There’s An Obvious Answer To Hollywood’s Unequal Access Problem
Turns out, increasing the presence of and access to diverse roles in entertainment is easy if you have two things: clear intention and unbiased hiring practices.
Hollywood’s issues with diversity have been national headlines for years now. From marginalization of African American actors to gender pay gaps to white male dominance of positions behind the camera and in the boardrooms, so-called “liberal Hollywood” in fact is very conservative. Every excuse possible has been thrown in defense of this status quo, the favorite being that there are no qualified candidates for key roles on sets and in production rooms except the white heteronormative ones. But if that’s true, how did Samantha Bee, host of the new late night show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, manage to hire a staff that is 50% female and 30% nonwhite?
If you haven’t seen the show yet, Bee is on fire just like she used to be on The Daily Show. And since I’m sure this isn’t a one-woman show, the sharpness of her comedic jabs is due in part to the very diverse staff she hired. So, how did she find all of these candidates while no one else seems to be able to? Well, she just tried.
In seeking writers for the show, she didn’t stick to traditional channels. According to Vulture, Bee created a blind selection process that negated traditional markers of people less experienced in this elite industry. This way, her team was more focused on evaluating talent instead of insider industry knowledge.
And clearly her methods work. She’s not suffering from a dearth of snark or wit. Her staff, which includes both a writer who was previously at Late Night With David Letterman and another whose last job was at the Maryland DMV, is actually poised to be more incisive and nuanced in their satire.
Bee also told Vulture that she is piloting a mentorship program to find “pockets of people who don’t formally have access to this world, who want to be in this world, who have no idea how to get there, and who demonstrate some skill in some capacity and a passion for it.” You know, the building blocks of what makes the next great comedic writer, just without the bias attached.
The big question is: why does it seem like no one else is taking this initiative in Hollywood? My guess is complacency, nepotism, iron-clad networks, and other hallmarks of longstanding industries built upon structural racism. But maybe, just maybe, Samantha Bee’s actions are a sign of change.
I sincerely hope that’s the case.
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