On the Death and Resurrection of Hollywood

It came as a shock to Hollywood’s liberal establishment: the casting couch is still extant.

The outrage at the alleged behaviors of an errant film producer is of course, justified. Nevertheless, the shock expressed by some over Harvey Weinstein’s alleged actions is the real surprise. Others who are closer to the source of the recent news stories are not wholly taken in by the handwringing and loud lamentations emanating from some Hollywood quarters and elsewhere. Especially, as the outcry is led by the very same people who—thanks to YouTube et al—can be seen praising Weinstein as a “great human being, no, perhaps one of the greatest human beings ever’ as they pass the collection bucket for their latest election campaign. Two aphorisms come to mind: you can judge a man or woman by the company they keep, and ‘thou doth protest too much, methinks.”

As one Hollywood insider has gone on record stating: I knew; you knew; we all knew. Well, he should know.

These latest embarrassments for Hollywood come at an interesting time. This year’s Oscars were noticeable for an inability to hand out the right envelope to the right recipient in front of a global audience and for the political self-righteousness of many of those on display. But, as we all know, pride comes before a fall and, as Christians know, the Fall came about because of Pride. The fact is that Hollywood is in decline. In fact, it is falling fast.

Earlier this year, in the aptly named magazine, Vanity Fair, there was an article by Nick Bilton entitled: Why Hollywood As We Know It Is Already Over. In it, he paints a picture of Tinsel Town that is far from flattering. This has nothing to do with overweight producers and underfed actors but more with anachronistic

working practices stuck somewhere in the 1970s. With its over-regulated and heavily unionized labor, the cost of hiring anyone to do anything on a Hollywood set is killing production. One job example cited, so symptomatic of this waste and equally as absurd, was “raindrop remover.” Someone gets paid to remove raindrops from an actor’s costume.

It is not just the mismanagement of resources though that is crippling this creative industry. Put bluntly Hollywood is bereft of ideas. Take a look at this year’s theatre release schedule. Superheroes and yet more superheroes followed by unnecessary remakes of classics, followed by some other addition to a ‘franchise’. Hollywood is as stale as the leftovers at a burger franchise. Today real filmmaking is with the independents. It has been for some time. The historical parallels with the end of the studio system in the 1960s and the coming of New Hollywood are obvious. It seems it is time for yet another shift in the filmmaking universe as Planet Hollywood fails to support life.

So what has any of this got to do with Weinstein and his friends? Part of the decline of Hollywood is around bloated production costs. The other problem is the ideological bubble within which the Hollywood Hills is situated: ideas and creativity are welcome as long as they adhere to a narrow political and social gauge. Hollywood has been a force for social change from the beginning. In recent years, however, that process has speeded up and morphed into crafting a new morality for the rest of us, whether we like it or not.

The fact that these filmmakers, the arbitrators of the new morality are now seen to be a bunch of hypocrites is hardly a revelation. What one would now hope, however, is that their endless sermonizing would cease and that they would either entertain their audience or leave the stage, for good.

Of course, what has to be borne in mind is that those standing finger-wagging from the podium at various award ceremonies, giving us the Bel-Air version of what is wrong with society, are working from a Marxist perspective. Their approach might be, summed up in a quotation from Marx: “Sincerity is the key to success. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.” More than anyone, Groucho would have understood how absurd it is for Hollywood to lecture on morality, world poverty, or anything else for that matter.

So Hollywood has lost its way. The sun has shone for too long on those nine letters perched upon Mount Lee: they have faded as the paint peels and the weeds grow around them. And yet, looking at that sign, or rather just below it, there may, unexpectedly, be the source of a renewal.

It is little known but in the streets below the Hollywood Sign there stands a monastery. The Dominican Nuns who live there spend their days and nights in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. No doubt, they pray for the city and the people around them and that includes those who work in the Hollywood film studios. Maybe what we are seeing is an answer to a prayer? Like the empires of old, the whole rotten edifice of Tinsel Town and its celluloid empire is collapsing into the nearby ocean. If so, then let the bells be rung, and the crowds wear black as the muffled drums are beat slowly for the funeral cortege winding its way to the entombment while pasted on the city walls is the proclamation:

HOLLYWOOD IS DEAD.

And yet, just when many feel Hollywood doesn’t have a prayer, there are some within those city boundaries doing precisely that: praying night and day. In that alone there is the hope of a resurrection when alternative stories shall be told by new filmmakers, people passionate not about making money but about making films, with actors, writers and directors not driven solely by ego but following a vocation, not wanting to turn themselves into stars but, like the Wise Men before, talking of the Star they follow and, as a consequence, “glad of another death.”

K. V. Turley

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K. V. Turley is a London based freelance writer and filmmaker with a degree in theology from the Maryvale Institute.

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