Joan Didion, the Author Hollywood Fears:

Play it As it Lays, Harvey Weinstein, and False Progressive Values

Rais Tuluka


Joan Didion in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park during the writing of her article “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” in April 1967.

O n October 5th, 2017, Hollywood changed. Harvey Weinstein, one of the industry’s most powerful men, was the center of an examination executed by The New York Times. They revealed sexual assault allegations against Mr. Weinstein, spanning nearly three decades.

Mainstream interrogation of power has been the last decade’s theme. These inquiries used to be conspiracy theories, underground murmurs of vituperations. Instead, today, we watched with open eyes how too much privilege creates self-indulgence.

Liberal Hollywood contains a kind of dictatorship of good intentions, a social contract where actual and irreconcilable disagreement is taboo, a climate rife with an irony that allowed Harvey Weinstein to thrive unchallenged.

One of my favorite Joan Didion essays, On Self-Respect, contains words I keep posted on my wall:

“Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The charms that work on others count for nothing in that devastatingly well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself: no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions.”

Joan Didion told the truth. In the 1960s, women in Hollywood were supposed to comply, but she commented on women’s relationship with subservience through her work. Nearly half a century before today’s rising public outcries against Hollywood’s masculine whiteness, Didion addressed the issue.

Play It as It Lays is a 1970 novel by the American writer Joan Didion. Time magazine included the novel in its “TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005”.About the book, Joan Didion said, “I didn’t think it was going to make it […] And suddenly it did make it, in a minor way. And from that time on I had more confidence.”The book was made into a 1972 movie starring Tuesday Weld as Maria and Anthony Perkins as BZ. Didion co-wrote the screenplay with her husband, John Gregory Dunne.

Didion’s Hollywood isn’t a slice cut from a mythical California, a land of orange groves, wholesome sunshine, and boundless opportunity. It’s where dreams die.

Her second novel, Play It As It Lays, paints Hollywood as brooding, malicious, and unkind. The book is about Maria, an actress in her thirties…