The Internet was abuzz yesterday after Huffington Post TV critic Maureen Ryan published a thorough – and thoroughly depressing, if unsurprising – assessment of behind-the-scenes diversity on cable dramas. Though the article focuses on HBO, home of critically-acclaimed shows like The Sopranos, The Wire and Game of Thrones, Ryan also looks at AMC, FX, Showtime and Netflix, which all combine to form the forefront of modern-day so-called prestige television.
Long story short, it’s not good. To summarize:
- Over the past 40 years, HBO has aired precisely one original, hour-long drama series created by a woman (Cynthia Mort’s Tell Me You Love Me).
- Since 2008, HBO has not aired a single one-hour drama or mini-series with a creator or “narrative architect” that is female or non-white.
- In the last 12 years at the five aforementioned outlets, only 12% of drama series creators and narrative architects have been women.
Essentially, we’re not experiencing the Golden Age of TV so much as the Golden Age of White Male TV. If you asked someone what the best shows of the past decade were, he or she would probably rattle off a list that includes The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Mad Men, all of which not only revolve around central male protagonists but are also produced, written and directed predominantly by men. This is not to diminish the artistic quality and cultural significance of those shows in any way; even though I have my personal preferences (Mad Men forever!), few would deny that they have all, to some extent, altered the way we view, think about and discuss the medium, elevating it from “fun” escapism for mass audiences to something more refined and ambitious.