Thoughts from the Ledge: Gillian Anderson and inequality


This week I have decided to take a different tact and focus on Gillian Anderson and gender inequality. Traditionally, male writers dominate horror and science fiction. That is starting to change slowly but surely as more talented females push their way into the spotlight. But is it too little, too late?

“The future is female.”  – Gillian Anderson

We Can Do It!

Rosie the Riveter – Courtesy of the National Archives

This past summer, Vanity Fair ran an article on one of my favorite television series of all time, the X Files. With production on season eleven currently underway, Indie Wire originally reported that the writers room of the popular show was predominantly male. To say a minor flap was started is a severe understatement.

Star Gillian Anderson revealed to the Hollywood Reporter that her pay for the show’s revival was initially half of what was offered to David Duchovny. Although the situation was rectified, it still begs the question, why does Hollywood think that only men can competently handle genre television or movies? Anderson is a huge part of the success of that program.

She has proven her worth and is an accomplished actress of stage, screen and television. Why is she paid less than her male counterpart? Furthermore, why didn’t the X Files employ women writers? Going back in time, TV titan Gene Roddenberry employed DC Fontana who went on to become a venerable science fiction writing powerhouse.

At this year’s Television Critics Association, Fox TV C.E.O. Dana Walden responded to the question, “I don’t want to make excuses for anyone. I want to just explain that after 200-plus episodes of a show that has a very deep and specific mythology—where the fan base has a very high expectation that the episodes are going to deliver on those Easter eggs and be consistent with those original episodes—the tendency is to want to rely on the people [who] helped you on the original, when you’re just doing 10 episodes.”

That is all fine and good but you can’t tell me that out of all the female writers on the left coast, none of them was familiar with the show’s mythology?!

Do You Need a Band Aid?

Stephen Colbert – Courtesy of Comedy Central

Apparently, showrunner and creator Chris Carter brought women into the mix not as a response to the backlash, according to Fox. Maybe the timing just happens to coincide with the need for diversity. Suffice it to say, the X Files will have two shows written by three women; Karen Nielson, Kristen Cloke and Shannon Hamblin.

Carol Banker is one of the directors for season eleven.  A former script supervisor for the show, she also directed one of the Lone Gunmen episodes (the X Files spinoff). In my mind, she is a terrific choice and is definitely familiar with the show mythology. Joining her will be Holly Dale. While all of this is a step in the right direction, is it merely a temporary fix for a long-term issue?

Obviously, I can’t speak for Chris Carter. Part of me has to wonder if there was some pressure from executives since the issue came to the forefront in a national publication. The X Files isn’t the only show that is predominantly staffed with male writers.

Taking a look at the writing staffs for 2017 on other shows in different genres such as comedy/variety, Stephen Colbert has three female writers on staff. American Horror Story has one female writer on staff. However, another one of my favorite shows, Doctor Who only employs three women writers on a gigantic staff. All hope isn’t lost though, as NBC’s hit drama, This Is Us has a predominantly female writing staff.

There are some people that will say, the industry has been that way for years. That is exactly the point. It doesn’t need to be! There are talented women writers out there who are funny, smart, engaging and know their craft. It doesn’t have to be a boys club.

A Shout Out to the Sisterhood of Writers

Every day I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by some of the most talented women writers in the horror genre. They work hard and they know their stuff. Even though strides are being made to recognize more contributions by women there is still a contingent of people out there that think that females are only qualified to write about romance and fluff pieces.

That mindset has to change. Women writers have substance and depth and can go toe to toe with male scribes. Trust me, I am constantly challenged by the brilliance of my female colleagues and it makes me want to strive to produce better articles and to push the envelope.

I was extremely happy to see that Reed Morano took home an Emmy for drama directing A Handmaid’s Tale making her the first woman to win this award in twenty two years.

Women deserve respect and to be treated accordingly. So, if you think a female can’t throw down and discuss Freddy, Jason and Jigsaw with the best of them, think again.

Next: Thoughts from the ledge on Stephen King’s inspiration Shirley Jackson

Do you feel that Hollywood is starting to recognize women writers and directors? Will more shows diversify their writing staffs? Feel free to share your feelings in the comment section below. We want to hear from you!