Thursday, September 8, 2011

Female Writers Decline in Number

Seriously.  AOLTV's Mo Ryan (who is awesome) just released a report telling us that the 2006-2007 television year had 35% females in the writers' room, and now that number has decreased to 19%!  The Wrap reports that in 2009-2010, 29% were women, and in 2010-2011, 15% were women.  What's going on?  Wasn't it getting better for women in the industry?  Well, look at all the new shows being presented to us.  Many of them are revolving around sexualizing women (Playboy Club) or reinforcing what it means to be a man or woman.  Gone are the days of strong women on epic shows with a large cast of writers like Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and Pushing Daisies.  If you look at these shows' casts, the characters are either equal in gender or more females than males.  Likely this reflects the writers' room, too.

Also, note the genre.  Sci-Fi.  I've said it plenty of times, but Sci-Fi shows are more respectful of women and tend to include more women behind the camera and in front of it.  Note all contributing writers and producers work on Sci-Fi shows, either on SyFy or on broadcast networks.  The exception is one they point out: Terra Nova.  This show seems to focus more on the males of a family and also seems to be action-oriented rather than character-driven.  And, yes, Spielberg produces it (along with two others), someone who's relying more on plot and visual effects rather than character these days.

This all reminds me of what I was taught not to do in my education courses: Don't resort to teaching in how you were taught if you can't think of anything.  Don't go back to traditional teaching.  This is exactly what execs are doing in television.  They're resorting to tradition and the veterans in the networks, which had largely been male dominated prior to the 90s.  Seek Ron Burgundy for that information, too.

In the writers' room, women's roles are being extinguished.  The sole female writer is fired every few months to be replaced with a new one.  Other women find it intimidating to speak up in a room full of men who tend to dominate discussions.  Many people find experience that a large number of women in the writers' room makes for a better writing experience, capable of more collaboration rather than one-upping each other.  The article notes that (get ready...) Parks and Recreation has a 40%-female writing staff.  WHAT?!  Exciting!  You can tell, too, because of the quality of the show and the different types of jokes.  The soul character, and the lead character, is Leslie Knope.  And she's amazing.  See the post on my adoration for her.  Just ask any woman in the television business on the writers' room, and they tell you their experiences.  Tina Fey made it very well-known in her book.  Kurt Sutter, of The Shield, reinforces the idea of gender role by telling us that men write men better than women, and he aims his show at white males 18-49.  Who else wants to punch him in the face?

The article also notes the effect in front of the camera: "The SDSU study found the number of female characters has dropped from from a high of 43 percent in the 2007-2008 season to 41 percent in the 2010-2011 season."  This may not seem like a lot, but think about how many characters there are on TV, which is typically all characters with speaking roles.  Even my favorite new show New Girl has a majority of men on the show.  Yes, it's called New Girl, but it's a 1:4 ratio of women to men on screen regularly.

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