Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood (Hardcover)
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER
An NPR Best Book of the Year
In this spectacular, newsmaking exposé that has the entertainment industry abuzz and on its heels, Vanity Fair's Maureen Ryan blows the lid off patterns of harassment and bias in Hollywood, the grassroots reforms under way, and the labor and activist revolutions that recent scandals have ignited.
It is never just One Bad Man.
Abuse and exploitation of workers is baked into the very foundations of the entertainment industry. To break the cycle and make change that sticks, it’s important to stop looking at headline-making stories as individual events. Instead, one must look closely at the bigger picture, to see how abusers are created, fed, rewarded, allowed to persist, and, with the right tools, how they can be excised.
In Burn It Down, veteran reporter Maureen Ryan does just that. She draws on decades of experience to connect the dots and illuminate the deeper forces sustaining Hollywood’s corrosive culture. Fresh reporting sheds light on problematic situations at companies like Lucasfilm and shows like Lost, Saturday Night Live, The Goldbergs, Sleepy Hollow, Curb Your Enthusiasm and more.
Interviews with actors and famous creatives like Evan Rachel Wood, Harold Perrineau, Damon Lindelof, and Orlando Jones abound. Ryan dismantles, one by one, the myths that the entertainment industry promotes about itself, which have allowed abusers to thrive and the industry to avoid accountability—myths about Hollywood as a meritocracy, what it takes to be creative, the value of human dignity, and more.
Weaving together insights from industry insiders, historical context, and pop-culture analysis, Burn It Down paints a groundbreaking and urgently necessary portrait of what’s gone wrong in the entertainment world—and how we can fix it.
About the Author
Maureen Ryan is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and has covered the entertainment industry as a critic and reporter for three decades. She has written for Entertainment Weekly, the New York Times, Salon, GQ, Vulture, the Chicago Tribune, and more. Prior to joining Vanity Fair, Ryan served as the chief television critic for Variety and the Huffington Post. She has served on the jury of the Peabody Awards and has won three Los Angeles Press Club Awards.
"Burn It Down is a Howard Beale-style, 'mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore' manifesto directed at the overlords and ladies of show business, complete with a multi-point plan for their redemption.... [Ryan] is a dogged and dedicated journalist." — New York Times
"[A] breathless compendium of malfeasance, which provides a valuable service in giving voice to those who have long gone unheard." — Los Angeles Times
"Galvanizing." — New Yorker
"This book is urgent and necessary, and I am excited to see Maureen Ryan bring it into the world. So many of the books about misconduct and abuse in the entertainment industry focus on One Important Man, and we know the problems are deeper and wider than that at every level. An examination of the systems and traditions that enable abuse and prop up abusers, helping them fail upwards and ensuring there will be a bottomless churn of vulnerable workers for them to exploit is so needed right now. Burn It Down is that book." — Erin Keane, Editor-in-Chief of Salon and author of Runaway
"Maureen Ryan is a dogged, clear-eyed reporter, legendary for her miles-deep exposés of Hollywood abuse, toxicity and bullying. In Burn It Down, she makes a powerful case for a less romanticized view of the entertainment industry, one that rejects the ugly traditions of the past, holds bad bosses accountable, and marks a path to a better future." — Emily Nussbaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The New Yorker and author of I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution
"Maureen Ryan is a rigorous thinker and a lovely writer and does terrific and necessary work to trace the places where entertainment and injustice intertwine with profit and abuse." — Rebecca Traister, New York Times bestselling author of Good and Mad and All the Single Ladies
"Burn It Down does the heavy lifting in helping to uncover not just the ugliness of the behavior of high-profile individuals, but the mundane abuses common in the broader television and movie landscape. Maureen Ryan is a tenacious and meticulous reporter, a sharp and passionate writer, and an advocate for a fairer and better industry. There’s a reason a lot of network personnel with a lot they’re trying to keep in the dark hate nothing more than to see Maureen coming with a flashlight and a pen." — Linda Holmes, New York Times bestselling author of Evvie Drake Starts Over and host of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour
"Maureen Ryan is not only a keen critic with a fair and far-reaching eye. She is also a leader in dismantling systems of oppression and abuse in Hollywood. Her reporting has single handedly brought consequences for abusers in positions of power. I am continually inspired and grateful for her work in my industry. She makes the entertainment world safer." — Felicia Day, New York Times bestselling author of You’re Never Weird on the Internet and Embrace Your Weird
"Maureen Ryan is a necessary agent in questioning the status quo, and Burn It Down masterfully takes on Hollywood power structures that need to be reckoned with and changed." — Ira Madison III, co-host of the Crooked Media podcast Keep It and author of the forthcoming essay collection Pure Innocent Fun
"As a journalist, Mo Ryan saw the need for #MeToo coming years before it went viral. And that means that even though the constant headline-grabbing virality has subsided, Mo knows that there is still much more work to do. There are unfortunately many more painful truths about show business that have to be dug up. And there are also more skeletons in closets that need to be dragged out into the light. Mo is fierce, funny, unbossed, and unafraid." — W. Kamau Bell, New York Times bestselling author of Do the Work: An Antiracist Activity Book, director, and executive producer
"Fascinating. Devastating. Important." — Kerry Washington, actor, director, producer and organizer
"Film and television journalist and critic Ryan has written the kind of book the phrase 'searing indictment' was invented for: a straight-shooting, rigorously researched and documented exposé of Hollywood’s culture of abuse.... This appears to be the book Ryan’s career has been building toward: she’s always been an advocate for people who work in the entertainment industry, and she’s never shied away from exposing Hollywood’s darker side. This powerful, angry, shocking, and important work should grip all readers interested in the truth about the entertainment industry." — Booklist
"Ryan exposes the ugly truths about the entertainment business and the harmful behaviors that have been accepted and normalized in Hollywood for more than a century.... By breaking down the various myths that entertainment workers are told to believe, the author dismantles the argument that there is no changing the business; she also offers solutions. Readers will come away with a better understanding of what creatives have gone through to make the shows and films people love to watch. Some readers may even recognize similar harmful behaviors in their own work environments." — Library Journal
"Vanity Fair contributing editor Ryan has been writing about the film and TV industries for many years and has collected a huge number of stories about abuses. While the revelations about Harvey Weinstein shone a light into shadowy corners, the author argues that a propensity for abuse is effectively institutionalized.... Ryan has the experience and insight to explore Hollywood’s dark underbelly, and she finds plenty of monsters." — Kirkus Reviews
"Filled with revealing behind-the-scenes stories and blistering analyses of the industry’s failings, this makes a convincing case for rebooting Hollywood." — Publishers Weekly
"A searing indictment of abusive behavior and work practices in the U.S. entertainment industry.... This is the proverbial look inside the sausage factory, revealing the offal, sorry, awful truth about how those shows you love are made. Indeed, if you enjoy watching television, you owe it to yourself to read this book and see what's really going on.... Burn It Down is a heavily researched, beautifully written book that leaves no Hollywood throne unturned.... Constantly engaging and illuminating." — Haaretz