Will a Female Lead Change Anything on 'TD'?

by Celeste Mora

Nic Pizzolatto knows what people have been saying about women on his show. In his in-depth interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the True Detective creator essentially told feminist blogger and writers to "take it or leave it," saying, "You can either accept that about the show or not, but it's not a phony excuse." This is after months of defending himself against critics by saying he "avoided the internet" while the show was running, while slowly trying to defend his decidedly male point-of-view program. In the interview, TD is described as a " a close point-of-view show, wholly told through the eyes and experiences of the two male characters," which is what Pizzolatto has been using as his defense all along. Unfortunately, a "close point-of-view" doesn't make up for the lack of diversity on television, on HBO, or on his show.

Pizzolatto appears to have given more thought to the criticism of representation of gender on TD than he lets on, since he felt the need to name-drop in his own defense. With The Hollywood Reporter, he trotted out his friend and fellow writer Callie Khouri to back him up, saying that, "When Callie, who wrote Thelma & Louise, thinks that that's stupid criticism, I'm inclined to take her opinion over someone with a Wi-Fi connection." While Callie Khouri is entitled to her opinion, this person with a Wi-Fi connection think name-dropping the first female writer you can think of is a poor strategy to fight your gender inclusion battles.

So, Mr. Pizzolatto, lets talk. I didn't dislike your show, but I agree with Emily Nussbaum that it left something to be desired in the "actual human female characters" department. Oh, and I didn't love your pseudo-feminist portrayal of sex workers. But even overlooking those two huge blind spots, I'm concerned that you don't understand the source of internet-feminists' frustration, and will therefore refuse to change.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

First of all, a "close point-of-view" narrative from an unreliable white straight male narrator is nothing new. Look at Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (the book or the film), the main character from Fight Club, or good old-fashioned Holden Caulfield. Although this kind of smart, unsettling narration is not as popular on television, it seems that most television comes from a straight, white, cis male point of view. Television has been called the "writer's medium," so it would seem the point of view would come straight from the writer (which is the sort of control you wanted in True Detective).

Yet, women are only 27 percent of television writers, according to the Writer's Guild of America, West report. Similarly, people of color account for 11 percent of TV writers, despite comprising nearly 37 percent of the population. If you do the math, that means that somewhere between 62 and 73 percent of television is written by white dudes. The study did not ask for sexual orientation or any cis-trans gender identity, but you can bet those numbers are even lower.

So when you say you're "not in the service industry" in response to criticism, you're actually saying you don't care that your show lives in the majority. Sure, some may consider your story a maverick account of true-ish crime, but to me it's just another pseudo-philosophical stance from another white male creator. And despite the casting rumors, I doubt your inclusion of a strong woman like Elisabeth Moss will change your perspective, or refusal to acknowledge your privilege. While some commentators "with a Wi-Fi connection" praise you for possibly considering a female lead, I'm going to guess you won't change. Because, despite all the rumors and the posturing, it is my opinion that you, Nic Pizzolatto, are another spoke in television's wheel of diversity problems. And I don't care whether you find that stupid.