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When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong: Jeremy O. Harris Vs. Everyone Who Writes For And About Television

By Brian Richards | Social Media | February 11, 2022 |

By Brian Richards | Social Media | February 11, 2022 |


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.

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.

The rest of that attention? Was anything but positive.

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.

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.

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.”