Here’s something that happens pretty often in Hollywood: You hear about a project that sounds so noxious, so artistically bankrupt, and such a blatantly cynical grab for cash, that you block it out entirely. Maybe it’s a hideously re-conceived remake of a beloved classic, or the umpteenth sequel of a movie that was terrible to begin with. Perhaps it’s even a movie based on a video game or amusement park ride that isn’t even Disney. Whatever it is—and as far as you’re concerned—it never existed, will never exist, could never exist.
It’s amazing how often this feels effectively like a self-fulfilling prophecy. No matter how starry the project, or how big the names attached to it happen to be, movies in Hollywood tend to fall apart, or at least, dissipate into the ether of development almost as often as they actually get made. It’s like the opposite of the Tinkerbell principle: If you don’t believe in something hard enough, it might actually never exist.
No such luck with the Entourage movie. They said it was going to happen. It happened. Now it’s in theaters, and it will make more money than it even remotely deserves to, which is about $7. And just like when it was still simply Entourage the TV show, I start to have a panic attack every time I pass one of its billboards.
Believe me, I’ve spent more time than is remotely healthy wondering why the Entourage franchise, which almost single-handedly redefined the term “douchebag” for a generation, bothers me so much. It’s certainly far from the only entertainment property that objectifies women, romanticizes frat-boy stupidity, showcases incuriosity and materialism (and about stupid stuff like cars, not good stuff like shoes!) and traffics in simple-minded and insulting stereotypes about Jews, and in particular, Jewish women. (I could write a 100-page thesis about the character of Mrs. Ari, the “humorously” unnamed wife of Ari Gold, the super-agent played by Jeremy Piven, who, in his career-defining role, comes across as some kind of fictional JAP nightmare out of a cruel joke from the 1970’s and/or a Real Housewives franchises.)
And Entourage boasts stereotypically negative portrayals of gays and Asians. (Ari’s long-suffering assistant Lloyd is gay and Asian.) And let us not forget, as the rest of the world has, that Mark Wahlberg, the show’s executive producer–and allegedly the inspiration behind its main character, Vincent Chase–was convicted in his youth of a hate crime in which he participated in the savage beating of an Asian man.
And even though Doug Ellin, the show’s creator and the Entourage movie director, may insist that the film is for “real people, not little bitter guys on Twitter,” it’s hard to think he means it given the near universal pans he’s received from varied quarters.
No, I think my real problem with Entourage is how blindly it insists on its own relevance, on the idea that five guys, and their lives, are still cool and aspirational. In a Hollywood where female superheroes and female-led action franchises are ascendant—Caitlyn Jenner is on the cover of Vanity Fair and Transparent is the prestige viewing of the moment—jokes about bikini babes, date rapes, and how silly effeminate men are, don’t quite land the way they used to.
And thank God. It’s been a long, hard road to get to where we are today—a world where a variety of racial, sexual, and gender identities receive representation on screen, where women are allowed to be more than just a girlfriend, and where sexual minorities exist as more than just a punchline. We can be proud of that, but not at the expense of realizing how fragile it is. Entourage, in gaudy, self-congratulatory detail, shows a Hollywood much stupider than the one that actually exists. Let’s all close our eyes and believe very hard that we don’t believe it.