'Silicon Valley' Creators Explain Diversity Issue

I never thought I'd say this, but this is one of those moments when I'm glad I'm not a showrunner. At a recent panel at SXSW, a Silicon Valley producer defended the show's lack of diversity, and for as much his response fell short for me, he does make some valid points. It's easy to sit on the sidelines and point out the places where Silicon Valley is dropping the ball when it comes to giving opportunities to women and people of color, but this is far from the only show that's backed itself into this mostly-white, all-male corner. It's just that having ended up there, I'd love to see fewer excuses, and more effort exerted to help the show work its way out.

During the panel, Silicon Valley producer Alec Berg, a white male sitting on a SXSW panel consisting solely of other white males, fielded a question about the show's lack of diversity, as he's done many times before, and responded thusly:

Tech is 87% male. VC at the partner level is 96% white and male. The world that we’re depicting is very much off kilter.

OK, fine. That is no untrue. He then went on to explain that sometimes he is quite literally pulling from real life, as when the crew shot crowd footage at TechCrunch Disrupt, and none of the panels featured women, an omission called out by a Silicon Valley editor:

She said those crowd shots were absurd. Those were real shots of the real place, and we didn’t frame women out. The world we’re depicting is f**ked up.

And that's what makes this conversation so tough. On one hand, Berg is right in that an accurate depiction of this Silicon Valley world is, by definition, primarily white and male. But on the other hand, one of the amazing parts of being a writer is that you can invent a new world inspired by the real one, and there is an opportunity there to counteract some of the tech industry's real life problems with inclusivity on the small screen. I'm not saying it's necessarily the show's responsibility to fix the very real life issue — because, yes, depicting a more inclusive Silicon Valley on the show would make the show less of a realistic depiction of the industry — but the series has a real opportunity to place some pressure on the real Silicon Valley by raising the bar in its fictional version of the bastion of tech success.

By Berg's own admission, he's portraying a "f**ked up world," but why can't you both depict and possibly influence that world, by allowing impressionable young women or people of color to see themselves represented not only in the tech industry, but in the entertainment industry? I think that would be a really powerful thing.

Or, y'know, the writers of Silicon Valley can just continue to create a hilariously funny, critically-acclaimed, award-winning show with people who look like them and for people who look like them for realism's sake. But I think it's worth noting that since they're working in a fictionalized world, they can actually have their cake and eat it too — and maybe even influence a little change along the way.

Images: HBO; Giphy