Last week on Saturday Night Live Kerry Washington stole the show. Read this article to see clips from her hosting. http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/11/03/snl-recap-kerry-washington-eminem/.
Producer Lorne Michaels addresses the lack of black women in the cast through the cold open sketch, by publicly apologizing to Washington for having to play multiple black women. This was a direct response to Kenan Thompson’s interview in TV guide where he stated that they couldn’t find any talented black women to be on the show. WHAT?
The article in the The Atlantic, linked below, suggests it isn’t about finding women of color to diversify the cast. It’s that the writers don’t know how to write clever parts for women of color. Even the amazing Kerry Washington played a few stereotypical roles this week: nagging girlfriend, Ugandan beauty queen, sassy assistant. This was all they could come up with (While it was stereotypical, I did like the parody of What Does the Fox Say?)? The Spelman College Political Science professor piece was well written and the entire sketch poked fun at white people, which is something that rarely happens these days on SNL. This piece, however, was critiqued for being a similar sketch to one starring Maya Rudolph.
This lack of diversity on SNL harkens back to my blog last week about the lack of women playwrights being produced at local theatres. The men in charge of hiring the actresses of color or finding the women playwrights are so enmeshed in their own privilege and power, they don’t even THINK about how diversity would actually make their theatres, their shows, their work so much better. We know that a diverse workplace is one that is more profitable and better overall for its employees. Why can’t we apply that same model to the arts?
If you google search “who are the writers at SNL” you get a list of 16 images of white people, two of whom are women. This is the problem. As much as we can judge producer Lorne Michael’s for his lack of diversity in his actors, perhaps what happens behind the scenes needs a more critical eye. If there are diverse actors on stage, what is the point is they are not given good sketches?
Until white women and women of color begin boycotting or critiquing these shows in depth, there won’t be significant change. As Kerry Coddett points out in the The Atlantic article points, the sheer number of women of color represented on SNL from the beginning has been lacking. To expect change to happen with such a long history of misrepresentation is doubtful.