Seduction is one of my favorite nonfiction titles of the year, a big, weighty tome that pushes past mini-biographies of its subjects to make a larger argument about the way the Hollywood machine has always ground up hopeful young women who come to Los Angeles to make it big. It’s at once timely and evergreen, illustrating how a trend in Hollywood that we’re talking about today has, nevertheless, always existed.
Longworth’s book is exceptionally well timed, arriving in the wake of the #MeToo movement during which women in Hollywood have exposed the men using power, wealth and influence to abuse and silence them. As shown here, such stories are as old as the hills. While the mistreatment of women is by no means unique to Hollywood, this was an industry in which young women arrived, often unchaperoned and thousands of miles from home, hoping to follow in the footsteps of their screen idols. All were dependent on men to help them realise their dream. Given the frank and open discussions of male abuse yielded by #MeToo, says Longworth, “it’s time to rethink stories that lionise playboys, that celebrate the idea that women of the 20th century were lands to be conquered, or collateral damage to a great man’s rise and fall.” Thus, far from a showbiz tell-all, Seduction is a vivid, insightful and often disturbing examination of male power and the commodification of women in 20th-century Hollywood.