Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.
May 8th, 2012 by Mere Smith

The Pilot Season Experiment

Ladies, the next few posts are for you, and fair warning: we’re gonna get real together.

Fellas, you’re more than welcome to stick around – but you, too, get your own fair warning: after reading this, you might get a little indignant and petulant and whine, “But I don’t act like that!  I don’t care about that!  I don’t think like that!”

To which I reply:  Yeah.  Uh-huh.  So where’s your penis?


It’s May.

Pilot season is rolling through Hollywood like the howling tornado of ego-destruction it always is.  Day after day, week after week, you are judged on your writing samples, you are judged by your credits, you are judged by the people you’ve worked with in the past, you are judged by the connections through which you got this meeting.

And especially if you’re a woman, you are judged on your looks. 

Now, I hope to baby Jesus none of y’all were disingenuous enough to disagree with that last statement, ‘cause that’s just the beginning of this series.  However, if you are naïve enough to argue against it, I suggest you go check out a Berenstain Bears book and I’ll let you know when we’re through here.


Hetero male showrunners or network/studio executives (Suits) check us female Writers out for the obvious reason: straight guys are willing to fuck pretty much anything that has a vagina and at least 4 minutes to live.

While I truly believe that 99.99% of these men’s brains see us in a completely nonsexual manner during pilot season meetings, it still leaves that Neanderthal .01% skulking in the shadows – wordlessly wondering about the size of our nipples.

It’s just the way men are built.

And despite the Mae West hips, I’m built like that, too.  So there’s no judging here.

However, straight and gay male showrunners/Suits – whose Neanderthal .01% is probably fantasizing about Chris Hemsworth during our meetings – can and do draw parallels between a woman’s looks and her ability.

Disheveled geek couture (the universal uniform of the male Hollywood writer, but that’s a whole other blog post) on a woman could seem to spell disorganized, negligent, or irresponsible.  After all, women are supposed to care a great deal about their appearance, right?  If they don’t, then what will they care about?  Your show?  Why take the risk?

The point is, straight or gay, no guy is immune to judging a woman’s appearance.

And forget about female showrunners.  No, seriously, forget about them: with the exception of Shonda Christ, you’re about as likely to find one of these as you are to find a specific cigarette butt along the entire coastline of Florida.

(But theoretically, if you do find a female showrunner, we women are already all too familiar with judging our own gender on looks.  And how do we do it?  Harshly.  Silently, but harshly.)

Then there are the female Suits, and those bitches wear make-up.

All over their faces

Every day.

If you want to send me shrieking to an Iso cell, just tell me I have to meet someone who actually likes wearing high heels.

(True story: one Suit I met a few years ago told me she – swear to god – enjoys the way high heels make her feet feel.  Not how they make her legs look, or because pumps are considered sexy or strong, but because they made her feet feel good.  Of course I assumed she was born with some sort of En Pointe Barbie foot deformity, but since we only met once, I didn’t feel comfortable calling her up later to ask.)

Now, you can rant and rave about how wrong this all is, and why can’t we just be judged on our skill?  We’re Writers, for fuck’s sake!  Yes, we have vaginas, but except for a very talented few of us, we don’t type with them!

Lord knows I have sung this lament more than I’ve sung “Poker Face” in the shower (which is A LOT).  But the truth is the truth, and that truth is this: even in a job where the majority of your time is spent locked in a tiny room with five or six other people you will eventually know better than you do your own family members, in the beginning, women are judged on their looks.

Don’t misunderstand me: the guys are judged, too.  I don’t deny it.  But the female beauty pageant that occurs during pilot season far surpasses the male beauty pageant when it comes to categories.

For example, female “contestants” are judged on age, clothing, accessories, shoes, body type, hairstyle, make-up, perfume, and so on.  (The perfume’s a real thing, y’all: ’cause who wants to sit in a room being gassed to death by J.Lo’s Glow?)  I’m sure if the ACLU let studios get away with a swimsuit competition, I’d already have a power tankini from Spanx.

Male “contestants,” on the other hand, are congratulated for remembering pants.

Thus, this year, instead of continuing my annual tradition of railing fruitlessly against the Unfairness Of It All – I chose to try an experiment:

I decided to go all-out in the looks department (as far as I could go, anyway – after all, no amount of Crème de la Mer is going to make my skin look like Chyler Leigh’s:)


As a side note, 16.5 oz. of Crème de la Mer costs $1800. For that kind of quid, I better have an orgasm every time I apply it.


– while still maintaining the same mental approach I’ve had for over a decade: try to be intellectual without showing off, kind without sucking up, honest without being alienating, and no matter what, don’t hide my raunchy dark side.  (I’ve discovered that hiding who you are in any interview, for any job, is a sure way to get axed rather quickly.)

The way I see it, my looks are the variable, and my attitude the constant.

Granted, my science is less sciencey than, well, actual science – but I wanted to share all the things I’ve done in the name of this experiment.  So tomorrow:

Step One


Wanna keep reading The Pilot Season Experiment?


32 Responses to “The Pilot Season Experiment”
  1. I love your experiment & look forward to following its stages. The necessity of it makes me Furious Beyond Belief – but it is not a new fury; as any women with half a brain knows, the Beauty Pageant for any job is constant, any strides we’ve made towards equality notwithstanding.

    I think your description of your mental approach also aptly describes your persona, as far as I know you, so you’ve *so* got projecting that covered. ; ]

    I’ve also heard women say they *love* the way their feet feel in heels. I’ve never understood it – my feet don’t narrow to a point, they don’t arch or tilt at an absurd angle, and they really appreciate being able to touch the earth for balance.

    My mom was a nurse who worked at a home for the elderly. One day she brought me in & had me see the twisted gnarly feet of women who’d worn high heels their whole lives. Gack. I don’t give a fat rat’s ass who thinks I’m unfashionable: I’m never, ever having my feet end up like that.

    I am, however, teaching my vagina to type.

    Go, you. Fem out & ask J. to take photos.

    • Um… if you really do teach your vagina to type, and you create a successful sideshow in Tijuana, I’ll be collecting that 10 percent. Thanks.

  2. I liked wearing heels, but mainly because I always wanted to be taller (I’m 5’8″). I didn’t find them uncomfortable, but I avoided pointy toes and heels over 3 in.

    Makeup isn’t too much of a pain, but thing is, I like sleep at least ten times more than I like makeup.

    • Wait — you wanted to be TALLER than FIVE FUCKING EIGHT? How ’bout you just take Hugh Jackman and a billion dollars while you’re at it? Sheesh, Brienne of Tarth!

  3. Oh goodie, entertainment! Love this.

  4. This rant! Having passed into my 5th decade disdain for most societal conventions phase and being of seemingly infinite appetite and concomitant roundness, I find it easier to ignore, nay…., snort at such foofaraw. And my roundness keeps my wrinkles at bay, so nyeah. I have a hard time these days not descending into the pit over such truths as you write Mere. I don’t have kids but I know some kids and what they are coming into just depresses the bejeebers out of me. No wonder I revisit fantasy all the freaking time. I am just about finished revisiting Angel again, not that there weren’t oh-for-fuck’s-sake truths there too. But at least the characters could kick the crap out of someone occasionally. It is one of my faves. Thanks for that.
    And yes, what the hell, 5’8″…what is wrong with that? I would be somewhat less round if I was 5’8″.

  5. electricspacegirl says

    This is what I hate about this world: the beauty pageant that is life. I think you get it less up in the pacific NW. Most women where I live don’t wear makeup. So I think the attitude in L.A. would drive me insane.

    I also don’t understand why women like to wear heels. I’ve never been able to walk in even a short heel. I just see them as torture devices.

    • Believe me, I do NOT wear heels or make-up voluntarily. Only when I need something. Hey, wait — I sound like… like… oh, right. I AM a whore!

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  10. “Hetero male showrunners or network/studio executives (Suits) check us female Writers out for the obvious reason: straight guys are willing to fuck pretty much anything that has a vagina and at least 4 minutes to live. [ . . . ] It’s just the way men are built.”

    But I don’t act like that! I don’t care about that! I don’t… oh, there’s my Penis.

    • Is it on the floor? ‘Cause I think there’s a three second rule. Do you need help brushing the dirt off? Is my reply entirely creepy? Why, yes, Ryan. Yes it is.

  11. In my opinion, the old nostrum that one should “show, not tell” in art is realyl destructive. There’s lots of great pieces of art where the themes are told, not shown.

  12. Sorry, that makes no sense without context. What I meant was: I agree with Todd VanDerWerff, who linked here from the AV Club, when he says that Mad Men has tried to dramatize what you’re talking about. They’ve been accused of lacking subtlety in doing so. But I think these dynamics are so prevalent and pernicious that you need to be willing to spell them out– to show and not to tell– directly in the work. But then, Matt Weiner gets to do so in part because he’s a dude….

    • I must confess — and here goes my “quality-TV” cred — that I don’t watch Mad Men, although many of my female friends do. Something about watching overtly dramatized — though historically accurate — misogyny makes me want to split men’s heads open like melons. And since I like men — especially feminists, of whom I think there are a great number — using my time to view a show that my friends tell me consistently treats women like shit (again, even while it may be historically accurate) feels like straight-up masochism to me…

      …the same way going through The Pilot Season Experiment did.

      Did I want to break down all my appearance-related foibles and insecurities in front of the whole Internetz? Hell no! It sucked! It made me want to go fetal! But being judged on your appearance to begin with sucks harder. The problem is, when a woman talks about these issues seriously, she’s shoved in the Andrea Dworkin Bitch Can’t Take A Joke Folder. Men (such as Matt Wiener, as you pointed out) can talk about this from a couple-steps-removed distance, but until you’ve been blatantly given the up-and-down by a person who holds your career in their hands, I don’t think men can truly empathize with how degrading it is. Sympathize, yes. Empathize, no.

      Now, do I think these issues are serious? Of course. I wouldn’t talk about them if I didn’t. But I find tackling the topic with humor gets more people to listen and maybe — just maybe — actually think about the topics rather than throwing up their defense shields (i.e. “I don’t act like that! I don’t care about that! I don’t think like that!”) and grabbing their metaphorical pistols. Everyone knows what it’s like to be judged for something that’s beyond their control — with The Experiment, I just wanted to see what it felt like to try to control the uncontrollable as much as was possible.

      As I haven’t seen “The Other Woman,” I’m not qualified to draw parallels between the script and my blog, but after reading Todd’s piece on the AV Club, I think you’re right: dramatizing misogyny feels nothing like recounting it from a first-hand perspective. The first is a shadow-play about war, the second is being bayoneted through the gut.

      • peridot2 says

        Ms Mere, you’re absolutely correct about MAD MEN being difficult to watch. However, it’s a great tool to educate younger people about what things were like during that particular era in society and what our roles as women were. We were so limited by perceptions that we were 2nd class citizens that it’s nearly impossible to make those who weren’t around then to comprehend what it was like.

        My son is nearly 25 years old. I’ve described my childhood and youth to him but he was unable to grasp it until we began watching MAD MEN together. In the scenes where the women in the office are discriminated against in favor of the men who are paid more because they have a penis, he is shocked. When the men who are in authority over the secretaries flirt with them or pinch them or talk about their physical attributes in front of them (the character Joan has large breasts and they’re often the topic of discussion by men) my son is appalled.

        For the most part MAD MEN is not overly dramatized. I have been witness to or have had many similar experiences, but then again I worked for many years in an office environment. They’re hotbeds of lust and desire. I had my ass pinched, heard unwanted comments about my appearance, saw office friends embroiled in affairs with management…it goes on.

        No matter how competent you are or how great your results or your annual report, the good-looking people always get promoted first.

  13. Delafina says

    It’s funny: I’m a (female) writer in the videogame industry, and was just talking about this over lunch with a (male) colleague who used to be a TV writer. He was talking about how in LA, even male writers get judged pretty blatantly on their looks, and I was wishing that my industry and city would be honest enough to be blatant about it.

    • Ooh! You’re a chick videogame writer? PLEASE stick around! We need more of Your Kind around here! I had no idea that y’all got the suckfest of the beauty pageant, too. That seems even more ridiculous that judging TV/film writers, since sometimes the media gives us pity-interviews. (Do you get pity-interviews?) And while I wouldn’t argue with your coworker — everyone is judged on their looks in Hollywood, that much is true — I do have the urge to pat his head and murmur only half-sincere coos of sympathy. Remember: men bitch about having to wear ties. Tell him to strap on some Spanx for a day and see how he feels then. If he can still feel anything.

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  16. Nchoirnmind says

    Reading this in advance of the the podcast-listening – aaand I wil say just one thing about heels! there better be some freaking BOOTS attached to anything higher than 1″ ankle support FTW!!!

  17. Nchoirnmind says

    Plus I love the way I walk in boots.

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