Ryan Murphy's Fighting Hollywood's Diversity Issue

by Kaitlin Reilly

The controversy over the overwhelmingly white 2016 Oscar nominees is just one example of Hollywood's glaring diversity problem. It's an issue that has been an important one for years, but just now is finally achieving the visibility it is warranted. How To Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis called out the lack of roles for black women after receiving the SAG Award for her role on the ABC series, while Jada Pinkett-Smith took to Twitter to express her "disappointment" at the lack of black artists recognized by Hollywood's elite awards. Even Oscar winner Halle Berry expressed at the 2016 Makers Conference how she felt "disheartened" when her historic Best Actress win didn't "open the doors" for other black women in the industry. People of color, women, and other underrepresented groups in Hollywood need opportunities in front of and behind the camera if we want the entertainment landscape to reflect the real world — and now, showrunner Ryan Murphy is making a personal effort to give underrepresented directors a shot at helming Hollywood projects.

Murphy, famous for creating shows like American Horror Story, Glee, and Nip/Tuck, is making it his mission to give directing opportunities to people that Hollywood tends to snub. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, Murphy is starting a new organization called "Half" that will tackle the diversity problem in a very real way. By the end of 2016, Murphy plans to ensure half of all director slots on his television shows are filled by either women or minority candidates, which include people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. Murphy then plans to share this diverse database with other producers looking to make a positive change towards a more representative Hollywood.

Importantly, Murphy's initiative could help female directors get opportunities that are often given to men. As reported by MTV, from 2013 to 2014, "out of 220 TV shows — representing 3500 episodes — only 14 percent were directed by women." There is certainly no shortage of women in the industry who want to direct television, so these numbers are pretty damn depressing. In fact, The Hollywood Reporter points out that though Murphy himself helped over two dozen directors get into the Directors Guild of America, only four or five of those people were women. Half will attempt to level that playing field, and give women their well-deserved, and little afforded, shot.

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Amping up diversity in the people directing television is a smart move that should have a positive impact on other aspects of the industry as well. TV directors who are a part of underrepresented groups are more likely to be careful when dealing with issues related to these groups. That means that the world will get a far better perspective on these issues than if a show was helmed by someone detached from them — something that can only help strengthen Hollywood as a place for everyone.

Of course, while Murphy's intentions are great, he's just one of hundreds of producers who need to be committed to making a change. For many, it's easier to simply continue with the status quo — which is why it is so important that more people in power step up and say that they want to make a conscious effort to change. We don't just need more underrepresented people directing our television programs: we also need them producing our films, writing our stories, and winning our Oscars and Emmys. It's time that Hollywood showcases the talent of not just white, cisgender men: there are so many voices that deserve their shot, and our world can only benefit from it.