Literature has long been sounding the alarm about sexual violence in Hollywood

For many years, novels have implored readers to look past the glamour and riches. Trey Ratcliff, CC BY-NC-SA

Latest revelations about Hollywood’s tradition of sexual harassment and violence would possibly come as a shock to many People.

In spite of everything, Los Angeles – dwelling of what some name “the American picture manufacturing unit” – has lengthy carried the attract of glamour, wealth and fame. Beckoned by the enduring Hollywood signal within the Santa Monica Mountains, the town, in lots of regards, has grow to be synonymous with the American dream.

Folks conversant in the trade, nonetheless, would possibly inform a extra difficult story. That group contains writers who’ve made Los Angeles and Hollywood their topics: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathanael West, Evelyn Waugh, Gore Vidal, Joan Didion and Bret Easton Ellis. All have chronicled a seamier facet of the California dream, a world awash with medicine, intercourse, violence and abuses of energy.

So how did so many people miss this? Might it have something to do with the actual fact People who learn literature not too long ago fell to a three-decade low?

On the very least, the works of those writers present that literature can play an crucial function in our tradition – that novels can provide us a way of going through troublesome points that many people might desire to disregard, or don’t wish to consider exist.

A metropolis of vampires

In quite a few novels for the reason that 1930s, Hollywood’s underbelly has been revealed as a panorama rife with peril. And whereas many writers have laid naked the vice, corruption and disillusionment on the coronary heart of Hollywood, few have gone deeper into the shadows than Nathanael West and Bret Easton Ellis.

West’s 1939 novel, “The Day of the Locust,” depicts the struggles of Faye Greener, an aspiring actress in pursuit of Hollywood fame and fortune – a dream laid waste by the lads she meets alongside the best way, who see her as little greater than an object of their needs.

Pursued and stalked all through the novel, Greener ultimately turns to prostitution to make a residing. Worse but, to the novel’s protagonist, she’s the topic of disturbing rape fantasies. The story ends in a frenzy of violence at a Hollywood film premiere – West’s final denunciation of a tradition and a metropolis.

Greater than 40 years later, the characters of Bret Easton Ellis’s fiction are subjected to nearly unspeakable types of trauma and sexualized violence in “Much less Than Zero” and “The Informers.”

In “Much less Than Zero,” billboards emblazoned with the phrases “Disappear Right here” loom over the panorama. They’re apparently commercials that invite a blissful escape to some far-off resort. However for the novel’s major character, they grow to be a menacing warning of a metropolis that devours all who reside and work there.

The novel’s major character, Clay, descends into the darkest recesses of this world – a journey to, as he places it, “see the worst.” And certainly he does.

Though a number of the horrors he witnesses happen in again alleys and basement golf equipment, essentially the most stunning types of violence – rapes, the viewing of snuff movies – transpire at ritzy resorts and posh houses in Malibu, Bel Air and Beverly Hills. We’re led to the conclusion that self-destruction, dehumanization and violence are constructed into the very material of Hollywood’s being.

In the meantime, the younger characters in “The Informers” reside in a Los Angeles “swarming with vampires.” Many flip to alcohol, medicine and intercourse to deal with the depravity of lives which are hopelessly synthetic and empty. For some, leisure has devolved into watching movies of girls being terrorized by “near-naked masked males.”

At one level, a major character, the son of a film govt, meets a struggling actor.

“Until you’re prepared to do some fairly terrible issues,” the actor says, “it’s onerous getting a job on this city.” The reader can nearly anticipate the despairing give up conveyed in his last phrases: “and I’m prepared.”

Different novels, set exterior of Hollywood, converse to what may be seen solely as an epidemic of sexual violence: Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” Louise Erdrich’s “The Spherical Home,” Frances Washburn’s “Elsie’s Enterprise,” Jessica Knoll’s “Luckiest Woman Alive.”

All maintain a mirror to a world that many would like to not face.

Literature as ‘tools for residing’

Novels can’t exchange the immediacy of the testimony provided by the brave girls who, in current months, have publicly shared their experiences with sexual violence.

Nonetheless, such works can operate as a significant corroboration for the heartbreaking truths that these girls have revealed. They offer a voice to views which are marginalized and silenced.

The critic Kenneth Burke seen literature not simply as a type of amusement or mental reward, however as a approach of addressing social issues by instructing, as he put it, “methods for coping with conditions.”

An implicit factor of all literature, he argued, is that it offers readers alternatives to think about how they’d reply to difficult situations, from “what’s promising” to “what’s menacing” – all from the relative security of our houses. He noticed that readers can achieve what he referred to as an “tools for residing,” a way to assist navigate our day by day experiences.

Latest research reveal different advantages. One discovered that deep studying makes us “smarter and nicer,” whereas one other confirmed that studying literary fiction (versus mass market fiction) helps folks develop a larger sense of empathy.

In a rustic whose folks have grow to be more and more remoted from and suspicious of each other, it’s one thing we’d like now greater than ever.

The Conversation

Billy J. Stratton doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.