Hollywoodland

 

I can’t talk about Hollywood. It was a horror to me when I was there and it’s a horror to look back on. I can’t imagine how I did it. When I got away from it I couldn’t even refer to the place by name. ‘Out there’ I called it.”
Dorothy Parker
 
“Hollywood is a place that attracts people with massive holes in their souls.”
Julia Phillips, author of ‘You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again’
 
“I can no longer continue to work with 15th Century Fox”.
Jean Renoir, on dealing with the stupidity, reactionary philistinism and nepotist greed of Hollywood, when trying to make films there.
 

 

 

Once upon a time Indian lands were stolen and re-named ‘Hollywood’

Though for ten thousand years this particular stretch of soil

Had been the territory of the Chumash tribe, an American First Nation

Who knew the land by their own name, Kii-Tovar, or ‘homeland’.

 

After death-dealing land-grabs by colonists lasting four centuries

There were just a thousand Chumash in Kii-Tovar in 1900,

When all were evicted by force and their land squared off in lots,

With a promotional sign erected; it read ‘Hollywoodland’.

 

The developers’ advertisement had fifty-foot high capital letters,

Illuminated so they could be seen from miles around.

The developers aimed to sell the land for twenty times more

Than they’d borrowed, to exploit their high-handed theft.

 

With each of the lots on offer described as an “upscale location”

And the remaining Chumash chased off for lowering the tone,

More entrepreneurs were attracted, finding landscape and climate

Conducive to tale-telling and creating cultural myths.

 

The citrus fruit now grown on the Chumash’s former territory

Would taste bitter to Kii-Tovar’s hunter-gatherer tribe.

The ancestral visions of Chumash shamen were now replaced

By the black-and-white flicker of a mechanical lantern.

 

Thomas Edison had made “an instrument which does for the eye

“What the phonograph does for the ear”

Designed, in Edison’s words, for “the recording and reproduction

Of things in motion…” and he’d patented it.

 

But to save their having to pay royalties on Edison’s patents,

On his machinery and on his film stock,

The new cowboys of celluloid surreptitiously moved to the west

To be just out of reach of Edison’s lawyers.

 

In 1914 the first feature to be filmed in Hollywoodland

(Soon abbreviated to being simply ‘Hollywood’)

Was called ‘The Squaw Man’, then renamed ‘The White Man’.

It would anticipate the stories Hollywood liked to tell.

 

In this melodrama a man comes to the US fleeing a murder charge.

Saved by an Indian girl called Red Wing, he proposes marriage.

Later, in the clear, he deserts her on his coming into an inheritance,

Cruelly indicating that she’s unworthy to be a white man’s bride.

 

The moral being that a man may use his fellow man with impunity,

Once he adopts misguided notions of his own superiority –

As such views were acceptable to the US Empire’s ‘intelligentsia’

They were uncritically absorbed by the Hollywood mindset.

 

To Mark Twain, the author of Huckleberry Finn, the Native American

Was “ignoble—base and treacherous, and hateful”

“His heart is a cesspool of falsehood, of treachery,

“And of low and devilish instincts.”

 

In Tom Sawyer, Injun Joe acts out of more than just an evil nature—

“He is evil”, Twain declares, because of his “Indian blood,”

Likewise, after the Battle of Wounded Knee – a prototype for future US genocide –

L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz, chillingly declares

 

That he advocated the total extermination of the Lakota people

Since “the Whites”, he writes in the Dakota Pioneer,

“Are masters of the American continent as they rule by law of conquest,

And by justice of civilization” the author thunders.

 

The “best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured

By the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians”

Then in The Wizard of Oz Baum set down such thoughts in stone,

The ‘Awgwas’ being his hated Indians thinly disguised,

 

“You are a transient race,” accused Baum, “passing from life into nothingness.

“We, who live forever, pity but despise you” and he’d rejoice in their demise:

“All that remained of the wicked Awgwas was a great number of earthen hillocks dotting the plain” –

Baum’s description deriving from photos of Wounded Knee’s burial ground.

 

Oz’s Yellow Brick Road echoed another crime against the First Nations,

Whose yellow gold came from their Black Hills and created the US –

With its road of golden bricks that ran from the Indian lands in Dakota

To fill Fort Knox and Wall Street and to finance a racist Hollywood –

 

Whose westerns were a long show-reel promoting guns to kill Indians;

For Indians were ‘varmints’, or vermin, as Doris Day sang,

(Though ironically Indians would be rejected for Indian film parts

Since it was decided that they didn’t look Indian enough).

 

Then Hollywood’s self-mythologizing would serve a new gold standard

With its racism morphing into nationalism: ‘USA!’ ‘USA!’

And its “redemption through violence” which proved a strategic ploy

Since inducing fear is essential to the imperializing dream.

 

Now Hollywood hobbyists and groupies can grade actors they admire

By their body counts, their ‘kills per film’, and in 2010,

Hollywood’s fans would count 23,198,862,496 deaths in 650 films –

Twenty-thousand million bodies to glorify US exceptionalism.

 

Put simply, Hollywood’s ‘bad guys’ are those threatening to subvert

‘The All American Way of Life’.

They deserve to die, according to imperialism’s media enforcers,

If they won’t be slaves to a warmongering corpocracy.

 

According to The Los Angeles Times when the United States

First invaded Afghanistan following 9/11

The first buildings they’d open in the country they’d devastated

Weren’t hospitals, or clinics, or schools…

 

But they were movie theatres – ones playing American movies;

Ones that’d offer escapist fun and sentimental endings,

And redemption through violence and death to all the bad guys –

Whose message was, “Hollywood’s the capital of the planet!’

 

Hollywood’s the place where the display behavior of an Empire

Can get sugar-coated by Hollywood’s happyendification –

Where Hamlets, Romeos and Juliets have their tragedies rewritten

And live behind white picket fences in an LA paradise.

 

In Hollywood, “If the ending isn’t happy, it hasn’t ended yet.”

Issue-based films are only ever made for prestige,

For the studios prefer their moral climate to be unchanging,

Ensuring that what makes money is their core value.

 

Anti-war films which aren’t a pretext for pigging-out on violence

Always prove beyond Hollywood’s capabilities –

For the Pentagon’s in Hollywood to interface with all war films:

It has script approval so that the Empire looks good.

 

“Washington and Hollywood spring from the same DNA”

A Hollywood head honcho, Jack Valenti, revealed;

And Hollywood serves the Empire by its making death sexy

And having the morals of someone selling syphilis.

 

For to run a successful Empire  – one with a deadly reach,

Hell-bent on robbing the world of its resources –

It’s handy to lure people into dark rooms and get them used

To watching people dying in large numbers.

 

Yet Hollywood mustn’t be mentioned without surges of violins

And without lavish sprinklings of glittering stardust

As it pushes its image, and its branded charisma – “Hollywood!”

Burying those whose hopes it’s raised and it’s crushed.

 

In a Hollywood church in this empty Shangri-la a speaker boasts,

“The entire world gets its entertainment by watching US films.

“They may not have food,” he yells, “but they’ll sure watch our films!

“This is our greatest tool to reach the world for Jesus Christ.”

 

Outside the church an anorexic hopeful with dark glasses

Prays she’ll be spotted by the celebrity spotters

Whose job’s to spot celebrities spotting more celebrities

And yearningly she looks up at the Hollywood sign –

 

The Hollywood sign, where once a girl called Peg Entwhistle

Who’d been on Broadway in a play called ‘The Mad Hopes’

And a murder mystery called ‘Thirteen Women’, never released,

Climbed a workman’s ladder behind the top of the letter ‘H

 

There Peg stood with tinsel-town, which had failed her, spread below

And its studio commandants making fortunes from fantasy –

From cowboy porn to war porn, and the pornography of violence –

Then Peg, aged just 24, plummeted down like a flightless bird.

 

Peg Entwhistle’s body was cremated at Hollywood Memorial Park,

Now called ‘Hollywood Forever’ though some might be tiring

Of a secular death cult with its plutocratic coterie of screen killers,

In a town named after holly – full of pricks and drawing blood.

 

Hollywood’s most profitable industry is now porn pure and simple –

People trafficked; people commodified, and flesh pumped

For a sexual anaesthetic, whose value Joseph Goebbels saw:

He distributed porn in Poland prior to the Nazi invasion.

 

Porn’s social engineering siphons off all oppositional threats:

The disaffected can be neutered by the grinding of flesh

Which proves as intellectually demanding and as dull as golf;

Endless bodies sprawled on bed sheets, panting for money.

 

Hollywood now manufactures 12,000 porn films a week

Using women who’ve failed to become actresses;

“Every year 25,000 aspiring actresses in California

Are sexually exploited by showbiz insiders.”

 

Pornography glues people to screens in an erotic curfew.

Woe betide the United States if it stopped spectating,

And if it started to see the world in a new light altogether –

Free from the snares of its mass media’s war-porn.

 

War films outnumber anti-war films by thousands to one

For war is America’s business – war and porn –

And 98 per cent of the world’s films come from Hollywood:

A former Indian encampment, now a porn shop.

 

In its movies almost everyone is svelte, well groomed and rich;

Outside, America’s homeless shiver impotently in their tents –

Uncelebrated at Hollywood ceremonies, where a crimson carpet

Stands in for a century-long smear of celluloid bloodletting.

 

 

Heathcote Williams

Illustration: Claire Palmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


By Heathcote Williams

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One Response to Hollywoodland

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