Tuesday, 23 July

Academy Museum vows to change new exhibit about Hollywood’s Jewish pioneers to avoid stereotypes

The exterior of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Academy of Motion Pictures Museum

After coming under fire for its representation of Jews, The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is vowing to make changes to its exhibit that showcases Hollywood’s Jewish pioneers, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles museum told CNN.

The permanent exhibit — called “Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital” — aims to highlight the contributions and history of Jewish immigrants like Jack and Harry Warner (Warner Bros.), Harry Cohn (Columbia), Louis B. Mayer (MGM), Adolph Zukor (Paramount) and others who laid the groundwork for Hollywood’s studio system.

The exhibit, more than two years in the making, was spearheaded by associate curator Dara Jaffe and opened on May 19. It was met with outcry in a letter from a group called United Jewish Writers, which was signed by more than 300 Hollywood executives, writers and actors. They criticized use of the words “tyrant,” “oppressive,” “womanizer,” “predator,” and other terms in the exhibition they described as “the only section of the museum that vilifies those it purports to celebrate.”

“While we acknowledge the value in confronting Hollywood’s problematic past, the despicable double standard of the Jewish Founders exhibit, blaming only the Jews for that problematic past, is unacceptable and, whether intentional or not, antisemitic,” they wrote.

In response, an Academy Museum spokesperson told CNN changes will be implemented “immediately.”

“We have heard the concerns from members of the Jewish community regarding some components of our exhibition,” the spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. “We take these concerns seriously and are committed to making changes to the exhibition to address them.”

The changes will allow the museum “to tell these important stories without using phrasing that may unintentionally reinforce stereotypes,” the statement continued. “This will also help to eliminate any ambiguities.”

In addition to updating the exhibit, an advisory group of “experts from leading museums focused on the Jewish community, civil rights, and the history of other marginalized groups” will be convened to advise on “complex questions about context and any necessary additions” to the exhibition.

“We are deeply committed to telling these important stories in an honest, respectful, and impactful way,” the spokesperson added.

The Academy Museum’s “Hollywoodland” exhibit came about as a direct response to previous criticism when the museum opened in 2021 that it had almost entirely overlooked the contributions of Jewish pioneers in the industry.

The museum is housed in the Saban Building, after launching with a $50 million donation from Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban. Its lobby includes galleries from two of the most prominent Jewish figures in Hollywood: Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who each donated $10 million to help build the museum.

This past January, ahead of the 2024 Academy Awards, a group of Hollywood stars, including Tiffany Haddish, Josh Gad, David Schwimmer, Debra Messing and more, signed a letter to the Academy, pressing to include Jews in the organization’s inclusion and diversity standards and criticizing the group for the oversight.

Source: cnn.com