The “West Wing” creator and liberal darling appears to have no idea women and minorities have a tougher time in Tinseltown
Aaron Sorkin may need to expand his work circle beyond A Few Good Men.
The creator of “The West Wing,” a political drama much-loved by liberals, was apparently shocked over the weekend to learn how underrepresented women and ethnic minorities were in writers’ rooms. “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 [white men] get to make mediocre movies and can continue on?” trade magazine Variety quoted him as saying.
His cluelessness brought some backlash over social media. Danielle Henderson, who writes for HBO comedy “Divorce” posted a gif image that signaled her exasperation and disbelief. John Levenstein, a showrunner on “Arrested Development” cracked a joke about how Sorkin’s offer to help minorities who akin to volunteering to clean up after a party– when a friend had already tidied up.
— Danielle Henderson (@knottyyarn) March 26, 2017
Reps for Sorkin didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
"What can I do to help?" – Aaron Sorkin, re: diversity
"What can I do to help?" – me, after someone else finishes cleaning up after a party
— John Levenstein (@johnlevenstein) March 27, 2017
America’s best known screenwriter was speaking at a panel during the Writers Guild Festival over the weekend. Sorkin, who counts “The Social Network” and “Steve Jobs” among his credits, had asserted that writing for the movies was a meritocracy. He cited “Girls” creator Lena Dunham and comedian Jordan Peele, who is African American, as examples of successful women and minority writers. In recent years, Shonda Rhimes has also occupied the spotlight with acclaimed series like “Scandal” which star strong African American women.
Beyond a handful of bold-faced names however, writers’ rooms are still dominated by white men. In 2014, female movie screenwriters earned only 68% of what their white male counterparts made, down from 78% two years ago, according to the Writers Guild of America, West’s 2016 Hollywood Writers Report. Meanwhile, ethnic minorities made up just 13% of TV scribes and only 7% of those penning movie scripts.
In Sorkin’s defense, television tends to be a friendlier ground for those who aren’t white males. Female TV writers earned 93 cents for every dollar earned by white men in 2014, up two cents from two years before. That pay gap is significantly narrower than the divide which exists in the broader economy, where women take home approximately 80% of what men make.
Sorkin is best known for productions with ambitious and powerful men occupying center stage. Think Martin Sheen’s President Josiah Bartlett in “The West Wing,” Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” and Michael Fassbender as Apple’s genius founder. However, his upcoming film “Molly’s Game,” is about a woman who manages to penetrate the testosterone-driven world of underground poker and will star Jessica Chastain in the lead role.
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