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Transparent creator Jill Soloway led a Pride Month-themed panel Saturday, talking with LGBTQ stars, execs and agents about coming out in Hollywood and how the industry has become more inclusive since the Harvey Weinstein allegations went public.
The LGBTQ+ Inclusivity Panel, put on by Young Entertainment Activists at Netflix’s L.A. headquarters, featured stand-up comedian Margaret Cho, Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat, The OA‘s Ian Alexander, Ellen correspondent Kalen Allen, Sony Pictures TV exec vp global scripted Nina Lederman and CAA motion picture literary agent Rowena Arguelles.
Soloway, who was recently announced as Bryan Singer’s replacement to direct Red Sonja, said that she’s noticed significant change to industry inclusivity in the last few years. Before the #MeToo movement, “there was this unspoken thing in the room like, ‘Oh feminism, yeah intersectionality,’ but when the doors closed and we still go back to this thing where people make jokes and talk about the women they want to hire based off what they look like.”
The creator, who identifies as nonbinary, continued, “When the thing first happened with Harvey Weinstein, I felt this unbelievable relief because I literally thought I was going to have to change the world by myself, and I was like, ‘No, we’re all doing it together, everybody’s changing the feeling of being in a room.’ No, it’s not OK anymore to allow this kind of misogyny and toxic masculinity to be the order of the day and just the norm at work.”
Cho said that in the comedy world, which she thinks is usually the last area of entertainment to change because it’s “such a boy’s club,” the push toward inclusivity has not been as smooth, causing a major rift in the comedy community.
“These men that are so angry that they have lost the right to all of these things and that their main leader, Louis C.K., got knocked down. It’s so simple, just don’t take your dick out, or maybe ask nicely,” Cho told the crowd.
Reflecting on her own past as a rape survivor, Cho said that she frequently does material about sexual harassment and abuse in her stand-up sets, and one time, “A very famous, white, straight, male comedian came on after me, enraged, and was yelling at me in front of the crowd [about] how I poisoned them, like ‘How do you even talk about this in comedy, why are you bringing this subject in here?’ and it was crazy. I think comedy is just so divided now and people are like ‘Louis C.K. has to be able to do comedy again’ and it’s like why? It’s that thing where you’re still licensing all of that bad behavior and giving him the ability to do it because of ‘genius.'”
The bisexual comedian, who was the first Asian American lead of a sitcom with 1994’s All-American Girl, also spoke about the recent wave of Asian American inclusivity.
“We’re definitely seeing a shift, but it took 25 years, and that’s really a difficult thing to think about,” Cho said, joking that “nowadays it’s like we need to get as many Asian TV shows and movies out because we have to make sure that the white people don’t change their minds, because you know they like to change their minds. It’s very much this thing of like ‘You think they really mean it this time?’ Every Asian American I know is doing like multiple projects and just trying to get in there and do it. I haven’t seen it like this before.”
On the agency side, Arguelles said there has been a huge shift at CAA in the way they talk about projects and choose clients for jobs.
“Before, some studio had some big action movie and no agent in the room would blink if the list entirely comprised older, white, straight males. They also wouldn’t blink if it was a movie about women and the list comprised older, straight, while males,” she said. “Now, if it’s a female protagonist, a gay protagonist, if there are any kind of minority representation in that film, there is a real mandate in those staff meetings that they must include or exclusively be female directors, gay directors, whatever it is.”
Arguelles added, “The entire company —and I imagine at the other agencies it’s the same way — are incredibly mindful now of that, and they’re paying attention in a way that they never paid attention before.”
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