Hollywood’s New Rules: New club takes over

Hollywood’s New Rules: New club takes over. By Peter Keifer and Peter Savodnik.

A few years ago, the editor-in-chief of The Hollywood Reporter pitched a story to the newsroom. He had just come back from lunch with a well-known agent, who had suggested the paper take a look at the unintended consequences of Hollywood’s efforts to diversify. Those white men who had spent decades writing scripts — which had been turned into blockbuster movies and hit television shows — were no longer getting hired.

The newsroom blew up. The reporters, especially the younger ones, mocked the idea that white men were on the outs. The editor-in-chief, normally self-assured, immediately backtracked. He looked rattled. … After the meeting, a reporter approached another editor about pursuing it. The editor told the reporter to drop it. No one, he said, … was going to risk blowing up their career over this.

Meritocracy replaced by diversity mandates:

In September 2020, the Academy launched its Representation and Inclusion Standards Entry platform (or RAISE). For a movie to qualify for Best Picture, producers not only had to register detailed personal information about everyone involved in the making of that movie, but the movie had to meet two of the Academy’s four diversity standards — touching on everything from on-screen representation to creative leadership. …

Meanwhile, CBS mandated that writers’ rooms be at least 40 percent black, indigenous and people of color (or BIPOC) for the 2021-2022 broadcast season and 50 percent for the 2022-2023 season. ABC Entertainment issued a detailed series of “inclusion standards.” (“I guarantee you every studio has something like that,” a longtime writer and director said.) …

So Hollywood went woke:

The result has not just been a demographic change. It has been an ideological and cultural transformation. We spoke to more than 25 writers, directors, and producers — all of whom identify as liberal, and all of whom described a pervasive fear of running afoul of the new dogma. This was the case not just among the high command at companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, but at every level of production.

How to survive the revolution? By becoming its most ardent supporter. “Best way to defend yourself against the woke is to out-woke everyone, including the woke,” one writer said. Suddenly, every conversation with every agent or head of content started with: Is anyone BIPOC attached to this?

The old-timers accustomed to being on the inside — and the (non-BIPOC) up-and-comers afraid they’d never get there — were one-part confused, one-part angry, and 10,000-parts scared.

“Everyone has gone so underground with their true feelings about things,” said Mike White, the writer and director behind the hit HBO comedy-drama “The White Lotus.” “If you voice things in a certain way it can really have negative repercussions for you, and people can presume that you could be racist, or you could be seen as misogynist.”

Howard Koch, who has been involved in the production of more than 60 movies, including such classics as “Chinatown” and “Marathon Man,” and is the former president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, said: “… I know a lot of very talented people that can’t get work because they’re not black, Native American, female or LGBTQ.” …

It is, said Sam Wasson, the author of “The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood,” not so different from the McCarthy era …

“Now, they’ll just say, ‘Sorry, diversity quotas. We’re just not allowed to hire you,’” said a 48-year-old white, male comedy writer who was recently dropped by his agent. …

Trust and truth are out, ideology is in:

The writers’ room is supposed to be smart, funny, nasty, a little bawdy, the kind of place where people can make jokes and riff and wonder aloud and vomit out ideas that might become an unforgettable scene. Another showrunner in his mid-fifties (white, male, unfortunately) said: “You’re not allowed to pick your staff anymore, and studios won’t let you interview anybody who isn’t a person of color.”

He added that the culture of documenting even the slightest of slights makes him anxious. “I’m sitting in a room trying to run a show with a collection of people I don’t totally trust.”

The politicization of content production, creatives said, was going to be the industry’s death knell. “Especially this past year, ideology has become more important than art,” Quentin Tarantino said in June on Bill Maher’s show. “It’s like ideology trumps art. Ideology trumps individual effort. Ideology trumps good.” …

There was a feeling, among those who didn’t hew to the new orthodoxy, that it was becoming harder not only for certain people to find work but for a certain kind of content — ballsier, more provocative — to get made.

PC fantasies only now:

They were scared of what was happening. The fear, one prominent director said in an email, is “the audience stops trusting us. They begin to see us as a community twisting ourselves into a pretzel to make every movie as woke as possible, every relationship mixed racially, every character sexually fluid, and they decide that we are telling stories set in a fantasyland instead of a world they know and live in. If that happens, and they decide to throw themselves instead into video games 24/7, we will lose them.”

Movies and shows that were once widely acclaimed but are now verboten, writers and directors said, included “Blazing Saddles,” even though it was co-written by Richard Pryor; “The Bad News Bears,” even though it featured a multiracial cast; “Tootsie,” because transgender activists; and “Rocky” (“bad guy CANNOT be black,” a director explained in an email). Nor would “The Wizard of Oz” get greenlit. (“The munchkins? Forget it,” the director said). Nor would “All in the Family,” probably the most influential show of the 1970s. (“Archie Bunker” — the main character — “is basically a Trump voter,” a producer explained.) “South Park,” which debuted in 1997, has been grandfathered in. “Otherwise, no way,” another producer said. …

No Jews:

All of which may explain the very strange story of the brand new $484 million Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. …

It’s missing any mention of the small band of mostly Jewish emigres from Eastern Europe, who created the film industry. The people without whom there would be no entertainment industry.

In today’s climate — in which inclusion and diversity are said to be so important — it was an especially ironic omission: The Jews were excluded from almost everywhere.

If Hollywood doesn’t reform itself and go back to a meritocracy, good movies will start coming from elsewhere — or movies will decline and people will increasingly switch to video games.

The ideologues cannot dictate what people love.