Netflix dropped the entire fourth season of its runaway hit, Orange Is the New Black, on June 17th. As soon as it was humanly possible to have binged all 13 episodes, a flood of think pieces, reactions and reviews appeared online along with an outpouring of emotion from fans on social feeds.
OITNB has been a fan favorite specifically because of the diverse cast of extraordinary actors who embody lives and realities that are typically never seen in mainstream programming.
So, you can imagine the reaction when the writers of the show tweeted a picture of themselves wearing orange, in support of gun rights legislation.
Turns out, they’re almost entirely white. Twitter collectively turned their heads and squinted, then snorted. “Inclusion starts on the page. With no Black @OrangeWriters, one shouldn’t be surprised by what happened in Season 4, despite casting,” tweeted #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign in response to the photo.
So far, the production has avoided a major hashtag meltdown, but the disappointing reveal has resurrected important questions about diversity in television writer’s rooms.
A recent report released by the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), appropriately called “A Renaissance in Reverse,” reveals that things have stalled badly for underrepresented groups. They make up less than 13% of the writer’s rooms working today. (They get paid less, too.) And a new investigation from Variety found that the showrunners for the fall television line-up are 90% white and 80% male.
“We’ve been working at this problem for a while,” says Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, who knows how hard it can be. Cullen writes and pitches television pilots for a living, and in the last few years has successfully sold five dramas to major studios. Only one pilot was produced, and that’s as far as it got.
It’s now a $6 million treasure safely housed in the CBS vault, despite a diverse dream team cast: Audra McDonald, Jorge Garcia, Hope Davis and Charlie Cox. “It makes you wonder, are they just ticking boxes when they buy a pilot with a diverse character? From a diverse writer?” she says. “What’s it going to take to get these stories on the air?”
Cullen is a member of the diversity coalition of the WGA East, who have been working on a surprising and potentially effective solution: Legislation.
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The Woke Leader
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