Perhaps relevant to this, Variety’s new television writer Maureen Ryan has done a depressingly excellent (but avoid the comments at all costs) feature on American TV’s gaping diversity deficit for directors, with links to a lot of the interviews she did for the piece.
Particularly interesting is this Q&A with Empire showrunner lene Chaiken:
Most of “Empire’s” directors were African-American and female in season 1. Can you talk about how you got there? Because “Empire’s” stats are basically the opposite of how most shows’ stats look.
First it starts with the premise and the will to do it, because it’s not a given. When you start with the premise that 30 percent is the leftovers — the leftover [diversity] slots — that’s not a good place to start. I start in the other place. And “Empire” is unique. [The director roster began from] my worldview and my approach to staffing anything that I’ve done, but also [co-creator] Lee Daniels made it very clear how important it was for him that most of the episodic directors on “Empire” are African-American. So that was our starting premise. “We need to find the best black directors who do episodic television and staff this show primarily with those directors.”
As we were mounting the show in the first season, [co-creator] Danny Strong said to me, it’s really, really important to him that we staff as many women directors as we can. It’s also really important to me. So clearly there are fewer black directors and fewer women directors than there are white guys, but they certainly are out there. It’s always the case that the really good directors that we want for our shows are very busy, and certainly since there are fewer black directors and fewer women directors [since many shows] have a wish to diversify, those directors do get booked very, very quickly. But we just made sure to get out there and find the best directors that were right for the show and book them.
Did you look at people who were already in the DGA, or did you cast your net more widely than that? How did you actually get those people onto your radar?
Some were already on my radar, but I also talked to people, largely people on my writing staff, who had worked on other shows. Also the studio and the network recommended people. Francie Calfo at Imagine recommended people. We made a deep list. We made sure that we were aware of everybody that would be right for the show and exciting for the show. And we went to great effort to make sure that we had all of those people on our radar.
Please note this has nothing to do with “tokenism” or lowering any bars. Lee Daniels and John Singleton are both Oscar-nominated directors. Sanaa Hamri, Rosemary Rodriguez and Debbie Allen have extensive feature, television and music video/advertising experience. If a white woman like Chaiken can make a bloody effort (on a show that’s a huge critical and ratings success, no less), nobody else has any excuses left.
And not just in America. Call The Midwife make a conscious effort to at least have gender-balance – or even a majority of women directors, and a majority of women on the writing staff. Creator/co-producer Heidi Thomas makes no bones about saying that was no accident.
You know what? If shows like Empire and Call The Midiwife are expanding pop culture beyond "straight white middle-aged middle-class men talking to and about themselves," then I thoroughly approve of whatever "quotas" get it done.
That's how it functions, both in the Green Party, and Trudeau's cabinet. It's not 'there must be at least X% of women', it's 'there must be at least X% of women, and of men'.
Which the over-excitable "oy noes, the end of meritocracy" Canadian punditry tended to forget. It wasn't 50% women, 50% cronut.
It didn’t help that the Herald’s “Super City reporter”, Bernard Orsman, has pursued what seems like a personal vendetta against Brown.
Seems? I really don't think Orsman and The Herald's obsession with holding Len Brown personally responsible for everything from heavy rain to traffic jams could have any more obvious. And it just got worse after their failed campaign to slut-shame his penis out of office -- it was embarrassing watching an allegedly serious newspaper keep doubling down on that to the point of absurdity. How many "Len Brown's a coward for not going somewhere one person said he's not welcome anyway" columns did Orsman and Rudman run between them?
The concern-trolling argument is that if we had quotas for women, people would think that women hadn’t achieved their positions through merit, but only to fill the quota.
As I snark-tweeted at the time, I'm sure the fifteen women with ministerial warrants in Canada were appointed entirely on merit. The sixteen men (if you include the Prime Minister)? Quite another question. :)
I (quite rightly) got a long string of blistering and perfectly accurate replies about how brilliantly qualified every man jack of them was, and how dare I suggest otherwise?
Which, of course, was exactly my point.
Oh, and another somewhat disingenuous nuance to this concern trolling? One the most naive political observer would pretend that Cabinets are strict meritocracies -- political debts get paid off, factional interests mollified or put in their place and on and on. FFS, just read Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. After the 1860 election, his appointments to Treasury, the State Department and Attorney-General were three men he beat in a race for the nomination that was bare-knuckled even by the standards of American politics. It worked, more or less, because it had to but nobody could pretend "merit" was the only thing on Lincoln's mind.
At least Trudeau was upfront about what he was going to do well before the election.
If the production is a litte uneven in places, the essence of this record, with its sparkling, earnest, urgent, slightly-overthought guitar pop songs, is pure Martin. It’s as if he’s woken from a long dream, and it’s good to have him back.
It is, especially when it seemed like there was an awfully long stretch where everything that could go wrong for the poor bugger did, spectacularly. Even if its not technically flawless, it must be wonder to just get a substantial piece of work finished and out there.
So a whole bunch of my best friends are lefty Canadians. What they want is 'shot of Stephen Harper'. I've never heard any of them mention the opposition parties.
It never hurts if your opponents are about as palatable as a pork sausage in a kosher deli, but it also didn't do any harm that the Liberals and NDP said what they meant, meant what they said, and did it consistently and clearly. Then again, I might be dramatically under-thinking it.
That’s certainly how it looks.
Then again, who the hell knows? That's the problem with playing cute -- you don't get to turn around and pretend to be shocked when wild surmise and self-serving leaks fill the hole. I don't think trade agreements are intrinsically evil (which strikes me as a fair characterization of elements on both the left and right), but I'm not the only one in that mushy middle who's being asked to take waaay to much on trust.
I can see how a design which put the toilets in the basement of a three-level building might get refused.
There's a disturbing number of buildings in this world that make you wonder whether architects have to wear adult nappies for life as part of some bizarro initiation ritual into the profession.
If we want to stop crime … want to stop domestic abuse, we need role models like Chris because young brown guys listen to Chris Brown.”
Bitch, please. In other news, the latest round of the Serco Follies involved the alleged serial rape of a trans woman who should never have been in a male prison in the first place. So please excuse me if I think the last thing anyone in this country needs as a role model is someone who threatened to kill a "faggot" over a parking space. Ever. I'm glad that Mika would be cool being around that kind of person, but I sure as fuck don't. There's no reason already vulnerable Maori/Pasifika LGBT youth should be expected to take his reformation on faith.
I don’t want to defend Brown – or Turia, just to point out that it seems as though every corner of the media/political establishment has coalesced far more quickly and effectively in their opposition to Brown than would be the case if he wasn’t brown (the colour).
I can only speak for myself, but I stand by this Tweet:
Let’s get real that race, class (and gender) are NOT created equal in NZ, but I’m not joining Team Chris Brown to have that korero.
And, honestly, I don’t want to derail into a discussion of hip-hop lyrics. Not because an awful lot of them aren’t absolutely fucking vile, but because an awful lot of pop culture is absoloutely fucking vile and that a whole warehouse of canned worms I can’t even start to open here without pulling the mother of all derails. I will happily argue that George RR Martin’s treatment of rape and violence against women in A Song of Ice and Fire is ghastly on so many levels (and the television adaptation is even worse) *, but I’d never say that is a reason to bar him from entering New Zealand. Because that’s not how our immigration laws work, wither you think that’s right or not.
My issue with Brown’s defenders has nothing to do with his race, and a lot with the horrible spectacle of people who should know better just ignoring his long record of abuse, harassment and intimidation. And while they’re not my stories to tell in this forum, I also have reasons not to share Turia et. al.’s trust that Brown’s really changed his ways.
* And I have to note here, that there are plenty of women geeks whose opinions I respect, and are in no way rape culture enforcers/apologists, who would make arguments to the contrary. It's complicated, because pop culture and the people who make and consume it don't magically exist above and beyond a society that's fucked up and broken in so many ways. As Danielle rightly says, we've all got to make our own way through that maze.