Serena Schuler: TV has a responsibility to create role models
Earlier this year, the creator of HBO’s Silicon Valley got defensive about the idea that his cast isn’t diverse enough, and not for the first time. He told the Hollywood Reporter:
"I don't think you do any service by pretending [Silicon Valley] is half female or half black. And not to pin bouquets on ourselves here, but I think we brought some attention to the gender imbalance by doing this show."
Ahhh, yes the all important act of “raising awareness.” Because before this show, everyone thought that Silicon Valley didn’t have a fetish for young, white, nerdy men at all.
Forget the accusations against the likes of Binary Capital’s Justin Caldbeck, the 2017 dismantling of alpha-bro Travis Kalanick or positive trends like Female Founders Office Hours and All Raise. We really owe this huge cultural progress we’ve experienced in Silicon Valley (that has yet to show up in the numbers) to…. Mike Judge not hiring women and people of color.
I won’t break down all of my issues with that back patting response for-- um?-- not hiring diverse talent, because Refinery29 and others already did it pretty well earlier this year.
A young television writer and creator Serena Schuler has a different point of view when it comes to television: Tell the stories that can inspire things to be different. Because those stories do exist. Women may only make up some 3% of CEOs of venture backed companies, but they do exist. And it’s possible, a story about someone overcoming even more odds than the typical startup founder just might make for more interesting television.
Think of the role that television played when it comes to the gay movement, Schuler argues. When Modern Family premiered in 2010, the Defense of Marriage Act was still law. Three years later, the country’s tolerance shifted dramatically.
Several high-powered women in the Valley agree and have backed Schuler’s new proposed pilot called “Makeshift Society.” It’s the story of a Silicon Valley UX designer named Alex who spurns her bro boss’s advances, becomes an industry pariah, and winds up in a co-working space where she amalgamates her own Silicon Valley crew with those around her.
In the story Alex had always dreamed of starting her own company, but never quite had the courage until she was pushed. Yep. Sounds like the Silicon Valley I know: I took a newborn baby fundraising for Pando after my job was giving away while I was in labor.
Schuler has talked to dozens of Silicon Valley women about their lives in putting this show together, and is actively raising money for its pilot production now. Getting any project this early off the ground is an uncertain proposition-- like starting any new company. But it’s possible telling our stories could actually merit more “bouquets” then-- uh-- ignoring us.
We invited Schuler on our podcast to tell us more about her journey and her project. If you’re one of those actual women or people of color that exist in the Valley, check it out at https://makeshiftsociety.com.