Sorkin should be aware of Hol­ly­wood di­ver­sity woes

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Elahe Izadi The Wash­ing­ton Post

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.

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