Jessica Chastain Calls Out The Lack Of Diversity In CBS Shows With One Perfect Tweet
The network has been called out on this year after year, but now Jessica Chastain is responding to CBS' diversity issues by calling for an unofficial boycott of the channel on Twitter. "I'll just Netflix and chill. Or some HBO greatness. Or anything by Ryan Murphy. There's [sic] so many incredible options that don't include CBS," the actor tweeted in response to the latter network's latest statement about the lack of diversity in the casts of their television shows. (Bustle reached out to the network for comment on the tweet, but did not receive an immediate response.)
CBS executives have continually claimed to be working to fix the issue, but viewers have yet to see that work pay off. And CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl's recent, more detailed explanation of the little progress they have made is problematic in and of itself. "I think you’ve seen a lot of diversity on CBS over the years going back in our past," he said in defense of the network. "We said in the past we are going to do better, and we are doing better. Every single drama on our air has at least one diverse character. We are moving in the right direction." The fact that Kahl defended CBS programming from criticism by citing a single "diverse character" per show is exactly the problem. It suggests a basic misunderstanding of the importance of diversity and representation, not just in a simple token character but in television casts overall.
This defense is especially problematic when you consider that the latest wave of backlash came after the release of yet another season of programming centering almost exclusively on white male-led shows. Five of CBS' six Fall 2017 offerings star white men, a contrast made even starker and more unacceptable by the recent departure of Hawaii Five-0's Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park. (The stars elected to leave the show when they were unable to reach a deal with CBS reportedly due to a disparity in pay between them and their white co-stars, even though, according to Kahl, they "offered [Kim and Park] a lot of money to stick around.")
Every year, the same diversity issues get raised, and, each time, CBS responds with the same excuses and apologies. In 2016, when confronted with their male, whitewashed lineup, executives pointed out shows like Madam Secretary and Mom as proof that there wasn't a problem. Later, CBS boss Glenn Geller admitted during the TCA Summer Press Tour, "We need to do better and we know it." However, a year later, in a near identical situation, the response is strikingly similar — and that's not a good sign.
When the network was called out about their lineup in 2017, CBS again pushed the small amount of positive news to the front and buttoned up the bad news with a promise to improve. Kahl said on Tuesday:
"We have a midseason lead character who is gay. Over the last number of years, diverse series regulars are up almost 60 percent. The number of writers we have from diverse backgrounds is up over the last few years, as are the directors. We are making progress."
But those pledges have gone largely unfulfilled so far.
After all, in November 2016, when USA Today rated the top five networks on their diversity, CBS came in dead last with an abysmal C-. And yet the network has still been slow to change. So, really, it's no wonder that celebrities like Chastain have begun to take notice. It's just time for CBS and its executives to show us progress instead of promising that it's coming.