Oh, Hollywood. You’re so…fascinating. You’re so… ridiculously rough on these oh-so fragile creatures known as humans. You’re so…beautiful (in some places). You’re so…ugly (in other places). You’re so…Hollywood.
“The industry” can chew us up and spit us out like we’re a nasty-tasting piece of garbage. So why would I do it? It’s not the red-carpet moments, per se, although they’re certainly fun. But they’re also few and far between. Sitting on set for hours to sink into character for five minutes of filming isn’t everyone’s idea of a day well spent.
In various and sundry dressing rooms for my odd modeling and acting gigs, I noticed that women with straight hair would plug in their curling irons while women with curly and wavy hair would plug in their flatirons. Women with freckles (including me) would use tons of makeup to cover them up; other women would add beauty marks. Some white women would try to look more ethnic; some ethnic women would try to look less so. Sometimes it made me want to go full-out crazy.
I know why I do it…because Dorothy’s journey home is everyone’s journey. Because Frodo’s mission lives in each one of us. Because the big tales are the tales of the bigness in each one of us. Because the portrayals of pettiness in one of us are the portrayals of the pettiness that lives in us all. Because magic happens when the lights dim and the screen lights up. In fact, a screenwriting teacher once said that we do this screenwriting thing because when we were little kids, we’d go to the theater, the lights would dim, the music would swell, the screen would light up, and…we fell in love.
Movies are make believe, yes. But they’re an art form relaying magic and new ideas for new worlds, even if they look just like the world we live in. We are captivated by unusual camera angles and lighting. Music sends chills down our spines. The traveling troubadours of old did that, but not on such a big scale. They were once the main storytellers. Now there are so many stories being told—on the big screen, on the little screen, in books, in songs, in art, in every social-media post.
I do this because movies have cracked open my heart and left it bigger than it was before, unable to go back to the smaller size it once was. I do this because there’s nothing on Earth I’d rather do.
We can read a news story, like the one about the gang rape of Cheryl Araujo in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1983, and understand it—some. But watching Jodie Foster get attacked by one man after another on a pool table gives us sight, sound, texture, context, and horror. We can hear about the sex trade around the world, but seeing the girls enslaved in Trafficked gives us another viewpoint. We sell emotion and feelings, so audiences can experience them without necessarily having to live through them. But we open them up to have empathy for those who do have to live through such things.
In so many ways the world seems to be growing and evolving into a better version of itself. And in so many ways it seems to be doing the exact opposite. But with the Trumps and Harvey Weinsteins and other little-boy kings disintegrating and falling from power right in front of us, we do see a chance for true mightiness to rise. The thing about people like that is they render themselves no longer relevant, with the help of more and more people saying, “Enough!”
People think of Hollywood as a froufrou, lightweight industry. It’s not. It can literally move mountains and change policy and draw attention to important issues.
It’s also the other things people disdain it for, too, to be sure. There’s the odd Humvee taking up two compact spaces. It’s a land of borrowed glory and reflected fame—like that roadie I dated who tried to snitch his coolness from the superstar he worked for. It has massive amounts of drugs, pyramid schemes, and orgies—but hey, lots of places have those. It also has some of the most mystical people, talented people, compassionate people—often all combined into one with the druggies and crazies.
It’s part comedy, part drama. Part spiritual existential reach, part uneventful downtime. Part tragedy, part ecstasy. Part shrinking, part growth experience. Even comedy isn’t as banal as it might seem. I’ve often talked about actors (and all of us) having to dive deep; comedians definitely have to do that to let us laugh at ourselves. What a gift—to enable folks to chuckle as we showcase the human condition and allow us all to further understand the complexities of living in this body on this planet at this time.
We all travel a hero’s journey. Even my dad at his workbench. Cyn, too, wherever she is now.
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