by Justine MAGAUD BONILLA
Over the last few years, many of Hollywood’s biggest figures have been speaking out against
the discrimination to which actors are subjected. Many actors have accused their industry of
being racist, homophobic and sexist, and thus of not giving equal opportunity to every actor
according to their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
We all are familiar with the global #Me-Too movement, which has been made popular by the
Harvey Weinstein case, named after the American producer was accused by dozens of women
of harassment, sexual assault and rape. This movement has given women all over the world a
voice to speak out about the discrimination, harassment and assaults that they face in their
daily lives. In the world of cinema, light has also been shed on the significant wage gap
between actors and actresses. According to a study by the University of Huddersfield in the
United Kingdom, actors earn on average $1.1 million more than actresses for the same film.
Emma Stone was the highest paid actress in 2017 according to Forbes magazine, with $26
million earned from her work. If this amount seems huge, it is almost three times less than
the salary of the highest paid actor in the world that year (Mark Wahlberg with 68 million
dollars). The actress revealed that, in several of her films, the actor with whom she shared the
screen had to agree to lower his salary in order to achieve equal pay.
At the 2018 Golden Globes ceremony, Oprah Winfrey gave a committed speech, denouncing
these inequalities while communicating a message of hope for the future, as reflected in this
sentence from her speech: « For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they
dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.
Their time is up. »
A few weeks ago, Elliot (previously known as Ellen) Page made his transgender coming-out. Better known for his roles in the films X-men and Inception, he revealed his pride in being part of the LGBTQ+ community in a social network post, without
masking his fears about the reactions of his fans: « The truth is, despite feeling profoundly
happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I’m also scared. I’m scared of the
invasiveness, the hate, the « jokes » and of violence ». Hollywood cinema seems to discriminate
against actors who are members of this LGBTG+ community. This is what actor Rupert Everett
denounced in 2018, claiming that he was not selected in several major films during his career
because of his homosexuality.
According to Daniel Radcliffe, world-famous for playing the role of the renowned wizard Harry
Potter in the 8-part saga, Hollywood is also undeniably racist. However, this problem of the
representation of non-white people in movies is not exclusive to the American industry. In
France, 16 black or mixed color actresses have published their testimonies in a book entitled
« Noire n’est pas mon métier » (translation: Being black is not my job), denouncing the
stereotypes and discrimination they experience on screen and, on a larger scale, in the
exercise of their cultural professions.
Based on these discriminations still painfully present in the 7th art world in the 21st century,
Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan have created the miniseries Hollywood, fully available on
Netflix since May 1st, 2020. By mixing facts and fiction, this series, which is set in post-World
War II Hollywood, sheds light on the vices of one of the most famous industries in the world,
that of American cinema. Combining male prostitution, sexual harassment, racism,
homophobia and sexism, the series brings us behind the scenes of an industry where many
inequalities reign, not just by denouncing them, but by figuring out what it could have been
without these glass ceilings.
For 7 episodes lasting between 45 and 58 minutes each, we observe the evolution of talented
characters dreaming of working in cinema, but to whom the industry at that time would never
have given a chance. These characters will unite their forces to carry out a daring project: the
movie Meg, based on the true story of the young Peg Entwistle, who committed suicide by
jumping from the letter H of the famous Hollywood sign for having been cut out of a movie
supposed to make her famous. Thus, in this series we find the forgotten people of Hollywood’s
golden age: a black actress, an actress of Asian origin, a gay actor, a black and gay screenwriter,
a mixed Asian director, a gay producer and a woman running a production studio.
The series does not seem to be a prescription against the Hollywood cinema of the time.
Rather, it illustrates the ideal represented by this industry at that time, and the hope placed
by young actors in their aspiration to become stars of the big screen. In this new creation,
Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan imagine an alternative Hollywood, the one that could have
existed if discriminated minorities had been given a chance. In an environment that is still very
unequal, the struggle of these young actors for accessing their dreams echoes as a timely
topic, but also as a message of hope: the situation can change, and we can count on the
commitment of the actors in this milieu to see the industry being transformed. “Their time is
Justine MAGAUD BONILLA