Mark Reads ‘Moving Pictures’: Part 4

In the fourth part of Moving Pictures, Victor discovers the problems with working Holy Wood. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of racism and sexism within the film industry, and gentrification.

So, a question to start things off here: Who is watching the films produced in Holy Wood? The entirety of this book so far has been cataloguing one side of this industry, and I get why that is. The production side provides a lot more humor, and Pratchett’s fairly brutal throughout this. But who is Dibbler talking about throughout this section when he says he’s giving people what they want? Are Silverfish’s films really gaining audiences in the thousands? Are there other directors and producers working in Holy Wood, or is it just Silverfish and Dibbler at this point? Regardless, I suspect it doesn’t really matter who is seeing the films. At this point, I’m guessing this is just a part of Pratchett’s satire. Producers are always desperate to make films that will make a return on their investment, regardless of what people actually want, you know? That’s part of the humor here. The things that They are compelling the people of Holy Wood to do all reference the stereotypes and tropes that our Hollywood produces routinely.

Actually, if you don’t mind, I’d like to go through the MANY, MANY jokes and gags portrayed here so I can talk about things. I FEEL LIKE I AM UNIQUELY PREPARED FOR MOVING PICTURES, Y’ALL.

Nothing is Real

There’s a motif spoken throughout this section, one that confuses Victor at first: nothing in Holy Wood is real. I feel like that is, in part, a reference to the fact that there will always be an artificial nature to much of what the film industry produces. It doesn’t matter how realistic a film might be; in some small way, there’s a fantasy aspect to it. That could be due to the pacing or the lens through which we view a story. I’ll give you an example: the film Crash, released in 2005, is viewed by many people (who tend to be white liberals in America) to be one of the best movies ever made. It won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2006, and there was a lot of controversy around it beating Brokeback Mountain. (I have lots to say on that, but that’s for another day.) One of the most common things I heard from people who defended this film was that it was painfully realistic about racial tensions in Los Angeles and, by that measure, in the United States.

When I watched that movie, I was so angry and triggered by it that I experienced a physical revulsion to it. I found it to be one of the most racist films I’d ever seen, mostly because it was a film that took the idea of false equivalency to extremes. There is no sense for power dynamics, and it ignores even a 101-level of critical theory, namely that racism requires institutional power within the American framework of race. Nope, in that film’s view of racism, all people everywhere are equally racist and equally responsible for the burden of ridding the world of it. It felt hollow, offensive, and like a brick to the face. It was not real. It was a white liberal fantasy being touted as realism. Why is that? Because it approaches the concept of race through the lens of someone who has not experienced racism in this country.

Now, that’s admittedly a very extreme version of this concept. You need only look to films like American Sniper to find other examples of how reality is twisted by the Hollywood machine. But there’s another level to Pratchett’s joke: in order to produce a lot of films, many things are faked but assumed to be real by the audience. There’s a lovely little gag when Victor realizes someone’s chainmail is actually string painted grey. To Victor, that’s absolutely absurd. Why not just use real chainmail? Who does that hurt? Well, it costs most, has a higher risk of harming the actor, and may not actually film well. What if it’s too sparkly??? And that’s the sort of basis for this kind of fakery. (Have you ever seen behind-the-scenes shit involving green screen? It’s hilariously fake!) However, the people on the Disc who are experiencing this are doing so for the first time in their lives! This is totally new to them, and I think it’s fascinating that Pratchett acknowledges this.


I mentioned the pay disparities in my last review, and Pratchett addresses them far more explicitly here. Sometimes, that metaphor works extremely well, especially when Ginger openly talks about how she’s paid less because she’s disposable. That is absolutely a reality in Hollywood, and the sort of emotional manipulation she’s subject to is something I’ve witnessed firsthand. Many producers rely on that sort of behavior to get their crew or cast to work unpaid, all because they know people are desperate to succeed in this industry. And yes, that’s unfortunately borne almost entirely by people who are marginalized in our society, too.

So, the jokes about a day’s payment are unflinchingly realistic. But the metaphor doesn’t quite work in other ways. There’s a set of jokes about the trolls’ problems with being typecast as… well. Trolls. Who rush out and hit people. And occasionally jump up and down on people! This is a thinly-veiled reference to typecasting in Hollywood, which relies heavily on sticking people within specific roles based on prejudice and discrimination. While straight white men can certainly be typecasted, it’s often that people of color, women, gay/queer people, trans folks, and other marginalized people are typecasted the most. (I had a Latino friend in Los Angeles who had only been cast as a “Thug” or “Gangster” in every single thing he’d starred in, and he could never get an audition for anything else.) So! We’ve got a joke based on an absolutely real phenomenon, and then, later on, Ginger and Victor talk about how the trolls are paid more than they are because there aren’t that many of them willing to be trolls in the movies. That’s where the metaphor falls apart for me because… that’s absolutely not how it works? Typecasted actors are usually paid dramatically less, so I feel like this might be a reference to stunt people? Or maybe certain kinds of character actors? I dunno, it feels like a mixed analogy to me.

I will, however, never get over the idea Morraine as a character actor. PLAYING ROCKS. Oh my god, I want to be best friends with Rock and Morry, y’all.

Being Rescued

Oh, Ginger. Just five weeks into making moving pictures and she’s already been exploited. It’s no secret that the film industry is massively misogynistic, and it’s not my place to necessarily explain why. Plenty of people directly affected by misogyny have written DECADES worth of scholarship and criticism about how women are cast into stereotypical roles, are asked to do things men rarely are asked to do, and are expected to do things like… well, let me just quote this scene:

“We’ll go from the bit where he finds her tied to the stake. What you do,” he said to Victor, “is untie her, then drag her off and fight the Balgrog, and you,” he pointed to the girl, “you, you, you just follow him and look as, as rescued as you possibly can, OK?”

“I’m good at that,” she said, resignedly.

Which implies that THIS IS ALL SHE’S BEEN ASKED TO DO. All the action? Given to the man. All the agency? Given to the man. All the meat of the role? Surprise! She doesn’t get any of it. She’s cast to give someone else all the attention, validation, and meaning. This happens ALL THE TIME. And even after Victor is “affected” by Them and compelled to kiss Ginger, she makes reference to the fact that this still gives him most of the power over her.

“Er,” he said, “I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced?”

“You didn’t seem to let that stop you,” she said.

“I wouldn’t normally do something like that. I must have been… ill. Or something.”

“Oh, good. And that makes me feel a lot better, does it?”

I did appreciate that the text acknowledge how inappropriate his kiss was, though I’m left feeling like I need more about this force that’s making people do things. What’s the end result? I get that a lot of this is a parody about what the moviegoing audience wants, but I don’t know what the end game is. How does this all break the fabric of reality? What happens then?


As predicted, Silverfish is furious with Ginger and Victor for doing something as necessary and reasonable as TAKING A LUNCH BREAK. Unsurprisingly, even the Holy Wood commissary is a perfect metaphor for how this industry exploits the laborers in this town. It’s not like the kind of absurd catering that I’ve seen on film sets or music video shoots or backstage at concerts. It’s sad, and all the actors are crammed together uncomfortably while eating substandard meals at an exorbitant price. You know what else fits this theme perfectly? The ongoing physical exploitation of the imps within the cameras. NAILING THEM TO THE BOX BY THEIR FEET, WHAT THE FUCK.

So, does the expansion of Holy Wood count as gentrification??? Because it’s not lost on me that Pratchett describes the town as growing “by fission,” only to then reveal that the vast majority of these people can’t actually afford to live here. Oh, their work absolutely contributes to the booming economy, but their share of it? It’s a pittance. Where does Victor get to sleep? On the beach. As Morry says, “There’s never enough places to stay.” IT’S TOO REAL, Y’ALL. I mean, I currently live in an area that’s so rapidly gentrifying literally everything that I’ll soon be priced out of it. I make an okay living doing what I do, but it’s not good enough for this place. That’s such a weird concept to me because it places a valuation on specific industries and on your ability to labor under hellish circumstances that are utterly absurd to anyone with awareness of how this system works. I’m sure many of you have heard how bad San Francisco is right now, but to give you a monetary basis for your understanding? The mean price for apartments in this city (for studios, one bedrooms, or two bedrooms) is listed as $3,469 on RentJungle. To make this even more obvious, here’s a map of median prices for one bedroom apartments within the city limits of San Francisco. I currently cannot afford a single one bedroom apartment in the entirety of San Francisco. My worry – which is being confirmed every week – is that Oakland is next. I’m already seeing rents skyrocket in the area because people with more disposable income than those currently living here are now being pushed out of SF. How long until there’s not enough places to stay here?

Lord, I did not expect this book to give me SO MANY FEELINGS.

The original text contains use of the word “mad.”

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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1 Response to Mark Reads ‘Moving Pictures’: Part 4

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