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seal-team-beneker.jpg

Won't Someone Please Think Of The White Men In Hollywood?

By Brian Richards | TV | March 7, 2024 |

By Brian Richards | TV | March 7, 2024 |


seal-team-beneker.jpg

Brian Beneker, a script coordinator for the CBS-to-Paramount Plus series SEAL Team, filed a lawsuit last week against CBS Studios and its parent company, Paramount. The reason for this lawsuit? Because he wasn’t hired to join the show’s writing staff, and instead, saw open positions going to writers from underrepresented communities. Hiring decisions that Beneker felt were being done not because of their talent, but were being done to meet quotas.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

[Beneker] alleges in a lawsuit filed in California federal court Wednesday that he was repeatedly denied a staff writer job after the implementation of an “illegal policy of race and sex balancing” that promoted the hiring of “less qualified applicants who were members of more preferred groups,” namely those who identify as minorities, LGBTQ or women. He seeks at least $500,000, as well as a court order making him a full-time producer on the series and barring the further use of discriminatory hiring practices.

Beneker is represented by America First Legal Foundation, a conservative group founded by Stephen Miller, a White House policy adviser under the Trump Administration.

Beneker claims the showrunner told him he was passed over in favor of a Black writer in 2019 due to racial quotas and that six additional writers—all women, including two Black women and one lesbian woman—were brought in after he was promised a position in the writers’ room. Beneker further alleges in the suit that CBS’s hiring practices “created a situation where heterosexual, white men need ‘extra’ qualifications (including military experience or previous writing credits) to be hired as staff writers when compared to their nonwhite, LGBTQ, or female peers.”

Beneker’s lawsuit earned him plenty of support from a few people on social media who have lots of American flags next to their screen names, and who hope this is the start of Hollywood being taken to task for being so ‘woke’ when it comes to the movies and television shows they create. However, they were greatly outnumbered by people who couldn’t help but laugh and roll their eyes at what Beneker was doing, who he chose to do it with, and him being foolish enough to think his writing career in Hollywood would get any better as a result. Most of the people who were laughing and rolling their eyes? They were mostly writers.

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From my own experience, and the experiences of so many other writers, it is not easy at all to get a writing job with any television show. To get a seat in the writers’ room of a television series is a ruthless game of Musical Chairs (if you don’t think Musical Chairs can be ruthless, you’ve never played it against older Black women), and thousands of players are trying their hardest to get a seat and not be left standing when the music stops.

Even if someone does get a staff writing job, there is no guarantee that the show they’re writing for will be renewed for additional seasons. (Especially if it’s a show made by Netflix, where every series might as well be a limited series, and viewers are expected to begin watching a show on Monday, only to find out on Friday that it’s already been canceled.) Or that their own contract will be renewed, and they’ll be asked to remain as a member of the writing staff when the show returns next season. And yet, Beneker, who has worked in the television industry since 1999? Who has written two scripts for SEAL Team in a freelance capacity? Who has never impressed any of the showrunners he’s worked for with his writing talent enough to make them hire him to join the writing staff for any of their shows? He’s decided to join forces with Stephen Miller and his equally loathsome cronies so that he can blame the Blacks, the females, and the Alphabet Mafia for why his career hasn’t been more successful. And truly believes that this is going to work out entirely in his favor.

Jorge Reyes, who created the UPN series Kevin Hill, and who has written and produced for shows like New York Undercover and Queen of the South, shared his thoughts about what it was like when he worked with Benedek on the set of the Showtime series Resurrection Blvd.

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Beneker has burned his reputation among his peers in Hollywood with his lawsuit, which has done nothing but bring his greed, ignorance, and incompetence to light for the world to see. And he’s done this all so that he can join the writing staff of a series that is about to enter its seventh and final season. So even if he were to win this lawsuit, he wouldn’t even be able to enjoy it for very long. It’s not only difficult to get a job as a writer for a television series, but it’s also difficult if you do get hired and you end up in a room with other writers who don’t like or respect you very much. (Just ask Monica Owusu-Breen, who was a writer for Lost, or Amaani Lyle, who filed a lawsuit against the producers of Friends and Warner Bros. for a hostile work environment during her time as a writer’s assistant.) Exactly how popular does Beneker think he would be if he wins this lawsuit, and the SEAL Team writers’ room is forced to write alongside him, even if they aren’t overly impressed with him or his quality of work? This would be like publicly firing an offensive and problematic comedian from the cast of your late-night comedy sketch show, only to end up hiring him to host an episode of said late-night comedy sketch show. Imagine how awkward and unfunny that situation would be.

It’s already hard enough for writers who aren’t white men to be treated respectfully in Hollywood, and for their ideas and contributions to be taken seriously. There’s a reason why Maureen Ryan’s Burn It Down became an instant bestseller once it was released, and it’s not because all of the horror stories described on each page were fictional and hard to believe.

Shonda Rhimes is a Black woman who is one of the most powerful and respected writer-producers in all of Hollywood, and yet, the response she got from an ABC/Disney executive when she requested an extra free pass to Disneyland for her family was “Don’t you have enough?” That response pissed Rhimes off so damn much that she immediately walked away from ABC/Disney, and into the open, loving arms of Netflix, where she has blessed them with her work ever since. This also isn’t the only discrimination lawsuit that is presently being filed, as Patria Paulino, a former executive assistant at Columbia Records for its chief executive, Ron Perry, says that she was forced to leave her job when she expressed her dissatisfaction with hiring practices that involved hiring only non-white candidates for an administrative position with the company.

Whatever happens next with Brian Beneker and his lawsuit, he shouldn’t expect much sympathy for his plight in which white men like himself can’t get the writing jobs they feel entitled to have. Especially when almost ninety percent of the writing jobs in the television industry belong to white people. But it’s easier for him to direct his anger and frustration at writers who don’t have the complexion for the protection, and to believe that his own lack of success is because of forced diversity instead of his lack of talent. It’s not bad enough that numerous studios are suddenly backpedaling from all of the performative activism they displayed after the summer of 2020 by canceling numerous television shows with diverse casts and crews like Rap Sh-t, South Side, Legendary, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, The Wonder Years, A League of Their Own, and American Born Chinese being canceled, resulting in writers from underrepresented communities having to start the job search all over again, but they also have to deal with white people like Brian Benedek questioning whether they’re good enough to have earned their seat at the table in the first place. Because they may not have the talent, or the success, or even the self-awareness, but they will always have the audacity.