film and television
writers want Hollywood
gatekeepers to know that progress on queer representation
has been slow and incremental at best, so they issued an open letter on Friday urging the industry to “dig deeper and do better.”
“It is the responsibility of present-day Hollywood to make right all the harm caused by Hollywood’s past,” the leaders of the LGBTQ+ Writers Committee of the Writers Guild of America
, West (WGAW) wrote in the letter, pointing out that many aspects of Hollywood’s history
of silencing queer voices
have not improved as much as industry leaders probably believe.
According to the letter, nearly half of LGBTQ film and TV writers
in a WGAW survey last month said “they have hidden their identity — or felt compelled to do so — in an industry environment
,” with 25% of them doing so as recently as the last five years. More than 22% of respondents said they have experienced overt discrimination or harassment in the last five years, and 57% have experienced migrating.
Historically, queer creators in Hollywood had to conceal their identities, and under the Hays Code, which enforced morality standards for Hollywood films until it was replaced by the current ratings system in 1968, most queer characters “existed solely in subtext, trapped in a celluloid closet.” While the industry has made progress, the writers pointed out that, to this day,
“Even in a post-Hays Code landscape, the dominant narrative
has not allowed LGBTQ+ characters the full scope of our humanity,” they wrote, adding, “too often, we are reduced to our collective traumas — coming out
, victimization, the AIDS
crisis, being murdered for our identities.”
The stories we tell, and the stories you support, shape the future that LGBTQ+ youth
envision for themselves; what we see on-screen and how we are represented informs our beliefs about what is possible.
West's LGBTQ+ Writers Committee of the Writers Guild of America issued an open letter to Hollywood.
The letter also criticizes industry gatekeepers for treating queer representation with a “there can only be one” mentality, claiming that 25% of survey respondents “reported they were ‘always’ or ‘often’ the only LGBTQ+ writer in the room.” Queer writers, like other writers from underrepresented groups, continue to be at the bottom of the ladder.
“Unfortunately, this is the same type of box-checking that other underrepresented groups face, and it must stop everywhere,” the writers wrote. “We refuse to feel fortunate to simply be allowed a seat at the table, only to have our presence used as a ‘rainbow shield’ while our perspectives are ignored.”
The letter contains a series of recommendations that highlight how Hollywood gatekeepers still have a long way to go in ensuring a more equitable and inclusive industry. It is hiring queer writers and ensuring they are given an environment where they are supported and can advance in their careers, rather than being stuck at the bottom of the ladder.
The writers also urged Hollywood executives to take a stronger stance, such as vocally opposing anti-trans legislation
, which has been introduced in at least 33 state legislatures this year.
“Many of our productions are in these states
,” the writers wrote in an open letter. “Hollywood must stand up and vociferously speak out against the wave of anti-trans legislation, not just with words, but with actions. The industry has spoken out against anti-abortion and anti-voting laws in the past, and we must do so now.”
On a more fundamental level, the writers reminded industry leaders that they bear
a tremendous amount of responsibility in questioning the images that Hollywood and pop culture present to audiences.
“The stories we tell, and the stories you greenlight, determine the future that LGBTQ+ youth envision for themselves. What we see on-screen and how we are represented informs what we believe is possible,” they wrote in the letter.
The entire letter can be found here.