The tragically continuing events in various cities involving police and African American citizens has pushed the notion of a “post-racial” America back a few steps, to say the least. One might even observe that the struggle for civil rights in the 1960’s was essentially “Black Rights and Votes Matter”, and now we need to remind ourselves that “Black Lives Matter.”
It would be easy to feel a sense of stasis in things,and perhaps even a depressing step back. And yet one can observe individual and hopefully not separate changes that feel as though progress is out there,taking place even as the looming events of the moment seem to be pushing against it.
Like many, I was impressed with the quick actions of Baltimore City state’s attorney in charging the six officers involved in the apprehension and death of Freddie Gray following a medical examiner’s report that ruled Mr. Gray’s death a homicide, a day after the police concluded their initial investigation and handed over their findings.That the state’s attorney, Marilyn J. Mosby, was a sharp young black woman might be me reaching for some sign of forward progress with our Achilles heel of race, but it still felt significant.
Even a compact review of fairness throughout the course of America’s history would have to include how we obtained the real estate itself, by taking it from Native American’s and Mexico.
But that doesn’t negate every note of progress.
What it might mean is that we must remain forever vigilant that fairness and justice are key characteristics of any “exceptionalism” we might want to claim.
This of course brings us to LA and the movies and television.No,it doesn’t really, but… I need the transition so please work with me.
Last Tuesday, the ACLU officially urged the U.S.Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to investigate Hollywood’s hiring practices for evidence of gender discrimination.
As reported by the LA Times, the ACLU spent two years examining the issue, gathering accounts from nearly 50 women directors and compiling numbers on hiring rates.
None of it will surprise actor Patricia Arquette, who bluntly confronted the problem in her Oscar acceptance speech or director Kathryn Bigelow who this week said gender discrimination in film production “stigmatizes our entire industry.”
Then Bigelow threw a rock at a particularly soft spot: “Hollywood is supposedly a community of forward thinking and progressive people, yet this horrific situation for women directors persists.”
I have a younger sister who has some pretty solid theories about “optics”and media manipulation as they pertain to politics. One of her theories is that stuff that the government would rather you didn’t pay much attention to will be quietly announced on, say, a busy holiday weekend or during some tsunami of attention on something like the final episode of “Breaking Bad”or Super Bowl Sunday.
Now the entertainment industry mostly makes products for our eyes, so it’s only logical that they might be especially good at distracting optics.We get all kinds of calendar section coverage of transgender actors and Sandra Bullock having a strong hand in producing her own projects. We’ll even get to read the occasional critical beat down of a terrible movie where those that should be held fully accountable were, in fact, all women as was the case with LA Times critic Betsy Sharkey’s review of “Hot Pursuit.”
But meanwhile, things are quietly very mid-1960’s in the executive and accounting offices of Hollywood studios,as a Sean Connery Bond era mentality seems to prevail over decisions regarding women hired for above-the- line positions.
As for television, I can bring at least a little personal experience to this and tell you that the ancient wisdom used to be that somehow female comedy writers just weren’t as funny as male writers. Nothing could be further from the truth, and change has occurred to a possibly larger degree than in film making. Still, having enjoyed the “optics” of launching minority-centric sitcoms,
ABC has jettisoned “Cristela” and renewed “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Black-ish.”
Your “What’s it mean?”mileage on this decision may vary.
How much fairness is truly fair? At the end of any given day, don’t numbers speak louder than theories or proposed policies? A published accounting of the releases of the major studios from 2009 to 2014 comparing male directors hired to female directors hired reads like this: Disney, male 77 to female 4; Fox, male 145 to female 11; Paramount, male 82 to female 12; Sony, male 211 to female 20; Universal – uh, I could go on,but… would that be fair?