Sorkin should be aware of Hollywood diversity woes
Aaron Sorkin apparently couldn’t quite believe it.
The Oscar- winning writer and executive producer expressed shock when the topic of diversity and gender equity came up during the Writers Guild Festival in Hollywood last weekend, according to Variety.
“Are you saying that women and minorities have a more difficult time getting their stuff read than white men and you’re also saying that get to make mediocre movies and can continue on?” Sorkin asked the audience during a moderated discussion.
According to Variety, “Sorkin asserted that Hollywood is a genuine meritocracy and that he was unaware of Hollywood’s existing diversity problem.”
He kept returning to the topic during a questionandanswer session with the audience: “You’re saying that if you are a woman or a person of color, you have to hit it out of the park in order to get another chance?” Then, after listing a handful of writers who are women and people of color— Lena Dunham, Ava DuVernay, Jordan Peele— asked what he could do to help.
The lack of representation in front of the camera and behind the scenes has been one of the dominant questions looming over Hollywood in recent years. And it’s especially difficult to square Sorkin’s apparent ignorance of such disparities with his own body of work and all the criticism it’s prompted— criticism that he’s even directly addressed.
Sorkin, who has written shows and movies such as “The West Wing,” “The Social Network” and “The American President,” has been criticized as presenting narratives dominated by men and where women, as Salon wrote, are in “desperate need of rescue.”
When describing his forthcoming “Molly’s Game,” about a former skier-turned- underground poker master, Sorkin has said he writes his characters from his perspective, regardless of gender.
“Unless I’m actually writing about gender or unless it’s a romantic scene between a man and a woman, I’m really not paying that much attention to the fact that it’s a woman,” he said in 2015.
Sorkin’s HBO series “The Newsroom” was panned by many critics; Vulture described it as “incredibly hostile toward women.”
“There is the Great Man, who is theoretically flawed, but really a primal truthteller whom everyone should follow ( or date),” wrote The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum. “There are brilliant, accomplished women who are also irrational, high- strung lunatics — the dames and muses who pop their eyes and throw jealous fits when not urging the Great Man on.”
Sorkin said in 2012 that while he respected such opinions, “I 100 percent disagree with it,” adding the women are “every bit the equals of the men, I think they are not just talked about as being good at their job, they are plainly good at their job.”
Diversity on screen is far from the commercial risk that industry reluctance may indicate. Projects with gender and racial diversity more reflective of America’s demographics actually perform better on average, according to a recent report from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.