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Academy Museum to Revise Exhibit on Hollywood’s Jewish Founders

Academy Museum to Revise Exhibit on Hollywood’s Jewish Founders


When the favored Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened in 2021 with displays celebrating the variety of the movie business, the museum was criticized for having largely omitted one group: the Jewish founders of Hollywood.

Last month, the museum aimed to appropriate that oversight by opening a everlasting new exhibition highlighting the formative position that Jewish immigrants like Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer performed in creating he American movie business.

But the brand new exhibition, which turns a typically essential eye on Hollywood’s founders, ignited an uproar. An open letter despatched to the museum on Monday objected to using phrases together with “tyrant,” “oppressive,” “womanizer” and “predator” in its wall textual content, known as the exhibit “antisemitic” and described it as “the one part of the museum that vilifies these it purports to have a good time.”

In response to the rising outcry, the Academy Museum stated in an announcement Monday that it had “heard the issues from members of the Jewish group” and that it was “dedicated to creating adjustments to the exhibition to handle them.”

“We can be implementing the primary set of adjustments instantly — they may permit us to inform these essential tales with out utilizing phrasing that will unintentionally reinforce stereotypes,” the museum stated.

The museum introduced the adjustments simply earlier than receiving an open letter, from “United Jewish Writers,” that was signed by greater than 300 Hollywood professionals. “While we acknowledge the worth in confronting Hollywood’s problematic previous, the despicable double commonplace of the Jewish Founders exhibit, blaming solely the Jews for that problematic previous, is unacceptable and, whether or not intentional or not, antisemitic,” stated the letter. “We name on the Academy Museum to completely redo this exhibit in order that it celebrates the Jewish founders of Hollywood with the identical respect and enthusiasm granted to these celebrated all through the remainder of the museum.”

The signatories included the leisure govt Casey Wasserman, the actor David Schwimmer and the tv author Amy Sherman-Palladino.

“This just isn’t unconscious bias, that is aware bias,” one of many signers, Lawrence Bender, who produced Quentin Tarantino’s movies, stated in an interview. “It looks like a hatchet job on the Jews.”

The exhibition, which opened final month, drew on the work of Neal Gabler, who wrote the well-respected “An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood.” It included a bit in regards to the founding of Hollywood studios, a take a look at the evolution of Los Angeles and a documentary, “From the Shtetl to the Studio: The Jewish Story of Hollywood,” narrated by Ben Mankiewicz, the TCM host.

There have been some optimistic critiques. While criticizing the absence of archival objects, for instance, The Wall Street Journal stated that the exhibition “ought to quell the restive voices calling for explicitly Jewish illustration inside this museum and a few acknowledgment of the business’s earliest historical past.”

But unfavorable responses quickly emerged amid heightened sensitivity about antisemitism within the wake of the Oct. 7 assault on Israel and the struggle in Gaza. TheWrap reported on rising criticisms final week, and a chunk in Los Angeles Magazine headlined “Hiding in Plain Sight: How the Academy Museum Relegated Hollywood’s Jewish Founders to the Ghetto,” reported that Alma Har’el, an Israeli American movie director who had served on the museum’s inclusivity committee, resigned after touring the exhibition.

Some critics took problem with what they noticed because the exhibition’s implication that Hollywood’s Jewish pioneers had discriminated in opposition to different marginalized teams as a strategy to assimilate, noting its dialogue of blackface “The Jazz Singer.”

“Nothing is claimed of D.W. Griffith’s or Walt Disney’s infamously racist depictions or questionable management strategies,” Keetgi Kogan, a Hollywood author and producer, wrote to the museum. “It is barely the Jewish founders who’re accused of oppressive management, of being white washers, tyrants, womanizers, predators, social climbers, and naturally, racists.”

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief govt of the Anti-Defamation League, stated that “we’re each shocked and stunned that the Academy made an effort to get this proper and one way or the other appears to have gotten it mistaken.”

The controversy over the exhibition got here to a head two weeks after the Academy introduced that the museum’s director and president, Jacqueline Stewart, can be stepping down. Stewart, a movie historian and the recipient of a 2021 MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, will return to the University of Chicago, the place she is a professor. She can be succeeded by Amy Homma, the museum’s chief viewers officer, who serves on the Anti-Defamation League’s leisure management council.

Academy officers stated her departure was unrelated to the exhibition. In an interview, Stewart stated that it had been “an enormous studying expertise for us,” and added that the museum had not supposed to emphasise the unfavorable, however to convey “a way of pleasure and exploration and innovation.”

The museum stated it might convene “an advisory group of specialists from main museums centered on the Jewish group, civil rights, and the historical past of different marginalized teams.”

It has already agreed to satisfy with among the critics. Jennifer Levine, a producer, stated she has an appointment scheduled for the week after subsequent, having been “heartbroken and saddened” after visiting the exhibition on opening day.

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