The Pilot Season Experimenton May 8th, 2012 at 2:50 pm
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?
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.
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:)
– 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: