fell in love and then lust with it. We finally had the ability to step outside of ourselves and allow more than one of our senses to escape reality at a time.
We ran with it. And with the technological booms, we've managed to wander so far from why it all began and have increasingly been taking hard looks back, having a difficult time finding ourselves again in the over-saturation of content. Hollywood meant to be a reflection of what the spokespeople of humanity felt humanity was capable of. It lost itself in the grandeur and became regurgitation, perpetuation and projection. While still most of those things today in 2020, upwards of 400 years later, the spirit of Hollywood is now attempting to be a reflection of what the spokespeople of humanity see in humanity itself. It's not always pretty but it's almost always provocative.
As the movie making business expanded, Cult classics emerged from around the globe in foreign lands and in native tongues, finding their way into obscure DVD collections and illegal download libraries and earned critical acclaim, major distribution in theaters, the badge of honor that is being a household name, and perhaps best of all, became nostalgic treasures and legends, likely destined to be retold someday in culturally relevant ways before the world forgets them or their essence is lost.
For the first time in history, Hollywood looks to the Best Picture of the Year and sees a "foreign" film. Parasite, a story by a Korean, shot in Korea, about Koreans, in Korean.
With some of the most memorable cult classic films being foreign language films and much of Hollywood's box office revenue made overseas in China, Hollywood might have always been a polyglot and a philosopher in-training. When motion pictures included more than an orchestral soundtrack and text, it shocked and offended the world. "Talkies" they called them, an insult to the art of the way things were, just as moving pictures had done to the art of the photograph. Again, Cinema was rocked when talkies were introduced color processes. Pictures "lost" the nuance of a black and white. And let's not forget cable television, video on demand, online streaming and social media. Hollywood losing its composure every time an element of delivery a story changes is nothing new. It's exactly what Hollywood was born from: adaptation and exploration are its finest features and most enduring natures.
It might have just taken 400 years for Hollywood to finally see itself in the mirror that it is. Depending on who's looking at it, Hollywood will show something specific to the receiving, perceiving audience. A variable, fickle audience that is dependent on who's sitting next to you or how you're feeling when you see it, what experience that you've had personally that makes the subject either relevant or traumatic for you. A movie will show the audience itself, what it doesn't want to see, what it's looking for, what it already thought, what it didn't expect, an excuse to try, an excuse not to, what's possible or a warning of what we should never happen or happen again.
A million critics will receive one story a million different ways and might change their minds the second time they see it. Or the time they see it after the parent who loved that movie passes or a the ex who loved it goes to jail for domestic abuse. If it doesn't agree with their own current, personal narrative, they are likely to resist and reject it but more and more, people are embracing Hollywood as the platform to speak what they believe others should hear (however the ego remains a part of how that plays out). People are starting to recognize the material of the mirror that Hollywood is and are starting to utilize it for the learning experience it serves as best.
When you look at Hollywood. What do YOU see?