Showrunners, writers, and directors speak out anonymously against social justice quotas in film
A new fight in the culture wars has emerged from an unexpected corner. Hollywood (of all places) is showing signs of resistance to wokeism, with several prominent Tinseltown insiders speaking out against forced hiring policies.
In a recent blog on Barry Weiss' Substack, written by Peter Kiefer and Peter Savodnik, these insiders, many anonymously, gave their opinion on the new 'diversity mandates'. It seems many Hollywood producers (like the audiences) have noticed that the rise of these ideological policies has been synonymous with the decline of the cultural relevance of films.
From writers to actors to stage designers, white men are being replaced in an entertainment industry they created. There have been attempts over the years to point out the direction of this phenomenon, but the subject has either been denied, or celebrated as progress. Part of the unstoppable nature of this trend has simply been the discomfort caused by trying to address it, which tends to cause uproar, hands-over-ears, and yelling. It has been 'too taboo to notice' - until we have finally reached this shocking stage of the near irrelevance of an entire industry (almost an entire art form) from self-destructive guilt.
Merely whisper the topic and people immediately clutch for their jobs.
These enforced woke policies in hiring sadly ensure not only that a certain large subset of society cannot get work, on or off screen, but that the audiences are also losing interest in movies and programs that are 'decided by committee'. Because even a woke hire can always be accused of some new indiscretion, and replaced by an even woker hire, there is a culture of fear created which is not conducive to a creative industry.
The rest of the corporate world surrendered to this phenomenon years ago, and each institution suffers this in its own personal way. Ironically, Hollywood has of course been a main instigator in the proliferation of the ideology which has resulted in this.
Unlike the larger corporate world, woke activists who support 'diversity-McCarthyism' in Hollywood run into two particular problems. Firstly, it is comprised of high-profile people with media attention who can speak out and be heard. And secondly, a film business that can no longer perform its function of 'entertaining people' is dysfunctional and economically unworkable.
There is no doubt that public disinterest (and even disgust) in the Hollywood brand is at an all-time high.
Practically speaking, the earnest takeover of Hollywood by wokeism began around 2015 with the 87th Academy Awards and the media hype of #OscarsSoWhite, and progressed with the #MeToo movement of 2017.
Soon after, this was further accelerated by the George Floyd incident and the ensuing Black Lives Matter riots, prompting the Academy in 2020 to launch a Representation and Inclusion Standards Entry platform. Like most corporate policies based around 'positive discrimination', the language of these proposals is comprised of feel-good buzzwords, which, paradoxically, enact strict policies of discrimination. According to this initiative, for a movie to qualify for Best Picture, the representation of white males among everyone from interns to executives (on-screen and off) will be artificially limited.
By 2024, no films will be considered for best picture without meeting two of four standards for the representation of 'underrepresented groups', which include women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities.
These initiatives are supported by an institution known as ARRAY Crew, a database of women, and BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) film professionals (camera operators, art directors, make-up artists, sound producers, etc.) as an approved employee choice list for producers - totally bypassing any potential or accidental white male hiring, based on merit. This "fundamentally changed how Hollywood productions will be staffed going forward," according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The article by Kiefer and Savodnik collects statements from various concerned Hollywood professionals:
"The audience stops trusting us. They begin to see us as a community twisting ourselves into a pretzel to make every movie as woke as possible, every relationship mixed racially, every character sexually fluid, and they decide that we are telling stories set in a fantasyland instead of a world they know and live in. If that happens... we will lose them." - anonymous director.
"I get so paranoid about even phone calls. It's so scary. My close friends and my family are just like, 'Don't say anything.' It is one of those things, 'Will I be able to sleep at night if I say anything?' Getting jobs in this town is so hard, and I'm very grateful to have a great job. If there's any so-called ding on my record, that would just be an argument against hiring me." - anonymous writer.
"Everyone has gone so underground with their true feelings about things. If you voice things in a certain way it can really have negative repercussions for you." - Mike White, writer and director of HBO hit 'The White Lotus'.
"You're not allowed to pick your staff anymore, and studios won't let you interview anybody who isn't a person of color." - anonymous showrunner.
"Now, they'll just say, 'Sorry, diversity quotas. We're just not allowed to hire you,'" - anonymous comedy writer.
No less than Quentin Tarantino has added his opinion to this issue, saying in an appearance on Bill Maher last year saying: "Ideology has become more important than art. It's like ideology trumps art. Ideology trumps individual effort. Ideology trumps good."
To which Maher replies, "Yeah, there's two kinds of movies: virtue signallers, and superhero movies."
Art withers within a framework of tight censorship, as effective art tells truths and moralises on widely accepted virtues. An effective writers' room, especially in regard to comedy and realistic drama, is intended to be a reckless, free-form, and unrestrained riffing of the funniest, nastiest, darkest, and most ribald ideas a team can suggest to one another. The magic occurs in an unrestrained environment.
But hiring mandates do not allow like-minded creatives to organically bond; they are chosen based on unrelated criteria like race and sexual orientation, and at any moment they can be plucked out and replaced to meet a new mandate, and none of this has anything at all to do with successfully writing an amazing story.
Recently, CBS mandated that writers' rooms be staffed with at least 40% BIPOC writers, to be increased to 50% by 2023. Every studio has a similar strict outline of 'inclusion standards'.
"I'm sitting in a room trying to run a show with a collection of people I don't totally trust." - anonymous writer.
It seems many big-budget woke offerings are turning out to be box office failures (such as the 'Sex and the City' and 'Ghostbusters' reboots). However, it also seems that, at least for the moment, economic concerns are still not enough to restrain the tentacles of 'woke activism'.
For those in the know, Hollywood has been stagnant for years, the real money coming from television channel reruns and wherever older movies can be sold. The rise of Netflix and streaming services has collapsed that model even further, leaving entertainment creatives feeling pressured financially as well as on the run from the discriminating mandates.
Some of these professionals apparently see their last chance to save their careers, or at least to fight back against the ruinous zealots, in the threat of legal action. A courtroom is much more difficult to control ideologically than an awards show or a hiring agency, after all.
As has been shown in other similar cases, that could well prove to be the final battleground for the future of Hollywood. As an anonymous showrunner quoted by Kiefer and Savodnik said, "This is all going to end in a giant class-action lawsuit."
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.