Civilizing Hollywood

The entrenched hierarchy is beginning to crumble — is the industry ready for a radical makeover?

Jenara Nerenberg
4 min readApr 9, 2021

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The same flippant look and smile emerge from the women sitting across the table from me — senior level executives in Hollywood talking about “social responsibility,” but with zero followup. I’m accustomed to the caricature of this in film and TV — eery wide-eyed smiles — but to actually witness it up close for the first time is confusing. Some amount of warmth is palpable, but it’s not the whole picture? “I don’t know how anyone lives like this,” I think to myself, aghast at the taunting insincerity.

As a young journalist I often found myself interviewing stars and talking to film executives about potential jobs; I so wanted to get to know the industry, as an arts lover since childhood. But there was this feeling I had whenever I was in LA…a vague amorphous unsettled uncertainty in the air. I knew the stereotypes, but I thought surely there was a space carved out within the junk to preserve what was real about art and depth and beauty…right?

The news out this week about destructive producer Scott Rudin and the resulting #AssistantsArePeople hashtag has brought all of this to the surface — Hollywood is full of trauma. On the one hand, Hollywood is full of traumatized people, people who’ve taken the pain of their own lives and channeled that into art, which can be a productive and healing endeavor. But the second component, which is concerning, is the way in which Hollywood capitalizes on trauma to maintain old boy hierarchy, justifying white supremacist, sexist, ableist, and sanist abuse.

(One brother of a Hollywood assistant even opened up recently about the tragic outcome of such abuse.)

This has got to stop. A place and industry where dreams and genius and creativity swirl together should be a pillar of the American social fabric, championing gentleness and cooperation, leadership, and social progress. Instead it is a bastion of corruption and secrecy.

But it’s beginning to crumble.

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Jenara Nerenberg

Author, Divergent Mind (HarperCollins). Journalist at UC Berkeley & Garrison. Founder, The Neurodiversity Project. divergentlit.com