Thursday, May 10, 2007

A blinding whiteness

  • Reuters reports on the diversity (or lack thereof) of LA-based screenwriters.
The headline's a definite candidate for the NSS Awards, but the story itself is no laughing matter:
In 2000, U.S. television networks NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox unveiled plans to boost minority hiring.

But the Writers Guild report predicts the situation will worsen before it gets better, in part because of the recent merger of the UPN and WB television networks into the new CW.

That move resulted in the cancellation of minority-themed sitcoms that employed a disproportionate share of minority television writers.
Female and minority writers in Los Angeles are pitifully underrepresented, and it's often ten times as hard for them to get work read or to get representation, let alone actually get anything made. One of the unfortunate truths about this country is that if you're a white male with at least half a working brain, you have no excuse for not being able to make ends meet. (You could end up getting elected president, after all.) Women and minorities have to toil considerably longer and harder just to get a toe in the door -- and it's not just in LA, it's everywhere.

It's easy for production companies to say something to the effect of, Well, we just hire who we think are the best writers. But those "best" writers often are the best based on your own cultural predilections -- someone who says something interesting based on the background that created them. When white folks are calling the shots, you may get a lot of good writing, sure, but it's probably going to be most relevant to other white folks. If you're really lucky you stumble upon that writer who has a finger on universal pulses. But more often than not your writing is relative to your background -- your family and the culture that the family exists in.

Most minority-focused sitcoms and/or dramas end up sucking monkey toes not because their staff isn't trying hard enough, but because the infrastructure that they operate within is not designed to accommodate what they'd like to do. I won't go so far as to call it institutional racism but it's pretty damn close a lot of the time. There's a lot of quite daring work done solely by minority creatives out there, but you rarely see it on any of the major networks. I suppose the thinking is that the black audience is a niche market, that the Hispanic audience is a niche market, that the gay/lesbian audience is a niche market, et cet, et cet. But what the suits don't seem to realize is that something that's galvanizing and truthful will always attract an audience, regardless of whom the show happens to be pitched towards.

No comments: