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"I'm in a funny business, Rey. Everybody talks like hippies and acts like they're in the Sicilian mob."
Lisa Lundquist, Law & Order

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. Marriages rarely last more than a few years (and sometimes just a few hours), and almost everyone has at least two divorces and remarriages under their belts, and usually more. 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, screwing artists out of their royalties or otherwise, and/or are just plain corrupt, and have people fired on the spot for being insufficiently sycophantic or causing some minor inconvenience. Writers are second-class citizens and Butt Monkeys. Women who age and lose their sex appeal have trouble finding work, while aging barely has any effect on the career prospects of their male counterparts. Child stars almost always go off the deep end in some way(s) when they grow up, and are often victims of sexual grooming by creepy producers. Some people spend a lifetime Waiting for a Break that never comes. 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.

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And that's just your friends.

Essentially, it's the entertainment industry depicted as a Crapsack World or Crapsaccharine 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.

Compare Music Is Politics and The Wicked Stage. See also Celebrity Is Overrated, which tends to go in line with this, and Mystical Hollywood, when this trope is taken to an outright demonic level. 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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Examples:

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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 prologue of Oshi no Ko ends with the Decoy Protagonist murdered by her stalker, who's presumed to be working at the behest of a powerful man who got a teenager pregnant. The rest of the series' portrayal of the entertainment industry isn't quite as bleak, but it is still cynical, with any hopeful facing crowded markets and various conflicting production interest. Nearly all the talent are portrayed sympathetically, but anyone showing their face is threaten by harsh public scrutiny and producers playing favorites without any concern with the quality of their work.
  • Perfect Blue is partially a Deconstruction of Fanservice as a concept, and the way the entertainment industry as a whole treats people (especially young women) like products to be sold. Our heroine Mima is a former Idol Singer making the transition into acting — going from a suffocating lifestyle that enforced Contractual Purity, to an environment that is highly exploitative and dehumanizing. (The fact that her first acting job is an extremely violent and sexualized crime drama doesn't make this transition any smoother.) And that's not even getting into how Mima's fans react to the change in her public image. In fact, it's repeatedly shown that, while the higher-ups at the TV network aren't great to Mima, her "fans" are arguably worse. After all, if consumers stopped buying into the misogynistic culture surrounding women in media, we wouldn't have such a problem.

    Comic Books 
  • Several films show at Cinema Purgatorio were hatchet jobs directed at the dark side of Hollywood culture - some would aim at a single creator, while others just criticized standard practices, such as the disregard for stuntpeople's health, the hypocrisy of political persecutions, and the criminal behavior that's so often swept under the rug.
  • The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker delves deeply into the sex, drugs, and dirty politics of late '40s Hollywood.
  • The Sensational She-Hulk #12 revolves around a movie being made about She-Hulk. The producer is meddling to secure his own investment, the director is a prima donna, and most of the actors are talentless hacks. She-Hulk is briefly reassured when she finds a script lying around, reads it, and discovers that it's excellent, but then the director informs her that it's an old draft that was rejected for not having any songs in it.
  • A major plot point in Lori Lovecraft is that Lori's career as an actress goes into freefall when she hits 30. The series contains all of standard horrible Hollywood stereotypes: sleazy producers, egomaniac directors, narcissistic actors, embittered writers, etc. Oh, and a demonic conspiracy running things behind the scenes.
  • In a cross with Mystical Hollywood, the arc of American Vampire set in the 1920s shows that a coven of the Always Chaotic Evil Carpathian Vampires control old Hollywood, which they use to increase their financial and social control. They regularly feed on and kill the waves of desperate young people coming to Hollywood in hopes of working in the film industry, and they have more than enough power to easily cover it up, no matter how many go missing.

    Comic Strips 
  • One Turner the Worm story had him brought to Hollywood to make a film adaptation of his adventures, only for him to discover that the film turned him into a musclebound action hero (played by a Arnold Schwarzenegger expy), generally misrepresented his life, and Turner himself was only involved as the lead actor's stunt double. He ends up finding the end result so awful that he eats the negative to prevent its release.
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    Fan Works 

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • Nathanael West's novel The Day of the Locust is about a Yale graduate who comes to Hollywood to work as a scenery painter as a way of paying the bills while he works on his masterpiece, a painting called The Burning of Los Angeles. The producer for whom he works bluntly describes himself and his co-workers as "grown men making mud pies to sell to the great unwashed," and the world they inhabit is full of sexual depravity, ruthless ambition, and callous disregard for humanity, with major set pieces including the collapse of a soundstage being used for a battle scene while it is still actively under construction, and the audience at a film premiere devolving into a rioting mob.
  • 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, takes Philip Marlowe into the underbelly of Hollywood, with backstabbing movie stars and celebrities who have dangerous secrets and studios willing to pay well to hush them up. 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.
  • Abusive Parents Camille and Antonio Spencer from Damned encourage their thirteen-year-old daughter to experiment with drugs, adopt Non-Specifically Foreign and/or Inspirationally Disadvantaged children as a PR stunt each time they have a project coming up, and let their vanity go so far that when their daughter dies, they put the wrong birth year on her headstone to make themselves appear younger.
  • In Robert Bloch's novel Psycho 2 (different from the movie of that name), nearly everyone in Hollywood (where they're making a movie about killer Norman Bates) is a degenerate scumbag, from the director who watches snuff films to remember the time he watched his mother get gang-raped to death, to the male actors who are all perverts, to the leading lady who slept her way into every role. One gets the idea that Mister Bloch was not a fan of Hollywood.
  • What Makes Sammy Run?, a dark take on the Rags to Riches story with whopping doses of Ambition Is Evil and Lonely at the Top. Later made into a Broadway musical.
  • Little Star portrays the Swedish music industry as this. It starts with Lennart Cederstrom, a retired pop singer who was part of a duo with his wife Laila in The '70s, discovering an infant girl in the woods, naming her Theres, and becoming a Stage Dad as he tries to raise her into a great singer without letting her have any contact with the outside world. He never teaches her basic empathy or understanding of metaphor, however, and Theres brutally murders him and Laila over a tragic misunderstanding. (You see, Theres was told that love is something found inside the mind, and so she went looking for that love.) From there, we get Max Hansen, a sleazy and perverted talent agent who attempts to take advantage of the young Theres in more ways than one. Theres, on the other hand, still as emotionally detached as ever, violently attacks him when he tries to rape her, causing him to develop masochistic tendencies. And finally, as Theres becomes famous, she transforms her devoted fan club into a cult.
  • In the Neil Gaiman story "The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories," a young British writer is invited to Hollywood to adapt a novel he wrote into a movie. He's immediately thrust into a Kafkaesque cycle of meetings with people he never sees again, while Executive Meddling mutates his story into several different scripts (a horror story called Sons Of Man gradually becomes a feel-good comedy called I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock And Roll). Throughout, he ponders the story of a silent film starlet who committed suicide in his hotel, as well as a running gag about two celebrities who were with John Belushi when he died.
  • The Shining: Despite the novel taking place in the Rocky Mountains, this trope still plays a minor part in the backstory, specifically in the background of the Overlook's most infamous owner, the Howard Hughes Homage Horace Derwent. One of Derwent's many poorly planned investments was an ailing movie studio that had once been successfully making sappy family films but hit hard times when their most beloved child star O.D.'d on heroin at a party, with the studio covering up her death as a "wasting sickness" she got while entertaining orphans at a children's hospital.
  • Something More Than Night mixes the usual kinds of horribleness — vapid, selfish stars, oppressed writers, studio execs treating studios as their personal playsets — with additional touches of surreal horror like a team of slapstick comedians that doubles as a clown-themed hit squad, and a private clinic where unethical experiments are carried out to find a cure for death.
  • Valley of the Dolls is all about this, showing the effects of the old studio system, the greed, perversion, and paranoia rampant throughout the entire show business industry. Each of the three women is affected differently, and all end up in the "valley of the dolls" — addicted to prescription medications to cope with stress.

    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 Manchild 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, although set in the titular building in New York. While more sympathetic than the others, does portray the shallower/nastier/crazier elements of showbiz.
  • In one episode of Boy Meets World, Eric goes to Hollywood to 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 antithesis of all the main characters.
    • Admiral Chegwidden's brief stint as a 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.
  • Being a detective series set in Los Angeles and focussing on the wealthy elite, several episodes of Columbo focus on scheming creative and industry types resorting to murder to get what they want (or stop someone else from getting it). All of this serves to contrast the often preening, arrogant egotists who scheme to get away with murder with the humble, friendly and down-to-earth shabby detective who finds just one more thing they've overlooked in doing so.
  • Entourage shows Hollywood at its worst, with petty, egotistical actors and actresses who are easily tempted to ruining their lives with drugs, unscrupulous producers and studio heads, basically anything you can think of when showing the dark side of Hollywood, the show does and doesn’t hold back.
  • The Larry Sanders Show mostly plays this trope straight, but it's nevertheless quite affectionate all the same. The main characters (both on-screen and off) of Larry's talk show and his guests are certainly far from being free of egotism, insecurity, scheming, backbiting, troubled personal lives, or cynicism, but at the same time they're not really malevolent either; they're just people with frailties and weaknesses like anyone else.
  • Angel has a couple of episodes dealing with this, mostly with Cordelia's desire to become an actress. The antagonist of the first episode is a vampire who preys on wannabe starlets. A later episode revolves around an actress who's aware that her looks are starting to fade, and she considers becoming a vampire in order to maintain her youth (and by extension, her career) forever.

    Music 
  • tool's "Aenema", where the singer dreams about Hollywood being flooded and lists some of the reasons why this would be a good thing.
  • 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 Eagles' "Hotel California" is said by the band to be about the hedonism and self-destruction of California and America in general, using a Hell Hotel as a metaphor for such.
  • A recurring theme for singer-songwriter Dory Previn, particularly the treatment of women in Hollywood. She even did a Concept Album (Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign) about it.
  • The Go-Go's' "This Town" warns of the dark side of Hollywood: "Discarded stars/Like worn-out cars/Litter the streets of this town."
  • A very common theme in Lana Del Rey songs and music videos. Lust for Life title track and music video has a direct reference to the suicide of Peg Entwistle on the H of the Hollywood sign.
  • Gorillaz's "Hollywood" is a somewhat even-handed approach to the topic, acknowledging that Hollywood is entrenched in a culture of vice, envy, and manipulation, but one whose allure is real and undeniable, signifying that there is hope for those who make the effort to rise above it all. There's also "The Valley of the Pagans", which depicts Hollywood as itself a blissful, hedonistic getaway, but a very superficial one appealing to those with much in their lives they need to get away from.
  • A common theme in Eminem's music.
    • "Say Goodbye Hollywood" is Eminem contemplating suicide due to fame ruining his life and the tabloids leering into his chaotic personal life.
    • "Ass Like That" is a satire of normalised entertainment industry perversion, rapped in the voice of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
    • The entirety of Relapse is a Concept Album allegorising this, as a Slasher Movie about Slim Shady murdering pill-addicted trainwreck starlets.

    Theatre 
  • City of Angels tells the story of the making of a (fictional) Film Noir, which involves a little nepotism, enough Executive Meddling to overwhelm the unfortunate writer adapting his novel, Casting Couch intrigues, and a crooner with false teeth.
  • In Kiss the Boys Good-bye by Clare Boothe, the action may take place mostly in Westport, Connecticut, but much of it concerns the travails of a director, a producer, and a "matured star" who'd do anything to land the leading part of a Southern Belle for whom the producer wants to try out a fresher feminine face on his Casting Couch.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • 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, whose 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.
  • Grand Theft Auto V is set in a thinly veiled parody of southern California, and so Vinewood, the game's version of Hollywood, is portrayed as the usual wretched hive of hypocrisy and stupidity. Solomon Richards, who Michael does a number of missions for, is a movie producer who's entangled with a number of underworld figures and gives Michael a production credit on his final film. There's also the case of Leonora Johnson, a young starlet who was brutally murdered back in The '70s and is the subject of a side-mission where you search for the truth of what happened to her. Her murderer was a deranged filmmaker (a thinly-veiled parody of Roman Polański) who believes that what he did to her was vital for his art. Then again, this being Grand Theft Auto, the whole damned country is portrayed the same way, and possibly the entire world as well.

    Web Original 
  • 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."
  • Parodied by the Babylon Bee in "Chaos At Oscars As Chris Hansen Appears On Stage".
    Chris Hansen: Why don't you all just have a seat over there?
  • This trope is the whole Reality Subtext both in and out of universe in Demo Reel. Almost every main character has been burned by Hollywood one way or another, but Donnie, a Former Child Star whose mother was Driven to Suicide after her own career died, causing the bad performance for which he is still blamed and bullied, is practically ashes.
  • Critical Role has some Reality Subtext in this regard as well, due to all of the players being steadily working actors living in L.A. - though in a milder form, since most of the cast are working as voice actors and voice directors (and largely got their start in video game production and/or anime dubbing), not directly in Hollywood. Still, they will occasionally mention how incredibly lucky they were to find such a close-knit, genuine and supportive group of friends not just in their adult work environmentnote  but in L.A.'s cut-throat entertainment industry. Since the genre of the mothership show is high fantasy, the circumstances of the player's day jobs mostly just come up when they're speaking out-of-character (e.g. in the after-show Talks Machina or the in-depth personal interviews titled Between the Sheets) or in the psychological horror one-shot adventure Liam's Quest: Full Circle where the cast play child versions of themselves, traversing a post-apocalyptic nightmare version of the Hollywood area and their usual recording studios. While most of the cast just talk about being awkward/nerdy kids dealing with regular-type pubescent angst and loneliness, Sam mentions that he didn't have any friends as a young child because he was too busy working on Broadway to go to school. And Taliesin, who was put in front of a camera (naked!) when he was 5 by his film-business parents and according to IMDB kept working steadily until he hit puberty, speaks with a certain bitterness about the fact that he was a very small, cherubic and "marketable" child.note  In the end, during his love-letter to his friends, Liam even congratulated Taliesin specifically on having survived a Hollywood childhood with his heart and spirit intact.
    Liam: Taliesin. My friend. At a time when I knew many fascinating people, you were easily the most fascinating of all. Somehow, a heart knocked around by the industry that birthed you came out a tender one. I was richer for having known you. Thank you, my friend.
    • Defied in the case of Ashley, who started filming her first movie and TV series roles at age 7 and has been working in front of the camera or as voice actor every year since then, but who says that her childhood wasn't at all like "the horror stories you hear about child actors." note 

    Western Animation 
  • This is the basic premise of BoJack Horseman, detailing the shattering life of a washed-up Funny Animal actor and his desperate attempts to be happy in a life he hates. Special attention is put to the damage done to child actors, which haunts BoJack in particular since he worked on a sitcom full of them.
    Sarah Lynn: Y'know, it's amazing that it's legal for kids to be actors. How is that not child labor? I didn't know what I was signing up for. I was three.
  • The Critic frequently invokes this trope. The second singlest Running Gag of the show, aside from Sherman being a Butt-Monkey, is the constant decrying of Hollywood aiming to satisfy the Lowest Common Denominator and failing even at that.
  • The Cleveland Show: The Browns briefly relocate to Los Angeles, and Cleveland quickly discovers that most of Hollywood is just pollution, wildfires, MASSIVE traffic problems, homelessness, shallow celebrities, crime, and grifters. Then they visit one of Hollywood's legal marijuana shops, and Cleveland immediately changes his mind, proclaiming the city to be amazing.
  • Duckman: Downplayed in "Dammit Hollywood". All the usual negative aspects are there, showing an industry run by rich morons who couldn't find their butts with both hands, populated by self-absorbed egomaniac actors and sleazy directors, all wrapped up in a shallow culture of glitz and lies. That said, it's shown that as scummy as many of them are, a lot of them do want to bring joy and magic through movies, even if it doesn't always work out that way due to the misguided attempts of appealing to a broad audience. They're also shown to care about each other, in their own way.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Bart sees this in the episode "Bart Gets Famous", where he becomes the "I didn't do it kid" and is exposed to the full force of showbiz, "a hideous bitch goddess".
    • Comically inverted at the end of "Radioactive Man": Springfield gouged the simple yet not that unpleasant Hollywood folks out of their money, so they return to their home base and are given a warm welcome and a promise to get them and the movie back on their feet.
      Producer: Thank God we're back in Hollywood, where people treat each other right!
    • Troy McClure is a washed-up movie star whose career tanked after he was caught sleeping with the fishes. He is shown to be incredibly vain and self-centered, and incapable of normal adult relationships. It doesn't help that his agent had all but abandoned him. He dates and eventually marries Selma in an attempt to salvage his career, but then his agent tries to pressure him into having a baby with her. She doesn't want to bring a child into a sham marriage, and she leaves him. And once again, his agent abandons him, leaving him to do "educational" films and infomercials.

Alternative Title(s): Hollyweird

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