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Monday, December 11, 2023

Hollywood Is About to Reopen. It Could Be Better Than Before

The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.

Culture and entertainment are changing; so is this column. This isn’t the Monitor that you’re used to. Instead of a news roundup, this space will now be a weekly essay looking at the state of media—movies, TV, music, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, you-name-it. (Hey, it used to be a video series. Anything has the power to evolve.) That’s an awkward way to begin, but it’s integral to the theme of this week’s installment. You see, Hollywood is reopening—California governor Gavin Newsom announced last week that film and TV production can resume next week, on June 12, the same day the state’s movie theaters might start opening their doors—and in doing so, it has the opportunity, as every industry does, to reemerge from its Covid-19 lockdown better than it was.


There are myriad ways Hollywood can foster change, and some of them are already in motion. Last week, as protests against police brutality and systemic racism swept across America following the death of George Floyd, producer Stephanie Allain (Boyz n the Hood, this year’s Oscars telecast) laid out a plan in The Hollywood Reporter on how the industry, and the country, can fight racism. Now, she said, is the time for executives to fund more black and brown writers, directors, producers, and executives. “People who are sitting at the table,” she said, “must be representative of the folks who are buying tickets … We need to get really serious about changing the world. It cannot just be black and brown folks saying the same thing over and over. It’s time for white allies to step up, do something, and follow through.”

Right now, the world is in need of a hard reboot. As countless people, from Spike Lee to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick have been saying for decades, police brutality against black people is a massive structural problem—and not one solved simply by corporate statements supporting Black Lives Matter. Actions need to follow words, in the media and beyond. (For an example of what not to do, companies should look no further than the NFL, which got rightly called out on Twitter for issuing a statement from commissioner Roger Goodell saying there was an “urgent need for action” on police brutality, even though the league didn’t stand behind Kaepernick when he kneeled during the national anthem to draw attention to that very issue.)

In Hollywood specifically, there’s already one plan in play for addressing issues with law enforcement: LEAP. Announced this week by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, the Law Enforcement Accountability Project is an effort by DuVernay’s company Array to fund film, theater, literature, and other media focused on police violence. LEAP is slated for a two-year run that funds at least 25 projects looking at police accountability. “We’re asking for narrative change, and we’re creating narrative change around police abuse, misconduct, and murder of black people,” DuVernay said this week on Ellen. “We’re changing the lens of that story.” And on a corporate level, Comcast announced this week that the company will be donating $100 million to fight “injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.” The money will go to efforts within the company, which owns NBCUniversal, among other entities, and to social justice organizations. In a blog post, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said the company will work to “build programs, allocate resources and partner with national and local organizations to drive meaningful change. Each of our companies will create sustainable programs within their businesses and will proactively be soliciting ideas from employees so that we can build this effort together.”

Outside of corporate and company initiatives, individuals in entertainment have also been speaking out as the Black Lives Matter movement has grown over the last two weeks, organizing protests in all 50 states. Star Wars actor John Boyega addressed a rally in London, saying, “Black lives have always mattered. We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded. And now is the time.” During the speech he said he wasn’t sure “if I’m going to have a career after this,” but afterwards scores of filmmakers, from Jordan Peele to Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, lined up to offer support. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga and Lizzo both gave over their Instagram platforms to black voices in the movement for change, and countless others have been active on social media bringing attention to the movement for racial justice all over the world. (Side note: J. K. Rowling decided last weekend was a good time to share her opinions on transgender people—opinions Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe promptly shot down, adding, "It’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.") If long-standing change doesn’t come to the entertainment industry now, it may never come. Hey, they canceled Cops and took Gone With the Wind off of HBO Max … it's possible.

Yet perhaps no group, short of the BLM protesters themselves, have been as organized as the K-pop stans. Just as the nationwide protests were starting, the Dallas Police Department sent out a tweet asking citizens to submit video of “illegal activity” at protests. To thwart their efforts to collect data on protesters, fans began flooding the department’s app with videos of K-pop bands performing. Then, the K-pop fans got to work drowning out the results for white supremacist hashtags with messages about music and anime. Finally, earlier this week, BTS stans managed to match the pop group’s $1 million donation to Black Lives Matter movement charities in the span of a day, showing the true power of pop.

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