Even as a snapshot of the industry, however, the numbers tell a clear story about who gets the keys to the fanciest car, culturally speaking. At the outlets responsible for many top programs, women and people of color are enormously under-represented as creators. If one focuses only on the last dozen years at AMC, FX, Showtime, Netflix and HBO, around 12 percent of the creators and narrative architects in the dramatic realm were women.
According to theWomen’s Media Center, “Shows with no women creators had casts that were 41 percent female. Shows with at least one female creator had casts that were 47 percent female.” Given how few women and people of color are present at a show’s creation, is it any wonder we can’t escape this debate?
And so we find ourselves in one of those closed loops that “True Detective’s” Rust Cohle described in one of his most memorable philosophical digressions. We go around and around, talking about individual characters and the missteps of particular shows. We wonder why women are too often depicted as nags, flunkies or side salads. We wonder why women often get less to do, have less to say and so often feel the impulse to take off their shirts. We wonder why people of color aren’t often depicted with compelling emotional lives or as complicated characters. We wonder why non-white men and women are hardly ever the protagonists.