Hollywood is going the same way as old newspapers and for the same reason.
All and sundry are abuzz today after a bit of excitement last night at the Oscars.
Perhaps in a bid for best actor in an unscripted television reality show, comedian, rapper and action star Will Smith appeared to rush the stage and slap fellow comedian, actor, and non-rapper Chris Rock after the latter made a joke about the former’s wife.
Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) some have dismissed the whole incident as a shameless Hollywood ploy designed to boost ratings for and interest in an awards show which enjoys in 2022 but a fraction of the viewership it did in better times.
How cynical we’ve all become.
Still, it hasn’t escaped noticed that Hollywood is beginning to fall upon hard times. The gilded age of the movie star appears to be at an end. The mandarins of the silver screen don’t command the social capital they once did, even five years ago.
Hollywood, if current trends continue, appears to be dying on the vine. The movie industry, as we’ve always known it, is falling into dust, destined to reconfigure as something else.
It is the breaking of a monopoly, the end of an era, and like almost everything, there hasn’t been just one cause. A combination of nails in a multitude of coffins killed Hollywood.
China Loves Hollywood, China Loves Hollywood Not
It was the payoff that drew movie-makers. Who could resist a massive market where a domestic dud like “World of Warcraft” could net Hollywood execs a cool $600 million dollars?
Looking back, the suits in Beverly Hills should have seen the writing on the wall right about that time. Anyone with two brain cells and two nickels to rub together could have predicted that the CCP would eventually want to keep that kind of money to themselves.
Why on earth would a totalitarian government like the CCP continue a long-term relationship with Hollywood?
The CCP goes to great lengths to ensure that Chinese citizens are not exposed to any ideas of which CCP officials would not approve. These great lengths include a sophisticated firewall and creating- with the help of Silicon Valley- history’s most advanced police surveillance state.
Why would the CCP continue to run the risk of exposing Chinese audiences to Western media? And continue to pay for the privilege of doing so?
No matter how well Hollywood adhered to the censorious standards of the CCP, the ruling party of China was always going to eventually see the wisdom of making movies…in China.
Talk about your win-win. Under this new arrangement, a Chinese-made blockbuster can net $900 million for the Chinese economy and allow the CCP to maintain its uncompromising control on popular sentiment.
There is only one threat to the kind of power CCP head Xi Jinping has consolidated; the threat from within.
The Great Wall of China protected the Chinese countryside for ages. When eventually enemies at last overcame the defense, it wasn’t due to superior weapons or greater numbers or any other strategic advantage.
It was someone opening the gates from the inside, of course.
For rulers like Jinping, the threat is never other world leaders; it is the Judas, the betrayer, the false friend who smiles and smiles and is a villain. His lieutenants are probably the most heavily surveilled people in all of China, and that’s saying something.
In addition, the only way thousands of people are able to govern over millions is with the consent of the governed and Xi Jinping doesn’t have it. If the CCP had the consent of the governed, it wouldn’t need a giant firewall or a police state and it certainly wouldn’t need both.
Continuing its relationship with Hollywood in perpetuity was probably never a part of Xi Jinping’s long-term plan.
It was silly of Hollywood movie execs, in their haste to cash in on the Chinese marketplace, to alienate American audiences. A constant diet of leftover blockbusters, of super-hero, comic-inspired malted meal, has sent American audiences running for other ways to get their entertainment fix.
Which brings us to Hollywood’s second death knell.
Movies, movies, everywhere and not a drop to watch.
While Hollywood moved on to the greener pastures of China, other content-creators charged into the void to scoop up American audiences left behind. One industry’s trash is a new industry’s treasure.
Soon, every streaming-service was in a race to cheaply produce something for just about everyone. American audiences don’t really need Hollywood anymore. Making movies in Hollywood is expensive. By moving production elsewhere, smaller independent studios and streaming services have cranked out a tsunami of choices with something for just about everyone.
Whether you prefer period dramas or police procedurals, lighthearted on-location comedies or cozy murder mysteries, there is a television and movie niche for you.
Meanwhile, Hollywood has lost its way, even forgetting its very roots.
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures was unveiled recently- a sprawling, expansive, expensive vanity project dedicated to Hollywood and the movie industry. Of all the diverse groups distinctly honored for their contributions to show business over the decades, one important group was noticeably, painfully absent.
Nowhere in evidence was any allusion to the tiny handful of visionary Jewish immigrants who literally built Hollywood from nothing and created the movie industry as we know it today.
That whopping lie by omission exposed the rot at the very heart of Hollywood. It is no longer an industry created for the sake of great art. Great art requires integrity, courage and imagination. Instead, Hollywood has become a twisted corporate machine, twisting in the wind and blowing wherever big money and Twitter sentiment takes it.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)