Last year, an analysis declared the worst year in a decade for women in pilot season, the crucial period when networks decide which writers' pilots to pick up. But are things looking up?
This year, says the author of the first accounting, is substantially better:
The earth didn't just move, it was an earthquake for women pilot writers in 2011. Television audiences judge with their remote controls and it's doubtful whether anyone has ever watched a TV show because it was written by a man or a woman. But this year, for some unexplained reason, women were hilarious, just as last year, for some reason, they weren't.
Perhaps it's less that anyone knows whether their television show was written by a man or a woman and more that viewers can occasionally recognize when they're getting the same crap as before, or a slight variation thereof. And last year was truly egregious: Fox Broadcasting Channel, for example, "showed the most improvement [this year], but that's a no-brainer. Last year, FBC produced no pilots written by women in any category. ZERO! This year 36% of their pilots were written by women overall, and the 20% of their pilots written by women only still represents a huge improvement over past years."
Did the original grim analysis and the discussion that ensued make the difference? Were studio executives (some of them women) shamed into recognizing their conscious or unconscious biases? No one is offering a concrete explanation. But women writers in Hollywood also face the mansplaining condescension that unfortunately accompanies these "debates," as TV writer Pamie Ribon recently recounted on her blog:
"I was talking to my agent," this male writer said to me. "And we were talking about how lucky you are."
"Yes, I know," I said, as I will and would say to anybody listening. "I'm very lucky to be working, I'm very lucky to be on a show people seem to like, and I'm very lucky that I like the show I'm working on. That's a job lottery situation."
"No," he says. "He was talking about how you're lucky because of what you are...You're a mid-level female writer. People are always going to need one of you in the room. It's great. You can go from failed sitcom to failed sitcom for the next six or seven years. You're all set."
Incidentally, the writer said he was talking about Ribon with his agent because the agent wanted to know if she needed new representation. Ribon, of course, hasn't experienced nearly the ease the two dudes half-gleefully, half-resentfully describe, and clearly neither of them see themselves as lucky simply for being the "regular" or the standard.
Speaking of women writing for the screen, here's another spot of pleasant news for them: Jumping The Broom, written by Jezebel commenter Arlene Gibbs, exceeded box office expectations this weekend, already earning about twice its budget and receiving a rare "A" grade from viewers surveyed by CinemaScore. Seventy percent of ticket buyers were women.