18th January 2011 Jonathan Harris

The end of Brand Hollywood?

Let’s be clear about this, Gervais is a cult. A marmite. You either love him or hate him, you either get him or you don’t. He either aggravates or deflates in equal measure. Those who are offended probably lack the self awareness of where the entertainment industry actually is, the sound of bubbles bursting is long overdue.

Years ago this wouldn’t have been possible, his performance at the Golden Globes this weekend may well have signaled the end of Hollywood as we know it, or rather knew it. Pop will eat is self, and popular culture even more. The dominance of a few mega studios chasing dollars rather than artistry has devalued the notion of ‘Hollywood’ to the point of pastiche. The overload of celebrity culture and fame for fame’s sake has knocked the  ‘stars’ clean off of their pedestals.

It would have been unthinkable for someone like Ricky Gervais to saunter on and take such barbed potshots at the assembled luminaries in days gone by. Even 10 or 20 years ago, their ‘saint-hoods’ and elevated status gave them a degree of protection. The stage would have been stormed if he’d slated untouchables like Grace Kelly or Cary Grant. But no longer, reality television, mass media, fast media, public driven content and access to distributed publishing has exposed and demystified the various dark underbellies of the Hollywood machine.

Celebrity is something to be scoffed at. Very few are taken seriously, the smart ones don’t take it seriously themselves. Hollywood has done this to itself, it’s craved the exposure, the desire, the narcissism, the quick payback, the endorsement. It reached out to the consumer with gauche, obvious, commercial tentacles forgetting that if you create quality then they will come. Stars are now transient, short lived and over engineered. Tourists visit La La Land hunting nostalgia and a golden era not the foibles and made for television dross of 2011.

The established stars don’t hang around to be invited onto lesser reality vehicles, they graduate to where the power really is. They become campaigners, they become politicians. Clooney, Baldwin, Foster, Pitt all move from the purely acting gig into a position of influence with a far greater reach and effect than 15 minutes of fame.

The resurgence in the UK film industry (are you listening Mr Hunt, Mr Gove), European, Asian and the sheer size and quality of the Bollywood output have destroyed the foundations of the tinsel town dominance.

Brand Hollywood is dead, relegated to a newstand scandal sheet and wistful nostalgia. Long live real film.

More Gervais…