If you want to start your week off with some depressing figures, take a look at how many female writers you can find working on your favorite shows. Even progressive champions like Stephen Colbert have cringe-inducingly low numbers. And if you think this is an issue of merit, please step to the right and chat with Matt Damon with your sense of privilege intact.
We here at Pajiba would argue that there’s this thing call institutional sexism in the entertainment industry that offers advantages if you look a certain way (white male). But there’s been a move for producers/creators to recognize this problem. More and more you’re seeing reporters address the issue in interviews, and this brings us to what Rick and Morty co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have to say about bringing women into the writing room.
THR reporter Ryan Gajewski asked the pair, who’ve never employed a female writer on the show, whether they expect to in season three. Roiland responded, “It hasn’t been an agenda thing, but just coincidentally for some reason — I don’t know why — this staffing round going into season three, we got a lot of female (spec) scripts in addition to male scripts. We just look at what’s the best scripts — I think in the running, we have five or six girls. It’s weird — that’s never happened before.”
Harmon added, “I think the last time you asked us about it, we made a self-deprecating joke about it and moved on because we didn’t want to make the whole interview about that issue. I remember when the piece ran, I got tweeted by nine or 10 young gentlemen who were lambasting me for not taking the issue seriously — not a single female writer tweeted me and said, ‘You shouldn’t have joked about that — you should have apologized to America and promised to hire a woman.’ I like to think maybe that article ran and a bunch of great female comedy writers sat down and wrote specs or called their agents and said, ‘Put my hat in this ring.’ [But] the day there is a female writer in that writers room, that person is definitely not going to be thinking that they’re a quota writer.
Roiland concurred, “Anyone who makes the cut and joins the team has definitely done so on their own merits. We’ve gone from having zero spec scripts [in the running from female] candidates, to having five or six of them, so it’s looking very likely that season three will have one, potentially two gals in the room. I think it will be fun and interesting.”
Personally, I was surprised to hear that no women weighed in on season two because of how pleasantly surprised I was to see Summer get more screen time and character growth. And yes, above all things you want to bring talent to the table before tokens. But part of the reason they may not have been getting spec scripts from female writers may have been because the show had an all-male staff, so agents weren’t exactly encouraged to submit non-dude clients. Or there may have been a perception that Rick and Morty was a “no girls allowed” zone, because of its sci-fi content, a barrier that Guardians of the Galaxy scribe Nicole Perlman has spoken about.
But this issue is something Roiland and Harmon are now aware of, and are speaking to with sincerity. By contrast, here’s the joke they offered last time they were asked about having female writers:
You had previously mentioned that you didn’t have any female writers on the show’s staff for the first season. Was that still the case for season two?
Harmon: We have not had female writers on the Rick and Morty staff so far. But it’s by choice — they’re terrible people. They vote wrong — I don’t know why we gave that power to them.
Roiland: They make my wee-wee feel weird.
Harmon: I blame them for the inflation and the recession at the same time. They don’t ask for directions, and they leave the toilet seat down. (Roiland laughs.) The real answer is, send your writing sample to UTA, I guess.
This kind of schtick is the pair’s standard interview patter, which makes it all the more noteworthy they broke from it on their most recent interview to say something real.
Think of it this way, if female writers are now sending along their spec scripts, the pool that Roiland and Harmon are pulling from has grown, offering a new channel of inspiration and comedy. Breaking down these barriers of institutional sexism, and rejecting that white straight male needs to be the default candidate for all things means that more people of talent have access to opportunity. Which means we all win.
Which is great news. Because Roiland and Harmon will have a hell of a time topping Rick and Morty’s second season.
Kristy Puchko wants to get schwifty in here.