Any minute now

Oh, so the photo of the all-male group of Famous Late Night TV Hosts was in Vanity Fair. Christina Cauterucci at Slate talks about the reaction and the reaction to the reaction.

The reaction to Monday’s Vanity Fair comedy dudefest was swift and unified. Moments after the magazine published a photo of 10 men to illustrate its article on why late-night TV is “better than ever,” Twitter erupted the way only Twitter knows how.

Good. That photo is a slap in the face.

Whether or not Vanity Fair intended the photo as a jarring critique of the endemic sexism in contemporary comedy and television—let’s go with “not”—it is an effective visual signifier of a bleak reality that can’t be explained away as coincidental or merit-based. For anyone who thinks about issues of diversity and gender equity, looking at the overwhelming maleness of this bourbon-nursing pack is like looking into the sun.

Cauterucci quotes Trevor Noah – one of the guys in the infamous photo – talking to Newsweek about women-in-comedy.

I guess what we need to look at is how is that evolving? The first step in that is you go, OK, there’s two men of color. That’s a big jump. Pretty soon there will be a woman that’ll be added to that. And there will probably be more women, which is gonna be fantastic. And over time, that’ll happen; it’s a conversation that we need to continue having.

Pretty soon? What does he mean pretty soon? Starting from when? Pretty soon might sound ok if you thought history started a couple of years ago, but why would you think that? It’s not as if nobody had noticed that women are scarce in jobs like hosting late night tv shows until yesterday. We noticed that a long time ago. Decades ago. We noticed the way even in a world where women have equal rights on paper, that does not mean women do not routinely get passed over for desirable jobs. We noticed that such a long time ago. So what can “pretty soon” possibly mean in that context? It hasn’t happened yet, so why would it happen “pretty soon”? And why would that be good enough anyway?

Notwithstanding Noah’s history of problems with women, his complacent, tepid hope for incremental gains is a major part of the entertainment industry’s gender problem. There’s a prevailing attitude that gender and race equity are inevitable—that if we wait long enough and stop griping over quotas and diversity initiatives, they’ll happen on their own.

And how long is long enough anyway? And if they’re so damn inevitable why haven’t they happened yet?

But TV lineups aren’t chosen by an algorithm that spits out a steadily rising number of female hosts each fall. There are human decision-makers behind these TV networks: producers, investors, and executives who usually hold more power than the (sometimes female) stars themselves—and who sometimes have some bizarre ideas about when diversity is and isn’t appropriate, as was the case with Matt Damon on Project Greenlight. While the harsh reaction to Vanity Fair’s photo should be read as an indictment of barriers to women in comedy, Vanity Fair editors, too, make deliberate choices that affect the gendered landscape of TV. Noah won’t start at his post until Sept. 28, but he made it into the boys’ club; Samantha Bee and Chelsea Handler, both of whom have forthcoming late-night shows in the works, did not. The next time a magazine pulls a move like this, Noah would find better footing lampooning his own industry from The Daily Show pulpit than defending it.

Damn right.

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