Hollywood is in the myth-making business by design. The industry tells tales tall and small, hoping to keep us engaged for two hours, maybe more if the story is set in a galaxy far, far away. Myth making is in the town’s DNA, and while conservatives bemoan much of Hollywood’s recent messaging, it’s hard to argue with the prime directive. Some Hollywood myths, though, exist for other reasons. They confuse rather than clarify, suggesting an industry that isn’t being fully honest with itself. The following seven Hollywood myths demand a debunking. They’ve gone on too long and convinced too many people they’re the real deal.
1. It’s Show Business, Remember?
La La Land is all about return on investment. A bad movie crushes the competition at the box office? A franchise is born. A found-footage thriller with no stars and a microscopic budget slays the competition, and Hollywood will crank out a half-dozen more movies just like it.
That’s all true, but it’s not the whole story.
What about movies like 2015’s “Truth,” Robert Redford’s attempt at reviving disgraced anchor Dan Rather’s career? Did anyone think that would trounce the competition?
Or the recent “Terminator: Dark Fate,” a film following up a sequel that did a belly flop at the box office?
The HBO series “Girls” never brought in big ratings numbers, but if show creator Lena Dunham asked the pay channel for a half-dozen new seasons, who thinks Team HBO wouldn’t give in?
Why would studios greenlight movie after movie denigrating the U.S. war effort, which is what happened during the Bush years, when each one bombed worse than the last?
Or why does the industry stick to gender swap remakes when most under-perform or outright flop?
What about how swiftly ABC canceled both Roseanne Barr and her signature sitcom, a ratings juggernaut, after one racially toxic tweet? Conversely, why would the same broadcast company cancel Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing” when it drew steady, muscular ratings?
Best of all, how could any studio hear the phrase, “get woke, go broke” and double down on the sentiment?
Hollywood is all about money, but only to a point. Messaging and virtue signaling often trump the bottom line.
2. Bravery, Hollywood Style
The entertainment industry throws the word “brave” around with abandon. An actor is “brave” for gaining weight/losing weigh for a role. Another star is “brave” for speaking truth to power on screen, even if it means sharing a talking point 98 percent of his or her peers already cheer.
That’s not bravery.
Terry Crews, a black actor, critiquing Black Lives Matter is the epitome of bravery. J.K. Rowling, standing up to Cancel Culture despite a multi-pronged assault against her good name, is bravery on steroids.
These two examples have limited company, but they’re rarely cited by those pointing to Hollywood’s brand of courage.
3. Actors Really, Truly Care
Now, this is partly true. During the current pandemic many stars opened their wallets and purses, wide, to help those in need. The same happened following the 9/11 attacks and recent weather tragedies.
Plus, stars routinely write checks for worthwhile charities. That cannot be discounted or overlooked.
Yet the industry remains silent when the cause doesn’t align with its worldview or threatens the bottom line. Where is the empathy for Chinese citizens stuck in an authoritarian state, be it citizens whose voices are muted or those hoping to worship as they choose?
What about the minority-owned business devastated by the George Floyd riots?
Empathy matters, and it should be applauded in Hollywood when it rises up. Still, the disparate approach stars bring to their charity must be noted.
4. Hollywood’s Racial Imbalance Reflect a Racist Nation
Let’s face it. Many think Hollywood’s current woke obsession has already gone too far, but the industry has done a lousy job up until now giving all voices a chance to be heard.
The number of black artists directing films or calling the shots behind the scenes remains pathetically low. It’s improving, of course, but it’s taken a very long while.
The same holds true for female directors. When Kathryn Bigelow won the Best Directing Oscar for 2010’s “The Hurt Locker” it marked the first time a woman walked home with the category’s statuette.
So when the semi-annual “Oscars So White” campaign appears, it’s implied America is as “problematic” as Hollywood. That seems both unfair, since Joe and Jane Sixpack don’t do the voting, and inaccurate.
Americans routinely support actors of color. Eddie Murphy was one of the biggest movie stars of the ‘80s. Few celebrities could enter the presidential race with a better chance of winning than Oprah Winfrey.
The last movie star who guaranteed viewers in seats? Will Smith. Comic actor Kevin Hart comes the closest to that promise these days.
This year’s box office champion, at least until the pandemic shut down America? “Bad Boys for Life” starring Smith and Martin Lawrence.
One can pick apart Hollywood for its racial issues, but the American public has no qualms embracing artists of color.
5. Hollywood Hates Blacklists
The industry cranked out film after film eviscerating Sen. Joe McCarthy’s deeply flawed fight against ‘50s era Communism. They don’t lose any sleep over the current version targeting conservatives, though. Good luck finding films made by open conservatives produced by major studios.
6. Film Festivals Heart Diversity
Independent film events support, promote and extol diverse points of view, or so they say. That means more people of color behind the scenes, more women directors submitting projects and a greater variety of stories being told.
The recently wrapped AFI Docs event shared this celebratory note about its honorees:
With 58 films from 11 countries, the 18th edition of AFI DOCS presented stories that delved into of-the-moment issues including policing, immigration and gun violence; honored luminaries of the past; and looked to the new guard of rising activists and politicians.
The Sundance Film Festival even has its own “diversity initiative.”
When was the last time a right-leaning film made a splash, let alone gained entrance, to Sundance or related festivals? For years the terms “conservative documentaries” were mutually exclusive. Now? Indie storytellers like Phelim McAleer (“FrackNation”), John Sullivan (“2016: Obama’s America”) and Justin Folk (“No Safe Spaces”) are making films that can stand tall next to mainstream indie fare.
The recent “Uncle Tom,” executive produced by Larry Elder,” is a prime example of a feature that belongs in any festival obsessed with diversity. The documentary celebrates the strong voices black conservatives bring to the GOP.
Let’s see if any festival deems it worthy.
7. Hollywood is Liberal (asterisk)
This may be the biggest myth of all. Yes, the industry is overwhelmingly progressive from a political perspective, with most conservative voices shunned into silence (save stout souls like Nick Searcy, Robert Davi and Kristy Swanson).
Still, the industry is the other kind of conservative. Risk averse. Tentative. Afraid of change. Unwilling to embrace foreign concepts or leave successful blueprints behind.
Yes, small elements of these drives exist throughout the industry, but they’re in short supply.
Conservative-thinking Hollywood clings to brand names like the Rev. Al Sharpton to a racial scandal. It’s why we see endless “Batman” derivations, movies borne from beloved board games and sequels/remakes/reboots in the place of original fare.
Taking chances is frowned upon in Hollywood, and the proof is in the product.
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