Hollywood Review

Hollywood - Netflix
Image Source: Vanity Fair

Hollywood, the Netflix mini-TV series, features an ensemble cast of aspiring actors trying to make it in the movie business as successful actors. This seven-episode series portrays a realistic representation of life in Hollywood as an actor in the 1940s, the struggles that come with it, being exploited by authoritarians, life after the Second World War, anti-Semitism, racism, and homophobia.

Several aspects of this series consist of real people, real events, and real studios. However, it’s important to recognise that a large portion of the events that occur in this series is fictional. Hollywood portrays an alternative version of 1940s America to be an anti-racist, feminist, and pro-LGBT society that embraces minority groups and recognises their talent, willing to take risks and be seen as progressive in the world they live in, allowing people of colour to be award winners and women to be in charge of major studios. Characters such as Anna May Wong, Henry Wilson, and Rock Hudson are real people from this time, however, characters such as Ace Amberg and Dick Samuels are fictional.

Historical Context Of Hollywood

The reality of the first half of the 20th century is that discrimination was prevalent around the time of the Second World War when the people in power were old white men who made decisions about what was best for business in their eyes, which typically meant that films were written and directed by white Americans, which featured white American actors. The Hays Code was taken very seriously throughout this era, as producers believed that censorship was necessary to attract greater revenue by forbidding the use of miscegenation, perversion, or explicit sex-related content. However, this greatly restricted the storytelling abilities of writers of the time.

An aspect of Hollywood that is true to life, is homophobia and racism. Homosexuality was frowned upon throughout this time, therefore the majority of homosexual men had to lie or repress the truth regarding their sexuality and even developed their own homophobic ideologies toward other men who wanted to express their sexuality freely. Men such as Henry Wilson, portrayed by Jim Parsons, was a sexual predator who exploited his male clients into sexual acts in secret for his own pleasure in exchange for big roles in major motion pictures.


This was also a troublesome time for people of colour and ethnic minorities who had dreams of making it in Hollywood, as racial prejudice was still a universal issue due to slavery and segregation. Hollywood accurately depicts the discrimination that many people had to face if they weren’t white, straight, or a man. People of colour were very much restricted to roles such as the ‘Mammy’ or an ‘Uncle Tom’, again this is partially due to the Hays Code and society at the time enforcing their traditional conservative values that did not allow for minorities groups to be anything else than a side character.

Plot Of Hollywood

The plot follows several characters within the Hollywood scene, from aspiring beginning actors, nepotism babies, studio producers, to high-profile actors facing discrimination. The majority of these characters appear to be privileged in their own unique way, whether that be undeniable good looks, raw talent, intellect, or social status. However, they also all have their own personal setbacks, which includes lack of talent, relationship or personal issues, moral flexibility, or facing discrimination due to homophobia or racism.

This story has several strands of narrative, we’re first introduced to Jack Castello, a war veteran, and husband with a dream of becoming a big movie star. Jack’s good looks lead him to meeting Ernie West, a pimp who runs a gas station, which is essentially a front for male escorts. As Jack continues working as a gigolo, he encounters characters such as Avis Amberg, who propels him into the Hollywood scene with the likes of Ace Amberg, Henry Wilson, and Camille Washington. Characters such as Archie Coleman, Hattie McDaniel, and Anna May Wong are pivotal to this story, as they represent progression in the 1940s society and create space for more talent within the Hollywood Studio.


It’s always a spectacle watching actors playing actors. A standout performance in this mini-series is Jim Parsons, who’s best known for playing Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. Parsons’ portrayal of Henry Wilson demonstrates the wide variety of talent he has to offer, he captures the reality of Wilson’s evil personality which was malicious and opportunistic. Another fantastic performance was Jeremy Pope for the role of Archie Coleman. Pope gave an extremely emotional and heartfelt performance, the character he plays is fictional.

However, Archie is a true-to-life representation of black and homosexual people in the early/mid-20th century, as their talent was immediately overlooked by their race. Guest stars such as Queen Latifa (who plays Hattie McDaniel) play a similar role to Pope, as in the series finale, she delivers a heart-breaking monologue about her experience regarding racist behaviour in the film industry, despite being an Academy Award winner.

Summary Of Hollywood

To conclude, this is a fantastic reflection of the world we used to live in it and it’s important to recognise history and the flaws society once had. For a series that span only seven episodes and 355 minutes in total of runtime, it provides light-hearted entertainment and a fascinating look at the Hollywood studios post-WW2.