Spoilers ahead for Season 1 of Hollywood. At the end of Netflix's Hollywood, production begins on Dreamland, a movie written by Henry Willson about two men who fall in love. It's positioned as the first film about a same-sex love story, but the only realistic thing about it is that it stars a straight actor as one half of the gay couple. The premise would have been unheard of for a major motion picture in the 1940s.
Though the first same-sex movie kiss is actually considered to have happened quite early, in the 1927 silent film Wings, a production code was put into place from roughly 1930 through 1968 that required movies to be more "wholesome" and "moral," and to encourage what the studios called "correct thinking," per NPR.
Hollywood takes place in roughly 1948, when the code would have prevented a movie like Dreamland from being made for mainstream audiences. But the Netflix show reimagines a history in which it could have been. It also rewrites Dreamland star Rock Hudson's story. In Hollywood, he comes out with his fictional boyfriend Archie Coleman at the 20th Academy Awards and then gets to star in gay love story. In reality, he was a closeted gay man whose sexuality wasn't made public until he died from AIDS-related complications in 1985. It's also taken the film industry a lot longer to properly represent gay people onscreen.
Wings was not a movie about a gay couple. The kiss was shared between a dying soldier and his comrade, who insisted they were just really good friends. Movies specifically about gay relationships didn't come to the forefront until the late '60s and early '70s, once the repressive production code had been lifted.
One of the first films to authentically portray gay life was the 1970 film The Boys in the Band. It helped paved the way for more representation, including modern films like Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Moonlight (2016), both gay films that also received awards show recognition.
Still, there's a long way to go. Hollywood needs to make all kinds of movies by and about gay people: harrowing coming out tales, cheesy rom-coms, and everything in between. Movies like The Thing About Harry (2020) and Love, Simon (2018) have helped to move the needle, but those are both male love stories. Gay women, bisexual people, nonbinary people, and transgender people also need to be fully represented across all races and stories before true equality can be achieved.
Perhaps if movies like Dreamland had been able to be made back in the '40s, we'd be looking at a much different movie landscape today.