'Hollywood' and Social Identity
I never normally get hooked on TV shows, I’m more of a movie person. I like to know the endings and I’m usually too curious to wait 6 seasons. But ‘Hollywood’ was different, because it revealed something to me about the way we live.
‘Hollywood' essentially glamourises the struggle of working your way into the industry by showing what it takes to 'make it’. It shows how especially difficult it is to make it if you are in a social minority group. The minorities that the show focuses on include, women, BAME people and homosexual people. The pinnacle point in focusing on these different minority groups was how drastically your life could change if you were able to hide the minority sector of your social identity. For example: you can hide sexuality, but you can’t hide race.
In episode 2 Henry Wilson who becomes the agent of actor, Roy Fitzgerald’s says to him,
“You’re a fruitcake, just like me. I saw it the moment you swished through those doors. You can't hide it yet, but I’ll teach you how. You won’t be a homosexual once I’m through with you”
Henry is going to show Roy how he can hide being gay because he knows that revealing this part of his social identity will ruin his career. But you can’t hide being black or being asian or being a woman; and these struggles are emphasised. This is why Roy is successful and so lucky in making his way through Hollywood, because he is white and can hide his minority background.
This is however a painful experience - hiding a part of who you are,
“and the loneliness that comes along with that... you play that part that they’ve written for you”
which is what Dick says to Roy in the next episode. There is inevitable pain in hiding yourself, but at the time, this was survival and this was the only way you could succeed. Though you are a minority in the show based on your sexuality, you have the ‘power’ (though in turn it makes you weaker) to hide it and live life with a safe-guard.
Archie, who is a black man in the show later explains to his friend how the film he wrote
“won’t get made if they find out a n**** wrote it and I just sat there taking it nice and civil cos that’s how we are supposed to act. Well you know what, I am finished with patience and civility!”
Both sexual and racial inequality has extended massively through history and the tragic reality is that some of what Archie says still applies today, some 70 years later.
Similarly with Avis, who is the wife of Ace, the studio head, cannot hide her social minority of being a woman. When Ace is in charge, she has no power and is forced to embrace the social reality of being a woman during the time.
“Yesterday I ran a movie studio, I had power. But today I’m a housewife again … I’m not gonna get a taste for what it feels like in charge, having autonomy for the first time in my life and then being pushed back into the kitchen”
Both Archie and Avis cannot hide their social identities and we see this struggle during the show. Though there is justice at the end with Archie's film being made and him winning an Oscar, this was a rarity at the time. I do like how the show brings hope to these stories where women and BAME people can rise above the heterosexual, white, dominant male ruling society and finally have their voices heard. However, this is sadly just not a commonality.
Roy could hide his queerness but lost a sense of identity. Archie couldn’t hide his race, and felt the social backlash and injustice as a result. Avis, was also forced to face her demeaning stereotypes. Whether you could hide your social identity or not, either way, there was hurt and suffering.
But today is different. Hiding your social identity may have been necessary then, but the weakness and the the breaking of authenticity is detrimental. Everyone has a different story, a different struggle and a different narrative and the more these voices are heard and vocalised, the more people will understand what each person goes through. Whether it be race, or sexuality or gender, it’s your story and your story that should be shared to empower you and others around you.
Unconscious bias still echoes from this time period and from well before. There is slavery after slavery; it just looks different now as the repercussions on how sexuality, race and gender exist today are felt so strongly by so many people. But by understanding these points of social identity we can begin to move forward. By turning struggle and history into empowerment.
So if you’re ready; share your story.