Our MIT alumni magazine ran a feature on an alumna who works in Hollywood, Dottie Zicklin:
Dottie Zicklin was working on Wall Street when she decided she needed a change. So she drew from an interest she picked up at MIT—theater. … As a woman who came to directing later in her career, Zicklin is enthusiastic about the future for women in that profession. “There’s sort of a tipping point here in Hollywood where they really want female directors,” she says. For example, the influential television writer and producer Ryan Murphy wants half of his directors to be female, as does NBC, she says. “I got into it late because it’s really tough to break into as a woman, but I think the younger generation is really going to bust through this.”
[Now that i know that it is easy to break into Hollywood if you’re a white male, I will send you all my forwarding address in Santa Monica.]
Some top producers, such as Lee Daniels, Ryan Murphy and J.J. Abrams, have mandated hiring more women and minorities for their TV shows, and started programs to mentor aspiring writers and producers. Shows such as “Empire,” “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat” have large portions of their writing staffs made up of minorities and women. Ava DuVernay hired only female directors for her TV show “Queen Sugar,’’ as did Frankie Shaw for her Showtime series “Smilf.’’
Diversity doesn’t guarantee ratings success. Fox’s viewership has slumped, even for “Empire,” and ABC has also lost ground despite featuring shows such as “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Black-ish” that star minorities.
If there is a quota system in place for everyone other than white males, doesn’t that mean that, on average, the white males who can overcome this discrimination will be more skilled than everyone else in the industry? If so, maybe consumers will start to seek out movies that are directed by white males and wait for streaming if a movie was directed by a female director with whom they aren’t familiar?
Perhaps skill in making films is simply a question of prejudice. “Sorry, Hollywood. Inclusion Riders Won’t Save You.” (nytimes):
Instead, the burden should be on white and male celebrities to realize that much of their power stems from their whiteness and maleness and to step back and empower marginalized people to have more roles on their sets, on and off camera.
In addition, studios could change their policies and actions. People in power should simply hire as many white women, people of color and L.G.B.T. people as possible. They should do so even at the perceived expense of white people, and even if those candidates are viewed as somehow “less qualified,” with the understanding that those perceptions are culturally fixed in racist notions and structures.
Perceived incompetence with Avid and Adobe Premiere is a cultural notion, according to the 2015 Harvard Law School graduate Rebecca Chapman (a photo suggests that she may identify as one of the “white women” whose hiring she promotes; I wonder if she would suggest that her law firm would have done better to hire a non-white woman (“twofer” in the old government contractor parlance) with apparently inferior qualifications).
Unless the government can force consumers to purchase tickets to female-directed movies or minority-directed movies, is it possible that we’ll begin to see audiences gravitating toward the creations of white males?