Netflix's Hollywood: behind the glitz and glam

Gia Bao Huynh Tan
4 min readMay 2, 2020

Netflix's latest addition “Hollywood" by Ryan Murphy is the fantasy that we all need.

A stellar, good-looking young cast ensemble, glamorous and aesthetic set designs, and a story for the hidden voices are what made “Hollywood” a miniseries that you should binge this weekend.

Set in the post-WWII Tinseltown where every youngster’s dream might become true, as long as they know exactly how to realize it, Ryan Murphy and his team made the dark side of Hollywood appear under the spotlight. Using the same method with the Emmy-winning anthology “Feud: Bette and Joan”, released in 2017, there is a movie within a film (or nested movie) in “Hollywood” called “Meg”. It is a combination of Hollywood’s missed potential: young-and-fresh actors, a woman of color as lead, a gay screenwriter, and a female producer.

The young cast of “Hollywood"

For those who care about historical accuracy, as the series contains many real-life figures, forget about it! Ryan Murphy shifted the stories in his own way, fighting for equal rights in the movie industry, which was driven by whitewash media and heterosexism. “Hollywood” is about young people who have dreams to be in the movies but due to the competitiveness and sometimes, their own self-confidence, they cannot make it without concealing their own secrets behind the scenes. There’s Jack Castello, played by the James-Dean-nostalgic David Corenswet, a beautiful male lead with boring talent and experience, climbing his way to the top of the Hollywoodland to cater to his family. There are Archie Coleman (Jeremy Pope) and Rock Hudson (Jake Picking) — the interracial gay relationship that we usually see on screen, under the discrimination of the 1950s society, striving to get through and make their names be heard. There’s Camille Washington (played by the glamorous Laura Harrier), the only contracted black actress among an all-white female ensemble, waiting for her first leading role. And there’s Avis Amberg (Patti LuPone) — the luscious, daring woman who finds her calling is making motion pictures. The stories about the underdog are not a new topic on television, especially when Murphy and Ian Brennan have made the popular “Glee” or Netflix’s “The Politician” with the similar settings, however, the obvious misconceptions and disapprovals of the past-Hollywood depicted in the miniseries makes us think about America’s cinema industry today. Not much has been changed!

It is not incorrect to say that “Hollywood” is a fantasy, because everything you see in the series is good-feeling moments when the unknowns are trying to voice their abilities and dreams. Therefore, compared to the racial politics today, “Hollywood” fell flat, as the series is so much of a better world, a utopia that we can all think about, where the people of all races can be in charge, women are real leaders and the LGBTQ+ community is no longer having to hide in the closet. The sugary coating of “Hollywood” lies truths that are so bitter that we have to pretend that everything can be real someday.

“Hollywood” is a pleasing miniseries for a weekend binge. It is certainly not for everybody or we can call it “love-it-or-hate-it” but it is a dream that we can all expect. It is the ballad of the truth seekers, with tear-jerking moments and of course, “cringing” straight white stereotypes. The ensemble of the cast delivers good performances in this show, primarily Laura Harrier, the “BlacKkKlansman” actress with charismatic naturalism and stunning classic looks and the legendary Patti LuPone, making a comeback to television with as a diva, the real boss throughout the series. However, the most notable one must belong to Jim Parsons as he portrays the queer and abusive Hollywood agent, Henry Willson who is famous back then for taking advantage of homosexual young actors. Jim Parsons really brought one of Hollywood’s infamous villain to life from scene to scene with various characteristics, from hilarious to terrifying moments. It is definitely something that we have not seen from Jim Parsons before, as we are too familiar with him on “The Big Bang Theory”. The desire and willingness for new things like Jim Parsons and Ryan Murphy give the hope for us for their next collaboration in the future.

The Golden Age of Tinseltown in “Hollywood” is glamorous, bright, and full of wish-fulfilling. It gives us inspiration and confidence for the next era of Hollywood in which there is no exclusion. There might be a couple of unnecessary and messy details along the road, therefore, I would not say it’s Ryan Murphy’s step-back but in the end, we can still see his visions and his dreams about the future of cinema industry.

If you have not watched “Hollywood", give it a chance!