I never really thought about Hollywood as being as sleazy as this, but then I’ve always been naive about the twisted underbelly of our culture:
Just as the sordid but ongoing saga of filmmaker and convicted pedophile Roman Polanski fades once again from the headlines, stories of child abuse in Hollywood have erupted again, with an unprecedented frequency. Of course, if you don’t know where to look for this sort of news, you might never have heard a thing.
This paints a dismal picture of Hollywood for outsiders, but rings familiar bells for those of us who cover the industry. As child stars, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland were given amphetamines to help them keep up with hectic production schedules on their hit MGM films, which began a string of substance addictions that plagued Garland for the rest of her increasingly sad life. Then there’s screen legend Errol Flynn, whose interest in underage girls led to a 1943 trial for statutory rape, where his acquittal perversely burnished his reputation as – the phrase can only be uttered with savage irony – a “ladies man.”
More than any other business, Hollywood is a place where talent, youth and beauty are exploited, with a premium paid for all three. It’s also an industry that’s learned to shield itself from criticism by celebrating its venal and amoral customs with skilful self-parody, so that proud mea culpas from selfish sociopaths have somehow shifted the focus from actual predators and criminals thriving in the background.
And why they’re so good at it.