The #MeToo movement has made its way into the Supreme Court with the recent allegations against Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. To discuss the controversial Kavanaugh nomination and the subsequent progression of Hollywood’s #TimesUp movement, associate professor of professional practice at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Mary Murphy hosted a public panel for her Entertainment, Business and Media in Today’s Society course on Monday evening in the Wallis Annenberg Hall auditorium.
Murphy and her students were joined by professionals within the entertainment and journalism fields who spoke about women in today’s media: Debra Bergman, senior vice president of production at Paramount Television; Sara Fischer, head of production at Shondaland; Julie Richardson, a Hollywood producer and screenwriter; and Nithya Raman, executive director of #TimesUp Entertainment.
“We need to pay attention to the entertainment industry,” Murphy said. “The industry portrays what is happening in our country to the world … Movies and television are so important to our culture … they’re the message boards that tell the world how we live in America.”
Raman addressed the history and the evolution of the #MeToo and the #TimesUp movements, saying that #MeToo was created in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. She said that because of the pervasive violence against vulnerable individuals in the industry, women in media have come together to combat this issue.
“[The movement] takes people’s individual workplace struggles and [made] them into a shared struggles and to make them into, really, a political struggle to reshape the industry,” Raman said.
Bergman explained her challenges working in the male-dominated field of television production. According to her, the #TimesUp movement pinpoints conscious bias and topics people are hesitant to discuss.
The panelists also discussed the role of celebrities and public figures in the movement. For example, celebrities wore black in support of the #TimesUp movement during the 2017 Golden Globes to express their disapproval of sexual assault and violence.
“All these super famous actresses brought with them activists from the farm workers, to the restaurant workers, to the domestic workers … these incredible women whose stories that would not be told, or told as eloquently and as quickly,” Fischer said.
Richardson discussed how the movement gave her the opportunity to become a director and a mentor to people entering the entertainment field.
Fischer spoke about her personal experiences at the Shondaland Company, which she said was open to creativity; however, other panelists noted that Shondaland is the exception, not the norm.
As Raman said, only 24 percent of producers in last year’s big-budget films were women. Each panelist agreed that the lack of female leadership roles and empowering content were some of the biggest issues in media and entertainment.
Fischer also mentioned that hundreds of women had voiced that they went into the field of medicine and healthcare after seeing female protagonists like Meredith Grey on shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” a Shondaland production.
In addition to discussing women in media, the panelists concluded on the topic of the Kavanaugh hearings, which has recently garnered media attention due to the accusations of sexual assault against the Supreme Court nominee.
“How we treat Kavanaugh and how seriously we take the women who are coming forward with accusations against him is a marker of how we are responding to issues of sexual harassment in our society,” Raman said. “It’s the last gasp of an old regime that is changing.”