The casting couch. We’ve all heard the stories confessing the dark truths of Hollywood’s underbelly. From Marilyn Monroe to the child star, Shirley Temple, Hollywood has a long, ugly history with sexual harassment, stemming from an endemic lust for power by those placed in positions of authority. A throwback to the ‘golden-era’ of old Hollywood, when we were oblivious to the deep-rooted issues which plagued it. From time immemorial this has been part of a women’s world, why would we think the modern-era is any different?
Take Harvey Weinstein’s alleged crimes against women, an apparent open secret within the industry that went unquestioned. But more insidious than that is the systemic toxic masculinity that Hollywood perpetuates, on-screen in character development and off-screen in the production room. Is there a liberal hypocrisy?
We forgive artists for their artistic brilliance and excuse their predatory behaviour. Roman Polanski, upheld as a beacon of creative genius, yet only condemned once the crystal clean image of ‘Hollywood’ had been compromised. Deep inside the ivory towers of ‘Hollywood’ is a gender dysfunction; one awash with hyper-masculinity.
“Hollywood had suppressed the concept of masculinity into a solitary, pigeon-holed identity”
Don’t be fooled, strides have been made – but was Weinstein truly a watershed for a seismic shift in the power structures of Hollywood? Hollywood is still marred by an outdated model of hegemonic masculinity. Men have a prescribed role that they are expected to embody – a man of unyielding strength who is only immobilised by any expressed vulnerability. Identity hinges on their ability to sexually conquer and exert dominance.
With the masculine ideal as heteronormative, Marvel – a beloved institution – reaffirms this existing stereotype. The Marvel universe is decidedly more sexually diverse in its original print than it is in Marvel’s film canon. This reflects Hollywood’s desire to preserve this heteronormative culture, one now seen as a product of a by-gone era and not representative of our population. A fear permeates Marvel – a fear that men will tune out, seeing a female-led film – that has manifested itself in the reality of Black Widow being deprived of her own film.
“Is Hollywood’s moral sanctity retrievable when it protects known sexual predators?”
Male mental struggles, that for years have been mocked and belittled, have finally – upon the wave of social reckoning – been acknowledged. Whilst slow, a catalyst has been set ablaze in the wake of Barry Jenkins’s ground-breaking Moonlight. Hollywood had suppressed the concept of masculinity into a solitary, pigeon-holed identity, when in actuality masculinity is a concept that is laced with complexities. Moonlight deconstructs masculine tropes, exposing the flaws of culture’s construction of manhood. By watching the male crisis of Chiron, who functions behind the masquerade of a hyper-masculine male, we acknowledge a cathartic truth: his suppression of sexuality is a pathological response to trauma and of culture’s homophobia.
Is Hollywood’s moral sanctity retrievable when it protects known sexual predators, sustain a culture of male toxicity, and homophobia? Ultimately, yes it is. With unflinching stories such as Chiron’s being backed by the executives, we have hope for masculinity. Hollywood has so far failed humanity, but change is on the horizon.