On the (not so) Hidden Antisemitism of the Netflix Miniseries “Hollywood”

Paul Klee, Figurine of the Colourful Devil, 1927, tempera on paper mounted on card, 46.7 x 30.5 cm

This text is part of a longer, as yet unfinished critical discussion of the means by which antisemitism is currently being combated.

Netflix has just sunk several million Dollars into a star-studded, seven-part miniseries offering the most elaborate demonstration to date of the fact that postcolonial “antiracism” is intended not to complement but to displace the critique of antisemitism. It has been remarked elsewhere that the miniseries clearly wants to eat its cake and have it. In a fairly lurid and didactical way, it first highlights the discrimination and maltreatment of blacks, women and gay men in postwar Hollywood, only then to move into magical realism territory and have those wrongs conspicuously righted. This redemptive scenario culminates in the fictitious movie eventually produced in the course of the miniseries winning several Oscars. Yet for all its magical realism, those responsible for the miniseries chose not to enter their fictitious movie within the movie in a fictitious competition, they pitted it against the actual winners of the 1948 Oscars. Now, to the best of my knowledge, the Oscars have been awarded more than once since the Second World War. Even if one absolutely wanted the miniseries to play in the second half of the 1940s, there would have been several options. Are we really to believe that it is pure coincidence that the producers of this miniseries chose the 1948 Oscars, i.e., a year, in which a film grappling with antisemitism in the US, Elia Kazan’s Gentleman’s Agreement, won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress in a Supporting Role? The Netflix miniseries now cheerfully reassigns these Oscars to its fictitious “antiracist” movie. It is hard to imagine a clearer indication of the extent to which the desire of postcolonial “antiracism” to displace the critique of antisemitism has spread from the professorial sects who inaugurated it the culture-industrial mainstream.

Incidentally, alongside Gentleman’s Agreement, a second movie dealing with antisemitism in the US was also released in 1947, Edward Dmytryk’s Crossfire (which, intriguingly, was based on a novel that was actually concerned not with antisemitism but with the discrimination and maltreatment of gay men). Max Horkheimer was asked to give his expert opinion on this film.

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