This past week has been slightly more chaotic than usual when it comes to the discourse that is regularly happening on social media. Steven Soderbergh was called out on Twitter for commenting on the lack of sex in superhero movies, despite the fact that he never mentioned anything at all about superhero movies, and only had people thinking back because of a clickbait headline that took his interview out of context. Thandiwe Newton ended up on the Sh-t List of Black Twitter because of her own recent interview in which she apologized for taking roles that made it difficult for dark-skinned Black women to be hired in film and television, though she ended up sounding incredibly condescending towards dark-skinned Black women and making herself look worse as a result. Awkwafina’s four-page Apple Notes letter, in which she sounded like Oswald Bates from In Living Color while explaining that she was taking a break from Twitter, but never actually apologized for her use of a “blaccent” and AAVE at the start of her career, despite being called out on it numerous times. More than enough has been said about Joe Rogan, his need to repeatedly use the word “nigger” on his podcast as if he gets $1000 in his bank account whenever he says it, and (mostly white) comedians who are about as funny as watching your grandparents star in a remake of The Human Centipede coming together like the end of Avengers: Endgame to defend Joe Rogan and his right to comedy, so I’ll just leave it at that.
One of the more recent incidents that had Twitter in a slight uproar was when playwright Jeremy O. Harris, who is best known for the controversial Broadway play Slave Play, and who has been working as a consultant for the HBO series Euphoria, came to the defense of the show’s creator, Sam Levinson, due to this current season receiving more criticism compared to Season 1. While doing that, he not only praised this most recent episode of Euphoria (as well as Zendaya’s performance in it), but he also shared his thoughts on television shows, the viewers at home who watch them, and the people behind the scenes who make them.
I been told y’all to stop talking shit about my boy Sam Levinson bc THIS SEASON OF #EUPHORIA is made for ppl with an intellect for CINEMA and not the impatience of TELEVISION. Episode 5 is that bitch.— NYT Least Relevant Notable of 2021 Jeremy O Harris (@jeremyoharris) February 7, 2022
I screamed when I read the first draft. My writer’s screamed seeing Z on set. pic.twitter.com/Y032NjLY2W
Excited for y’all to see my show’s BTS and get pissed when I say I write tv for people who have an intellect for theatre since tv is hollow.— NYT Least Relevant Notable of 2021 Jeremy O Harris (@jeremyoharris) February 7, 2022
Bc the funny thing is the reason so many filmmakers and theatre makers were asked to make television is bc the medium hit a wall.
That’s why almost all the best tv, of late, has been made by exciting practitioners of other forms. Excited for more visual artists to start doing tv. Like Steve McQueen and Small Axe. Praying for a @jatovia show soon.— NYT Least Relevant Notable of 2021 Jeremy O Harris (@jeremyoharris) February 7, 2022
Safe to say, these comments received plenty of attention. Some of it was positive, mainly because they enjoyed seeing the chaos of someone on Twitter starting and talking sh-t when it comes to television.
I support Jeremy O Harris being snotty about TV. Playwrights used to be like this all the time. It's a glorious tradition.— Jason Zinoman (@zinoman) February 8, 2022
And mainly: Are TV writers really so ðŸ”³ that they don’t even know, let alone find hilarious, how @jeremyoharris operates? He expresses outlandish opinions as extremely as possible to get the maximal rise out of people. All excellent instincts for a writer, btw— Richard Day (@chardday) February 8, 2022
The rest of that attention? Was anything but positive.
Filmmakers and theater makers get into tv because there's a lot of money to be made there and then pretend like they're elevating the medium. (TV doesn't need you to elevate it, darlings.)— Gennifer Hutchison (@GennHutchison) February 8, 2022
Don't work in a medium you loathe and paper over your insecurities with snobbery.
I refuse to get into defending tv as good and valid art because anyone saying it isn't is being transparently disingenuous. Enjoy your money, creative freedom, and long-form storytelling opportunities and stop being such tremendous assholes about it.— Gennifer Hutchison (@GennHutchison) February 8, 2022
I think a certain playwright is going to find it’s hard to “elevate the medium” when you’re being hired in that (apparently low-brow) medium by TV writers, all of whom you managed to insult with a single tweet.— Noah Evslin (@nevslin) February 8, 2022
Btw, I personally feel playwrights make good TV writers and TV writers make good playwrights.— Noah Evslin (@nevslin) February 8, 2022
We do the same thing - use words to dance with the Gods.
So let’s embrace each other and build each other up, instead of whatever that was…
I first got paid for journalism work in 1992. I have not been writing about entertainment/TV/film that entire time. However. A moment of silence, please, for my psyche: It’s been 30 years of “TV is not as good as [insert another discipline here]” takes. pic.twitter.com/lZWMRkUuVt— Mo Ryan (@moryan) February 8, 2022
My absolute favorite is “TV is hollow” & “TV is hitting a wall” takes always come from people who is familiarity with TV is minor or nil. The fun part of this job is being condescended to by people who do not bother to learn anything about an entire industry!! It’s fun!! Sigh pic.twitter.com/fiHTUURpBT— Mo Ryan (@moryan) February 8, 2022
If you think TV is hollow, feel free to stand aside and let the people who are filling it up with cool shit do their thing. pic.twitter.com/MpMfS40I4J— Mo Ryan (@moryan) February 8, 2022
Writing is hard. Playwriting is hard. Feature writing is hard. These are hard pursuits in a difficult business at a turbulent time. If there's anything that I truly hope we all figure out from these last couple of days is that we should treat each other with a bit of grace.— J. Holtham (@jholtham) February 8, 2022
This business is so hard on writers. Let’s just appreciate that each of us brings a unique basket of experience and skills and talents and shortcomings and celebrate each other. End/— Melissa London Hilfers (@melissahilfers) February 8, 2022
The greatest TV show of the past 20 years was ‘Breaking Bad’. Career episodic TV writer as creator/showrunner, writing staff a murderers row of TV writers. Primarily directed by episodic TV vets.— Be My Valentine, Bryan Cogman! (@cogman_bryan) February 8, 2022
Someone with “an intellect for theatre”, whatever the fuck that means.
I LOVE making television. It took a long time for me to get halfway decent at it, & when it works it feels like one of the most exciting ways to tell stories there is. (After making TV for a bit I just want to lock myself in a room to write a novel because that's brilliant too.) https://t.co/Uii2S0pDL9— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) February 8, 2022
I was gonna stay out of this but yeah, there's an alarming amount of producers/execs who don't consider screenwriters to be "real writers" the way they consider playwrights and novelists "real writers." It feeds into the whole devaluing writers culture that helps them exploit us. https://t.co/ZmrmR9NPvL— Corey Deshon (@CoreyDeshon) February 8, 2022
now if danny mcbride was like "people are just too damn stupid to understand my fuckin brilliant, cinematic show" id be like, ok now HE has a point— ashley ray (@theeashleyray) February 8, 2022
If these playwrights and film writers truly are capable of genius TV, let’s see them be brilliant with half the budget, five act breaks and a strict running time of 42:30.— Bitter Script Reader (@BittrScrptReadr) February 8, 2022
Anyone can be great at tennis when you play with the net down.
I don’t want to watch any show penned by someone who—not only doesn’t appreciate the intimacy of TV and its unique ability to connect with viewers in a meaningful, deeply personal way—but fancies themself above it.— Gennefer Gross (@Gennefer) February 8, 2022
Drop the ego. TV writing is collaborative. Long live TV writers!
It didn’t take long for someone to point out the irony of a playwright looking down on television, even though he appeared in several episodes of the Netflix series Emily In Paris, a.k.a. the 13-episode version of this meme here.
And I’m doing it again! I love Emily in Paris. Darren Star is one of our best comedy show runners. I also did What we do in the shadows.— NYT Least Relevant Notable of 2021 Jeremy O Harris (@jeremyoharris) February 8, 2022
We love to laugh ! https://t.co/m7jB1E1H2c
Or that Jeremy was already skating on thin ice with plenty of people on social media who not only have issues with Slave Play and its themes and its content, but who also remember that Jeremy was foolish enough to get on the bad side of actor Harold Perrineau, Jr. after he spoke out against Twitter in support of Lena Dunham, who defended Girls staff writer Murray Miller after he was accused of sexually assaulting Harold’s daughter, actress Aurora Perrineau, and implied that Aurora wasn’t telling the truth.
It also didn’t take long for Jeremy to start backpedaling and giving a “What I had said was…” explanation for what he said and how he feels about television. Because it was definitely not an apology.
People really started blocking and posting SCREEDS!! THREADS!!! In defense of tv from the big mean playwright who said **checks notes** tv got better when more ppl started making it and that the most celebrated shows recently have been by ppl new to the medium…and I must ðŸ˜‚— NYT Least Relevant Notable of 2021 Jeremy O Harris (@jeremyoharris) February 8, 2022
Finally reading the Shark v Jets fight between writers I caused yesterday and y’all need to chill tf out.— NYT Least Relevant Notable of 2021 Jeremy O Harris (@jeremyoharris) February 9, 2022
Obviously a nerve was struck bc I believe every medium benefits from healthy cross pollination. I’m a Gemini. Working in 8 different mediums makes MY writing better. pic.twitter.com/nTY7wcOtFr
Better in the early 2000s when more writers and directors from different mediums brought their expertise to the form. In the same way theatre got better in the US when a bunch of multi disciplinary artists started working in downtown Chicago and NYC.— NYT Least Relevant Notable of 2021 Jeremy O Harris (@jeremyoharris) February 9, 2022
If that’s not you go awf! Not everyone has to be…I just know my FAVES are almost all multi disciplinary. And that’s what I was joking about…MY work. And MY faves.— NYT Least Relevant Notable of 2021 Jeremy O Harris (@jeremyoharris) February 9, 2022
So please put down ur knives. I just want us all to keep dancing at the gym. pic.twitter.com/XrWVHbUZgz
I’d be lying my ass off if I said that there wasn’t some merit in what Jeremy was saying when it comes to writers from different mediums working in television and bringing their own skills and perspectives to tell stories in different ways that keep shows from being created and developed in writers’ rooms that are nothing than monochromatic echo chambers. The Wire, which is considered by many to be one of the greatest shows ever made, was created and mostly written by David Simon, who worked as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun before writing Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets, the true-crime novel that largely inspired not just The Wire, but also inspired the equally groundbreaking and equally underrated Homicide: Life On The Street. But writers who have spent their entire careers working in television have every right and reason to be infuriated when a writer from another medium looks down on what they do and treats television as if it’s an art form that is lesser than, and barely deserving any respect or acknowledgment. Or worse, that the only television shows that are truly deserving of respect and acknowledgment are shows that air on cable and on streaming services. (Which are still referred to by some writers of those very shows as “X-hour-long movies” or as “novels for television”) This is a belief that seems to have grown ever since The Sopranos premiered on HBO in 1999.
There’s no denying that The Sopranos forever changed the way that television was made and watched and discussed. (Even The New York Times praised The Sopranos back in 1999 by saying “…it just may be the greatest work of American popular culture of the last quarter century,” which…is a lot). The show’s creator, David Chase, spent the majority of his career working in television and learning how to create a show like The Sopranos, by writing for such classics as The Rockford Files and Northern Exposure. Vince Gilligan spent years working as a staff writer for The X-Files and learning what it takes to create each episode of a television show and to keep the trains running on time before he went on to create Breaking Bad for AMC. We all know Joss Whedon to be an insufferable and egotistical f-ckboy whose own writing career in television is largely because of nepotism, and who cannot be trusted to behave himself on set or to accept responsibility for his own mistakes, but there is no denying that Buffy The Vampire Slayer not only helped to establish The WB as the greatest television network in all of existence, but it was so great and so well-made that Entertainment Weekly magazine (which deserves a hell of a lot more respect than it’s getting right now, FYI) ranked it as the best show of 1998, one year before The Sopranos made its debut and would help inspire the kind of vampire fiction that made shows like HBO’s True Blood possible. Primetime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty walked so that Succession could run. Columbo is still considered one of the best and most enjoyable police procedurals ever made, and it not only launched the career of director Steven Spielberg, who helmed the very first episode, but it also did the same for that episode’s writer, Steven Bochco, who would go on to become a beloved legend in the television industry.
Television has been great and incredibly entertaining long before we first saw Tony Soprano driving to his house in New Jersey to the music of Alabama 3, and it still is great and incredibly entertaining to this day. It’s an art form that doesn’t need writers like Jeremy O. Harris to elevate it, just like how the horror genre doesn’t need ‘elevated horror,’ as if the genre needs to be fixed and improved by people who don’t actually love horror and don’t know anything about it. It’s the same condescension that is applied when talking about romance novels (as if Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series aren’t romance novels that have been adapted into two of the biggest and most talked-about shows on television) and comic books (which have produced some of the greatest works of literature in any genre, including writer/artist Art Spiegelman’s magnum opus, Maus, which has been discussed in the news for all of the wrong reasons). Whenever someone expresses that condescension and disdain towards television or romance novels or comic books or any other form of art that doesn’t meet their approval, it becomes very evident very quickly that they have no f-cking idea what they’re talking about, and that everyone else who does know what they’re talking about, would much prefer that they all take these classic words of advice from Aaron Burr:
This has been another episode of “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong.”