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July 09, 2010

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99

The idea that industry leaders don't have to show any leadership on issues that are negatively affecting the industry makes no sense to me.

I would expand this to say that the issues of diversity and bias negatively affect our society and I don't think it's unreasonable to think that leaders in any industry would want to address that. If you're a leader, you know, lead. Is that really too much to expect?

Tony Adams

Is assuming the people at the top of the industry are leaders being overly generous?

Looking at THE ARTISTIC HOME for ex. It's remarkable how little has changed.

99

I think we, in the arts, try to play both sides of the coin, but at the end of the day, we have to choose. If theatre, and the arts, are a relevant, powerful medium, with a wider societal impact, then we have to accept some responsibility for that. We want people to pay us and treat us as culturally important, but we only want to do what we want. If you're going to lead an organization that positions itself as a cultural force, you have to ask yourself: a cultural force to do...what?

Tony Adams

I think that's a question 40 years in the making.

Ian Thal

Alright, to extent that Stewart does call the shots on his show, what are his hiring practices regarding writers, performers, and production staff? Is he a good boss or a bad boss?

How many women are in the writing room?

Does he call the shots as to who else gets to have their own show on Comedy Central?

Anyone have any hard data? Because we don't even have a scandalous anecdote at this point.

Ian Thal

Oh and never mind that the Jezabel article cited in the City Paper is incorrect:

Elizabeth Munn is not the only female correspondent on the program. Samantha Bee has been a member of the cast since 2003. Kristen Schaal has also been a contributer since 2008.

Now, there is still a lack of 50/50 gender parity-- and this is worth investigating but making an accusation after not doing one's research is bad form.

99

Actually, Ian, the Jezebel article makes the point that Olivia Munn is the first female on-air correspondent hired in seven years; Samantha Bee has been with The Daily Show since 2001 (nine years, if you're counting). The show's roster of guests skews significantly towards the male. Kristen Schaal is a occasional contributor, not a regular. There do seem to be fairly large number of women working on the show. If you clicked the links, you'd see that they make up 40% of the staff...but not in visible positions.

But, really, you've missed the entire point. No one is accusing Jon Stewart of being a sexist or making a charge specifically at him. In fact, the part quoted above makes the exact opposite point (and the letter from the female members of his staff actually supports it): he's not a sexist, but the buck does stop with him. If someone who is "the opposite of a sexist" winds up with a serious gender inequality on his staff, you have to ask the larger questions.

Ian Thal

According to this chart:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Daily_Show_correspondents#Timeline_chart
Bee is the longest running of all the correspondents as well.

So forty percent of his staff are women (writing? research? administrative?) How much of the content is being created by women, even if performed by a man? We're still talking about a highly collaborative environment.

Is 40/60 serious inequity or is it within an acceptable standard of deviation from a goal of 50/50?

Do only the "visible" i.e. on-camera roles count?

Does the specific genre of comedy skew The Daily Show towards hiring specific sorts of correspondents? (i.e. rather than the ridiculous claim that "men are just funnier" Do male and female comedians just tend towards types of humor that work better in different contexts?) Or could it be an issue of what talent already exists on the program? They're not going to hire a sarcastic Jewish guy (or gal) who liberally sprinkles Yiddishisms in his patter no matter how funny simply because they already have someone handling that role.

(Arguably the very world that The Daily Show is addressing is sexist, after all.)

The way I'm looking at the article is that we're choosing the story we want to tell and then selecting the metric that fits.

And of course back to theatre, J., since both of us are male writers: is it more important that we write a nearly equal split of male and female characters, or that we write compelling female characters that allow actresses to really show their acting chops? Personally, I'd like to say that I do both, but it seems to me that the latter takes priority because I don't think I'm advancing society if the men get all the good dialogue and the woman only get to be ingenues.

99

Gah! Okay, I'm going to try to explain this simply: it's not about what I or you do as individuals and no one, NO ONE is claiming that The Daily Show is a hostile work environment or that there is overt sexism at play here. Since Samantha Bee was hired, they've hired several men and now one woman, a particular woman who isn't known for her comic chops, but is instead known for being hot and willing to do semi-degrading things to make a male audience laugh and whose schtick on the show is playing a ditz. They've had no problem finding a variety of funny men; John Oliver's comedy is very different from Aasif Mandvi's. But they appear to not be able to hire funny women to appear on camera which is the complaint.

And yes, having women appear on camera as funny is different than having them write jokes off-screen. That's the whole point: the women who work on The Daily Show are largely invisible. That's pretty basic sexism. They are literally serving a large number of men who receive very public accolades for their work.

And, dude, no matter how feminist a guy is, no matter how well he writes women characters or pats himself on the back about doing such a good job serving female actresses, it's not the same as hiring female writers. It's not about the work, it's about who is making it, who has the opportunity to make it, what message we're sending. It's about who's doing the hiring. Like, seriously. You do see that, right?

Aaron Riccio

"It's about who's doing the hiring." I don't get it. Sorry. And I don't get what message we're sending. I also feel like you're sort of being sexist yourself when you sum up Olivia Munn as someone who's known "for being hot and willing to do semi-degrading things" and therefore *not* a funny person. Would you describe Jim Carrey, when he started out, that way?

I also don't buy that it's "basic sexism" that more women appear off-camera than appear on camera, not unless those women (a) want to appear on camera, (b) don't repel audiences when on camera, and yet (c) are nonetheless kept in the shadows by jealous, oppressive men. And if you're going to say that the fact that viewers are repelled by seeing some women on camera is in fact the underlying proof of the embedded sexism that the Daily Show needs to be fighting, well, you really extend that to justify anything, including the opposite--i.e., isn't it good that these rich, white men are shown competing for a pretty woman's heart (and money) because it fights the notion that all television NEEDS to be diverse, even when it isn't necessarily so. (And before we argue about THAT last statement, please just take it as the hyperbole that it is.)

99

Did Jim Carrey start off jumping into a cake while dressed like a Chippendale's dancer and have his co-star pour whipped cream on him? No. He was known as a funny guy. Olivia Munn's rep isn't as a funny person. I'm not saying she's not, or that she couldn't be (by all accounts, she's growing into TDS gig). But there are a lot of very, very funny women working in comedy clubs and doing comedy gigs who didn't get the job. And that's the point.

So you're saying that, in seven years, Samantha Bee is the only woman who has wanted to appear as a regular correspondent on TDS? I think (hope?) we can all agree that there's a pretty clear case of gender inequality among the on-air staff of TDS. I guess the question I have back to you is this: why? If there isn't some level of structural sexism involved, then...what?

What, in all of this, no matter how many times I say it, no matter how much all caps I use, you don't seem to get is this: it's not a case of "jealous, oppressive men." It's about a structural, society-wide issue that is manifest in these organizations. And it's particularly troublesome when it comes up in organizations that are ostensibly progressive. I don't think Jon Stewart or anyone else at TDS is keeping women out of these positions. I just think it's a pervasive issue. Whether it's a matter of what's considered funny or if it's a matter of not even thinking about it, sexism plays a significant role.

So...what's your answer? TDS hasn't hired a regular on-air female correspondent in nine years, while hiring a succession of men. Therefore...what?

girldreams

NO ONE is claiming that The Daily Show is a hostile work environment or that there is overt sexism at play here.
Really. Read the original Jezebel article again and then say that. Among other things, there are poorly supported allegations of Jon Stewart throwing scripts at women colleagues and making the DS environment an uncomfortable place for women (or at least, allowing it to be so). All of the quotes around this material come from people either allowed to speak anonymously or who haven't worked in that environment for seven years--and there are few women quoted who worked for long. Those who did--like Allison Silverman--and said something positive were given short shrift. Meanwhile, the dreadfully unfunny and bitter Lauren Weedman--who's made a career out of dissing Stewart--was treated as a reliable authority. Apparently, she's never considered the possibility that the fact that the fact that she wasn't very good at what she did--and that she was needy and neurotic behind the scenes, by her own accounts elsewhere--might have led to her being treated less than enthusiastically by the men at TDS.

Since Samantha Bee was hired, they've hired several men and now one woman, a particular woman who isn't known for her comic chops, but is instead known for being hot and willing to do semi-degrading things to make a male audience laugh and whose schtick on the show is playing a ditz.
Right. None of which has anything to do with what she's done on The Daily Show. As an old-school feminist, I have to laugh at the current feminist mindset at Jezebel. It's all about "Hire more women!" and then when a woman is hired, the immediate response is "Oh, please, not that woman." They don't have the foggiest notion of what feminism is. It has to do with the empowerment of all women, not just the ones you approve of.

And, dude, no matter how feminist a guy is, no matter how well he writes women characters or pats himself on the back about doing such a good job serving female actresses, it's not the same as hiring female writers. It's not about the work, it's about who is making it, who has the opportunity to make it,
Right. And the overwhelming majority of the women "Making the work" at TDS--the 40 percent you find so invisible--are not fetching coffee and giving the men hot stone massages. They are producers, graphic designers (whose work definitely appears on screen), field editors. The other laughable thing about the Jezzies is that after that article by Irin Carmon suggested that Jon S. was dismissive of women, the women of TDS wrote their letter--which was immediately dismissed by Jezebel. In addition, Rachel Axler--who wrote for the show 2005-2008 (and therefore was hired after Sam Bee, as was Kristin Schaal) wrote a comment on the site in support of the TDS and was roundly ignored by the powers that be at Jezebel.
Furthermore, Jezebel should have dropped the whole matter when it was pointed out that Gawker, its supervisory site, only has one woman on the masthead.

In short, I'd like to see more women correspondents on the Daily Show. Who wouldn't, including the show itself? But anyone who gives Jezebel any credibility is a pseudofeminist crackpot, in my estimation.

99

Okay, your point about the Jezebel article is a fair cop. I was thinking more of the City Paper article and Isaac's post. I take the words of the women who work there at face value and I do give it a bit more credence than the anonymous gripes.

As for the rest...Jezebel's brand of feminism vs. "classic" feminism is a whole 'nother thing. I will say this: just hiring any woman isn't necessarily moving the ball forward. Again, I have nothing against Olivia Munn. But to compare her resume/background with those of John Oliver or Aasif Mandvi or more appropriately Kristen Schaal, in terms of comedy background, it comes up pretty short. I just think there are probably more qualified women available for the gig.

girldreams

Whether there are or not, we don't work at TDS and have no way of knowing how much work at recruitment they've done, or whether Munn was hired because she DID show comedy chops in auditions.

In any case, if Munn can't cut it I'm sure she'll be eased off the show soon enough. And if she can (and I've liked her work so far), every woman who's been bitching about her should agree to eat a ton of crow.

99

And if she can't and gets eased out, I'm sure no one will be thinking, "Well, you know, women just aren't as funny on-screen. We tried it, with a woman with no comedic track record, and it didn't work, so we don't have to try any harder."

You know, I just love that. I love the line of thinking, "We have no idea how much work they're doing at recruitment and we don't have any way of judging their success." One woman hired for on-screen talent in seven years. Oh, wait, I'm sorry: two, because we counting occasional appearances by Kristen Schaall. Let me tell you: whatever they're doing in terms of recruitment and outreach, they need to do more. We can say that because we can see the results.

girldreams

And if she can't and gets eased out, I'm sure no one will be thinking, "Well, you know, women just aren't as funny on-screen. We tried it, with a woman with no comedic track record, and it didn't work, so we don't have to try any harder."
They haven't before. They specifically went looking for Sam Bee, she's said that a million times in interviews. The other thing you should know is, Kristen Schaal is not being kept off the air. I read an interview with her a couple of weeks ago where she said she hasn' t been on because she's working elsewhere--in movies, particularly. If they ever get to a point where all three women can work at once--competing projects and maternity aside--they will have three women correspondents and four men. As far as recruiting "more" women, they haven't got enough air time for the correspondents they have now.

But the other thing is, I'm getting really tired of this discussion. The Daily Show is far from the only TV outlet that could be airing more women. Why don't we all focus on Fox News for a change, which puts countless blonde bimbii on the air, all with the same IQ as a bag of hammers? Why doesn't that seem to concern you?

girldreams

And to answer your snark, you don't know how many women they've auditioned or reviewed for writing positions. You Don't Work There.

99

Fox News does concern me, as do many, many other issues of diversity. Take a look at this blog; it comes up regularly. But, as I noted above, when we're talking about ostensibly progressive institutions, I hold them to a higher standard. Gender inequality in theatre and film comes up all the time here! I don't know if you've been a regular reader, but I'm guessing you're not.

Holding Jon Stewart and TDS's feet to the fire is actually more likely to produce results, frankly, because, at heart, I think they're decent, well-meaning people. Fox News isn't going to give a rat's ass.

Again, you bring in the writing staff. Which isn't the real issue. The issue is the on-air correspondents. And no! I don't work there! But I watch the show. And I can see where women rate. That's the point. So unless you're saying that Olivia Munn is the only woman they've auditioned for an on-air correspondent job, which you know because you work there, you're saying that the majority of women they've seen weren't good enough. And I'm saying I have my doubts about that.

anon

girldreams, ma'am, Neither Do You -- so why do you speak for the Daily Show as if you do?

And do you speak for http://www.connecticutmag.com? That *is* your URL. What is its relationship to Gawker? Adversarial? Competitor? Did the "Jezzies" diss Connecticut Bride Magazine? Because you're coming pretty damn close to using the term "feminazi" in targeting Jezebel specifically, and generally downplaying the critics of the Daily Show/Comedy Central/Viacom, and I'm wondering what your stake in the game is....

anon

and another thing -- *fuck* focusing on FOX NEWS' sexism.

We've known since Roger Ailes created it that it pays its liberal hypocrite staff and conservative welfare queens very well, and prides itself on its ugly men/hottie women anchor dynamic. It just gets away with blatantly what other networks do with a touch more discretion -- and so what?

Do you think the decades of Murdoch losing money have diminished his political influence? Hell no -- he's yanked the Overton Window so hard to the right that now jury dury waiting rooms carry FOX NEWS on TVs. To the larger public, it's no longer seen as biased -- or more precisely, its biases are more in tune with America than those more liberal news networks.

Focusing on The Daily Show now, of all times, could either be seen as a necessary belated corrective to ignoring its institutional flaws during the crunch of the Bush Administration, or a clever counter-strategy in advance of its potential dominance at the Emmys this year. (TEAM COCO? More powerful than we thought, or is this a move to make Dave look less scuzzy?)

As with the Obama Administration, it shouldn't be politically incorrect to be critical of businesses apparently closer to our political views than the religious right's favorites.

girldreams

Anon, as far as I'm concerned, you're off topic. (And you can keep your goddamn crazy sauce paranoia to yourself.) It's your problem that you see a conspiracy around every corner. All I'm saying is, Fox's representation of women seems to me to suck far worse than the Daily Show's. And they have much greater viewership and impact than the Daily Show ever will.

Oh, and to set the record straight? Connecticut Mag has zero relationship to Jezebel, except that I know honest journalism when I see it and Irin Carmon's piece bore no relationship that I can see to honest journalism. And you got my attitude towards Jezebel wrong. I don't consider them feminazis. In their treatment of Munn (ie, "she's not good enough to represent real women comedians")and their callous disregard for the women of TDS ("If they're not on screen, they don't count") they're antifeminist, if anything--like something out of the 1950s. My stake in the game is, I'm sick of Internet crapola masquerading as info of real value. And before you jump on that, I think there are many responsible and informative blogs out there. Jezebel just doesn't happen to strike me as one of them. Neither does Gawker, for that matter--I bet if they both disappeared tomorrow, no one would miss them.

You've completely ignored the fact that I said it would be good to see more women on TDS. But not, imo, at the expense of the women who are already there, as much as you might hate them.

And as for your ongoing points, 99, you may have been here since the beginning of time, but I could care less. You're the one who keeps engaging with me. It's pretty clear that The Daily Show has hired a string of women who haven't lasted long. You think it's because they've been treated badly? You prove it. You think they've been rejecting talented women for the heck of it? You prove that. Because otherwise you're just making baseless allegations. And the fact that you would say that women who produce this TV show are somehow less significant than the on-air talent says more than I need to know about you.

When it all comes down to it, I love the fact that the very people who say the Daily Show is not immune from criticism are the most intolerant of having their POV criticized. Hello again, Jezebel.

girldreams

And another thing, anon--at least I have the integrity to include who I am and where I'm from. Right?

girldreams

or a clever counter-strategy in advance of its potential dominance at the Emmys this year. (TEAM COCO? More powerful than we thought, or is this a move to make Dave look less scuzzy?)
Oh, and sorry--but huh? Neither Conan or Dave employ any women as writers or in front of the camera, so what does this have to do with anything? I tend to doubt either one of them give a rat's ass about awards, anyway. Coming from any other poster I'd assume this was a joke, but . . .

99

OH. MY. GOD. I keep engaging with you because you keep distorting and misrepresenting what I'm saying and missing the actual point entirely. This discussion is about their hiring practices for on-air talent. I know the Jezebel article brings in the idea of TDS being a hostile work environment, but that's not Isaac's post was about or what the City Paper piece was about. We're talking about their record for hiring correspondents. I didn't say that writers and producers and graphic designers don't count. Stop saying that I did. I've said that, overall, their gender ratio needs help. And that their hiring for the most visible portion of the show kind of sucks.

I think I've made this point before, but I'm not saying there's a sexist cabal going on here and they're purposefully excluding women from these positions. I'm saying we're seeing evidence of bias at work. You appear to be saying that evidence is wrong. I think you're being expansive in your definitions and overly understanding because TDS is staffed by good guys.

Comparing an entire network to one show isn't the way to go. But...if we compare Fox News to Comedy Central...the fucked up thing is that, in terms of gender equality among their hosts, Fox News kind of wins. Fox News currently has 10 female hosts of shows, out of 31 hosts. Comedy Central has, now that they've canceled The Sarah Silverman Program, none. In fact, in their history, The Sarah Silverman Program was their only original show led by a woman. Huh. A woman is more likely to be an on-air presence at Fox News than at Comedy Central.

Here are the two things: of course there are limits to the numbers game and there are bigger things that matter. Obviously TDS does more for feminism and women's issues than Fox News. But comedy has long been known as a field with a lot of entrenched sexism. And it is disappointing to see that a progressive show like TDS is unable to escape that.

I've been trying to engage with you and your criticism. Engagement doesn't mean I wind up agreeing with you or you wind up agreeing with me. But it does require some fair dealing and dealing with the question at hand.

99

Whoops. My bad. I just checked the list on Comedy Central programming and I missed a show from Wanda Sykes. So there have been two.

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