"I'm in a funny business, Rey. Everybody talks like hippies and acts like they're in the Sicilian mob."
When you think of Hollywood and other places within the entertainment industry, as well as the stars that inhabit them, you think of glamorous men and women who create the magic you see in movies and television, right?
WRONG! In Horrible Hollywood, the actors and actresses are brain-dead, spoiled, have a tendency towards fighting the law, like to engage in occasional sexual deviancy, and are addicted to various illegal substances and/or sex workers
. Everyone fears growing old and losing their fame
, so plastic surgery and desperate attempts to seem young abound. The directors are egomaniac control freaks who wear funny pants and throw petty tantrums at the slightest provocation. The assistants are overworked, underpaid, and might be snarky towards the talent
, but this won't stop them from ruthlessly trying to climb the ladder — and in this depraved environment, climbing to the top tends to be a horizontal sort of activity
. The fans are insane and you might gain some stalkers. The executives are fond of excessive meddling
and/or are just plain corrupt
, and have people fired on the spot for being insufficiently sycophantic. Writers are second-class citizens
and Butt Monkeys
. Absolutely everyone — even those not actually in
the entertainment industry — is a Stepford Smiler Phony
who may be all smiles and charm and obsequiousness to your face, but only because they secretly hate you and can't wait for you to turn your back so they can stick a knife into it. Everywhere you look, crippling insecurities and neuroses are constantly being masked with bombastic, preening arrogance and ego.
Essentially, it's the entertainment industry depicted as a Crapsack World
populated solely by horrible Jerkasses
Despite what the title may imply, this isn't just for movies, this can go for things like television or actual live theater as well.
See also Celebrity Is Overrated
, which tends to go in line with this. See also: every trope on this wiki containing the word Hollywood.
SIDENOTE: This trope only applies to Hollywood, California, not any of the other Hollywoods.
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Anime & Manga
- In the world of Nana, assorted record companies are evil and probably Yakuza, all performers have issues ranging from Parental Abandonment to being in teenage prostitution rings to drug addiction, and they are surrounded by stalkers.
- The Last Command is about a former Tsarist Russian general living out a degrading, poverty-stricken life as a Hollywood film extra. He gets $7.50 a day.
- David Mamet's film State and Main humorously portrays the trials and pitfalls and sacrifices in conscience that come with getting a Hollywood film made.
- Film Quarterly, describing David Lynch's vision of Hollywood in Mulholland Dr.: "Human putrefaction ... in a city of lethal illusions."
- Lynch's film Inland Empire, being about a film actress, also dabbles in the subject.
- An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn lampoons Hollywood, as the title bluntly suggests.
- Barton Fink: Fink is forced to write an inane wrestling movie when he comes to Hollywood after a successful theatrical career.
- Sunset Boulevard, though its attitude toward the studio system was neutral enough that Paramount allowed the use of its own name and several names associated with it.
- Swimming with Sharks examines the systematic abuse of production interns, who must endure a year of abuse at the hands of their sadistic Hollywood bosses in order to get a foot in the door.
- Living in Oblivion is three vignettes illustrating the nightmares involved in being an independent filmmaker.
- The Real Blonde satirizes the shallowness and dysfunction of the New York fashion and cinema scene.
- Taken together both Wayne's World films show the television and music industries to be this. Except for Alice Cooper.
- Bowfinger takes this as its premise and plays it for comedy more than satire. Bobby Bowfinger is an ultra-low budget, Grade Z filmmaker who has to do things like hire Mexican immigrants as his crew.
- Get Shorty conflates this trope with organized crime, as a loan shark's enforcer winds up taking over a movie when the producer can't pay his debt.
- While focusing solely on a small group Boogie Nights is actually an inversion of this trope... in the porn industry, typically portrayed as being even more corrupt and exploitative than the mainstream film industry. However, while it's implied that this is the case in a larger context (several of the producers are hinted to have mob ties at the very least), the film focusses on the main characters bonding together as a loving family unit.
- Tropic Thunder is a merciless satire of selfish, cynical Hollywood moviemaking. (Tom Cruise's rageaholic producer is perfectly willing to let his actors die.)
- There is elements of this in Sunset. Tom Mix himself is a decent fellow, but there is plenty of corruption and decadence.
- S.O.B.: The title is an abbreveation the term one character uses to describe how Hollywood operates: Standard Operational Bullshit.
- Americas Sweethearts: Mostly focused on the tropes surrounding celebrity romances and an agent exploiting it for movie promotion.
- The Cat's Meow is a tale of infidelity, murder, cover-up and blackmail that takes in Hollywood, "the place just off the coast of the planet Earth,": a place where the rich and powerful can get away with murder, everyone has their price, and the murder of a good man can go unmourned and unpunished.
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang portrays Hollywood as a weirdly glamourous and seriously fucked up place which attracts the damaged and disturbed.
Harry: It's abandonment, it's abuse, it's, "My uncle put his ping-ping in my papa!"... and then they all come out here! I swear to God, it's like somebody took America by the East Coast, and shook it, and all the normal girls managed to hang on.
- Discussed at length in Hollywood Paparazzo. It is explained that the rise of tabloid journalism and the paparazzi has led to celebrities becoming insular, screwed-up and totally alienated from the rest of society, who often go down a self-destructive path. In turn, the paparazzi are self-obsessed people who run and hide from anyone they don't know to conceal their identities, people in a position of power are vain and power-hungry, and the fans are crazed lunatics who will stop at nothing to harass celebrities. The film highlights the absurdity of this culture with a well-adjusted young boy who acts just as cutthroat as the paparazzi when it comes to getting celebrity photos.
- In Argo, one of the reasons for disguising the extraction operation as location scouting for a movie is that, with the Iran Hostage Crisis in full bloom, movie producers are some of the only people sleazy enough to still be doing business there. Chambers describes it as a place full of hacks and untalented people or productions and a shot of the famous Hollywood sign missing some letters underscores it.
It's an exfil, from the worst place you can think of... Chambers: Universal City
- In The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968), the inherent sickness of Hollywood and the people who work there is examined at length. A young starlet is hired to play a famous silent movie actress (who died under mysterious circumstances) in a Biopic directed by the actress's collaborator/lover, and as she's pushed into inhabiting her role, she becomes seemingly possessed by the dead woman's spirit, causing the threat of history repeating itself. It does, and the biopic ends with the actual footage of her death, which apparently no one in town objects to. (This is from the same director who made Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, and that movie's world could easily fit into this one.)
- In Notting Hill the heroine has lived her life as a movie starlet amid boyfriends who mistreated her.
- The movie stars and celebrities who appear As Themselves in This Is the End are pretty uniformly a bunch of self-obsessed, preening, pretentious, entitled, spoiled, debauched and decadent phonies and prima donnas who care about nothing but themselves and pretty clearly don't like each other very much once the surface of their cool personas is scratched. And that's before the apocalypse; once the Rapture occurs, Hollywood itself becomes this quite literally as it's transformed into hell on earth.
- Nearly all of the Hollywood "insiders" in Get Shorty are vain, shallow, and self-absorbed to the point of oblivousness. Despite this, most of them are still fairly likeable because they're not actually malicious, just kind of stupid.
- A Face in the Crowd portrays the television industry much this way, at least the part revolving around Lonesome Rhodes, though the industry at the time was based in New York.
- The experimental short film The Life And Death Of 9413 A Hollywood Extra portrays working in Hollywood as a dehumanizing experience in which you are identified only by a number stamped on your forehead, and success is unobtainable.
- Pretty much the entire point of Maps To The Stars. Delusional, past-their-prime actresses? Spoiled-rotten child stars? Smiling, sanctimonious agents? Having to play nice with a rival actress who just stole the role of a lifetime from underneath you? Check, check, check, and oh HELL yes.
- Money: A Suicide Note is a Martin Amis book about a really unpleasant advertising man writing a movie script and getting it published. He is a truly horrible character, and so are most of the other people he meets.
- All the characters of Imperial Bedrooms, the sequel to Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero, are members of the Hollywood machine.
- Raymond Chandler's fifth novel, The Little Sister is all about this. Story features a producer named Oppenheimer, because Chandler's subtle like that.
- Mario Puzo's The Last Don portrays Hollywood as being substantially more ruthless than the Mafia. Puzo was himself a screenwriter (he wrote the screenplay for Superman, among others.)
- In one of its longer subplots, The Godfather follows Johnny Fontaine's adventures into this. It includes planned orgies, doctors who will ignore a patient's health to keep them going, and studio boss Jack Woltz molesting an underage girl (with her mother's consent, though not her own). Mob Consigliere Tom Hagen thinks to himself that if this is the world Johnny wants, he can have it.
Live Action TV
- Played for laughs in Californication, where many a Mad Artist and Cloudcuckoolander crosses paths with Hank Moody, a witty and talented writer who is Only in It for the Money. It's also strongly implied that he was able to work and generally had it together when he lived with his family in New York. They relocated to Hollywood because a film based on Hank's novel was being made. They seriously cannot deal and they all end up messed up in some way or another.
- The Law & Order three-parter about a Hollywood producer who gets murdered, forcing the New York-based detectives and prosecutors to spend time in Los Angeles, takes this approach, with almost everyone involved in that world painted as grasping, backstabbing, narcissistic and neurotic. It's aptly summed up by a disillusioned junior executive (and one of the few 'Hollywood' characters who isn't an utterly horrible human being) who bitterly comments that everyone around her "talks like they're a hippy and acts like they're in the Sicilian Mafia."
- The 70s Ellery Queen episode "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario" had the Queens, father and son, witness this for themselves when they go on the set of an adaptation of one of Ellery's books. This being an Ellery Queen mystery, this trope's horrible aspects culminate in murder.
- Made In Canada, except it's about the Canadian industry. And yet, universally believable enough to be exported south of the border (as The Industry). The production executives are well aware that the films and especially television programmes they produce are complete trash (the ones they bother to watch, anyway), but openly admit that they don't care as long as they make money.
- The West Wing, of all things, touches on this every so often. C.J Cregg's backstory involves her working as a publicist for a selection of spoilt and neurotic Hollywood types who throw tantrums if they get placed lower on a magazine's 'who's most influential in Hollywood' list; a job she hates and considers meaningless (and eventually gets fired from). Another episode has the President go to a fundraising event in Beverly Hills swarming with these types; he doesn't have fun. A few other episodes also have mentions of this kind of thing.
- Played with in the Castle episode "One Life To Lose"; the behind the scenes environment of the popular soap opera isn't exactly free of intrigue, bitchiness and people sleeping with and / or hating each other and playing their own agendas, but it's no worse than some of the other walks of life the characters have entered.
- Averted in the episode where Castle and Beckett actually travel to Los Angeles to solve a murder and get to spend some time on the set of "Nikki Heat". The cast and crew are friendly and later go out of their way to help Beckett solve the case.
- Averted with Castle himself and his mother Martha, both of whom work in the entertainment industry (Castle as a successful bestselling novelist, Martha as a once-fairly successful Broadway diva) and are consistently portrayed as likeable and decent people, even if Castle's a slightly shallow and rather egotistical Man Child while Martha is far from being the most responsible or humble of people and tends to sponge off her more successful and wealthy son.
- 30 Rock, while more sympathetic than the others, does portay the more shallowier / nastier / crazier elements of showbiz.
- In one episode of Boy Meets World, Eric goes to Hollywood be a cast member of the Self-Parody show Kid Gets Acquainted with the Universe, he finds out that the actors on the show are either jerkasses or highly neurotic, the so-called "best writers in town" are actually small children, and the scripts are recycled many times and full of Stylistic Suck.
- In Murder, She Wrote, Hollywood, Broadway and the TV industry are all full of people lying, cheating, sleeping around to get ahead, and above all, plotting to kill each other. Admittedly, this doesn't distinguish them from Murder, She Wrote's portrayal of newspapers, book publishing, computer firms, toy companies...
- JAG: Harm's Romantic False Lead Rene Peterson, in seasons five to seven, is very much a personification of this trope. An up and coming director of commercials and music videos, her neurotic personality traits are very much the anti-thesis of all the main characters.
- Admiral Chegwidden's brief stint as technical advisor in “War Stories” was brought to an abrupt end because his can-do due-diligence gung-ho attitude was ultimately not very compatible with the nonsensical herd instinct of the Hollywood folks.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Californication" includes some of this, as it celebrates the good and the bad.
- The Veronicas track "Hollywood" takes all the dark parts of Hollywood and shines a big light on it.
- Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Paradise City".
- The L.A. Noire case "The Fallen Idol" shows this at its worst, with a sleazy pedophile movie producer who rapes pre-teen girls and films it. Interestingly averted in the rest of the game: Despite being assigned to the Hollywood division at one point, you rarely investigate anyone in the entertainment industry.
- In Psychonauts, this is the kind of place depicted in Gloria Gouten's mind. She's an actress, who's actress mom sent her off to boarding school in order to pursue her own career and relationship with her boyfriend. When she left, she also became an actress, becoming very rich and famous, while her mom's popularity had faded. On the eve of Gloria's debut, her mom committed suicide. However, since this is seen only from the inside of Gloria's head, she may be an Unreliable Narrator.
- The Onion ran an advice column called Ask A Faulknerian Idiot Manchild. In one, he recounts the night he spent with a bitter, drunken writer who had a case of this trope.
"He was talking how he never should have done gone to Hollywood to write for them picture-shows. He was saying how California was like a demon straight from hell, a burning flapping devil beast that ate up everything it saw, and that it even ate his soul. When he stopped talking I tried to shake him to wake him on up, but he weren't moving. He weren't waking on up at all."
- This trope is the whole Reality Subtext both in and out universe in Demo Reel. Almost every main character has been burned by Hollywood one way or another, but Donnie, who was a Former Child Star whose mother was Driven to Suicide after her own career dive don, causing the bad performance for whom he is still blamed and bullied, is practically in the ashes.