Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them… Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XVIII
Just before Christmas the LA Times’ the Envelope interviewed six leading actresses. The interview was unexceptional in its questions or their responses. What was unexpected was the criticism that Jessica Chastain received when she tweeted a link to the story.
Chastain who often raises the issue of inequality within the film industry was criticized for the all-white line-up. She explained the industry had to become more inclusive. Women of colour were not represented across the industry which limits their chances to be a leading actress.
Aside from the mild criticism and Chastain’s adroit handling, the issue barely made a ripple on social media. What is noteworthy, though, is the public misunderstands power in Hollywood. They don’t see the gap between the appearance and reality of power.
The public believe what appears to be power, a star’s popularity or status, is power. Actors, even the highest paid, are relatively weak as they lack power. Power in Hollywood is understood as the ability to “greenlight” projects. The person or persons who say a film can be made because they have the money or can arrange the talent and money to deliver the project are powerful. Such power can also stop or thwart projects or keep actors from working. From the days when studios blacklisted actors to Harvey Weinstein, power in Hollywood is as much saying yes as it is saying no.
Hollywood is a buyer’s market in that actors and even directors are in large supply and the money to fund their projects is limited. Contrary to what most people think the actor or actress have a low level of relative power. The real power is further up the hierarchy. The people, mostly men, who are in charge of studios or companies that can either green light a film or make an actor/actress available. The powerful are those who can connect the money, the talent, and the product. Actors or actresses have limited ability to challenge the system let alone change it.
If you want to change Hollywood there is little point in criticising or attacking those who have to survive in a buyer’s market. Instead, you should focus on the top executives and those who can greenlight films. Lobby them and criticise their choices if you want to change the way Hollywood works since they have the power. Most importantly, if the paying customer wants a change, Hollywood will respond. Perhaps this is the deeper lesson, the paying public do not appear to want this change. The critics face a tough battle in that the executives have the market, the wider public, implicitly on their side.
If the public critics of Hollywood’s systemic inequality keep focusing on the appearance of power, they will not succeed. They need to learn about the reality of Hollywood power so they can challenge it and change it, which might make them realize that a focus on new platforms, like Netflix and Amazon Prime that challenge Hollywood’s power might be where change occurs.
 See for example http://www.etonline.com/jessica-chastain-speaks-out-harassment-hollywood-more-just-gender-issue-exclusive-90553 and http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/jessica-chastain-hollywood-harvey-weinstein-women-in-entertainment-a8006291.html and http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/jessica-chastain-on-the-gender-pay-gap-i-have-lost-movies-because-i-ve-said-this-is-not-a-fair-deal-a6978626.html
 The same gap exists in Washington DC where the width of the gap and the ability to exploit it often indicates a political actor’s status if not survival.
 http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/terry-zwigoff-weinstein-blacklist-mira-sorvino_us_5a364460e4b0ff955ad39568 However, the actresses whose careers he appeared to thwart are making a comeback in Hollywood. https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/01/blacklisted-actresses-comeback-weinstein
 The problem though is that these people are rarely in the public spotlight or amenable to public lobbying. They are insulated through their institutions and the Hollywood system from such lobbying. Thus it is easier for the public to criticize what they see and not what they don’t see or requires greater effort and insight to challenge constructively. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/thr-100-hollywood-reporters-powerful-people-entertainment-1013405/item/thr-100-2017-megan-ellison-1013577
 This appears to be the case http://www.techradar.com/news/in-2017-netflix-and-amazon-changed-movies-in-2018-hollywood-will-fight-back however, Hollywood has survived and thrived by its ability to adapt to both the market and the technology. https://www.ft.com/content/26510a1c-dff3-11e7-8f9f-de1c2175f5ce