Why Does Hollywood...?

No mention of Edison's antisemitism being a reason for Hollywood's founding? - Andrew L.

Thomas Edison--all those inventions under his belt yet not one of them an eyebrow trimmer.

This reader was referencing my post about why Hollywood is located, geographically, in Southern California. I actually didn’t know anything about the kind of people Edison’s trust muscled out. After going down a historical rabbit hole, I discovered the truth was a little more nuanced than “Edison bad. Edison evil! Edison main villain in story!” Reality is closer to “Edison still pretty bad. Edison only 90% evil. Societal racism main villain and Edison just henchman.”

Also, to all my Jewish readers, Happy High Holidays! This post is, perhaps, not the most uplifting thing to read during your season of renewal and celebration.


At the beginning of the 20th century, Jewish people were either barred outright from certain jobs or given low-level, token roles. This discrimination stems from a medieval, European belief that Jews were lesser for not being Christian. Ironically, these same discriminators relied on Jewish people to handle their money due to a surface-level only understanding of the Bible. (Jesus said mammon [money] is bad, so don’t work a job that handles money.) Because hatred never sleeps, this is where the age-old anti-semitic depiction of the miserly, money-grubbing Jew comes from.


Shylock, the titular character from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, epitomizes Elizabethan sentiment towards Jewish people.


...Nazi loving piece of Chevelle!

So, when Jewish immigrants came to America in the late 19th century, the Christians who skipped all the “love thy neighbor” sections of The Good Book blamed the ebb and flow of money markets on Jewish people. Among these fanatics was famed automobile industrialist Henry Ford. Ford so believed that Jews were responsible for the world’s problems that he openly supported Adolf Hitler for nearly a decade before WWII! Ford was also an avid outdoorsman, going on road and camping trips with his good friend… Thomas Edison.


To be more than fair to Edison, the famed inventor DID employ Jewish people in his lab, some of whom provided key breakthroughs in inventions (for which Edison then took credit). Congratulations, Thomas Edison, you didn’t hate Jews as much as your Nazi-fanboy friend Ford; you exploited them as equally as the rest of your workers.

Edison’s reputation and colleagues were enough for Jewish entertainers to stay far away. This decision was a heavy blow, too, because entertainment was one of the only industries in which Jews could find work. As such, they became skilled performers, stage managers, producers, costume designers, and make-up artists. Moguls that set up shop in Hollywood had all the talent they needed to start an industry–all of them united by a societal attitude that shunned them, personified by a man who thought the movie camera was a “trifling invention.”

Thankfully, 21st century media is free of such ugly, anti-semitic stereotyp-- oh. Oh, no...


Fun Fact: Little Timmy never fell down a well in the original "Lassie" TV show... Falling implies it was an accident.

Frustratingly, some in America (and the world at large) still think “The Jewish Cabal” controls the media, just as their ignorant ancestors thought that same cabal was responsible for financial markets. As always, mass entertainment will be steered by the masses, by audience demand. As always, bullies will throw their victims down a well, then be mad that their victims have found a water supply.

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