On the evening of June 5, 2014, the ATAS held a panel appropriately entitled "Women Ruling TV" featuring the women of hit shows House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Jodie Foster directed one episode of each, and Robin Wright directed an episode of House of Cards (on which she plays Kevin Spacey's cunning spouse). Taylor Schilling (Piper on OITNB) and Kate Mulgrew (Big Red) were also present, along with Netflix documentary The Square director Jehane Noujaim. If these five women rule TV, long live the queens!
Even with the exponentially growing popularity of Netflix, and more in-depth dramas like those above, there is still the general perception that TV is frivolous and will melt your brain. This makes women ideal candidates for innovation in the industry: we are used to proving the quality of that which has been assumed superficial. The ladies of Netflix have taken advantage of the strong emotional connection that develops through binge-watching to communicate intense experiences of identity, gender and politics. Perhaps this form of entertainment, even more so than others, can actually help us to hone in on social issues.
Pearls of wisdom from the monarchy:
“When I blend a comedy and drama, as a director, I have to have something quirky. I read the book and I called my agent and was like I need to be a part of that.”
- Jodie Foster, on pursuing directing for Orange is the New Black
“Nonfiction film is really a process about hanging out. If you like the person and they make you laugh and you feel connected to them, then you know an audience is going to connect with them.”
- Jehane Noujaim, director of The Square, on nonfiction casting
“It was really amazing because people had just spent thirteen hours with us. It’s a really visceral and intimate relationship with the audience.” - Taylor Schilling, on how Orange is the New Black changed her life
“When Fincher called and said ‘Hey, do you want to do this? Kevin actually suggested you to play his lady Macbeth.’ To play with him (Kevin Spacey) he’s a master; he sings with surprise. There is always a melody, and while you’re following it like you would a beautiful classic tune, you are always surprised.”
- Robin Wright, on Fincher offering her the role and working with Kevin
“I think the chemistry on the Orange set is extraordinary and I’m going to risk and say this: I think by virtue of the fact that there are not so many men, we are free to be absolutely authentic. There is a lot of freedom and trust.” - Kate Mulgrew, on the set of Orange is the New Black
My only hesitation is, with such a diverse cast on OITNB, why weren't there more women of colour on the panel or directing? In fact, all OITNB episodes have been directed by white people, mostly dudes. So while it's excellent that we're seeing more female-populated TV programming, the fact remains that women, especially non-white women, are in the still in the minority when it comes to high-level positions. Unfortunately, this is still true of all industries.
Unavoidable circumstance we'll continue to slowly but surely chisel away at? Or glass ceiling that should already be in pieces? Let us know what you think in the comments below. Or, you know, just fangirl out over the new season of Orange is the New Black, available now!