'Insecure' Showrunner Prentice Penny Calls Out Hollywood's Blackface Problem
"Ain't no one along the way think blackface was maybe a bad idea?"
As a guest columnist for Deadline, Penny called out the industry's blackface problem, pointing to the many hands a writer's racist gag passes through before it ultimately ends up onscreen:
It starts with a bit. Then, it's approved by the showrunner (I know because I am one). Then, it has to make it through multiple rewrites. Then, a table read. Then, the studio and network sign off. Then, actors and directors have to film it. Then, an editor, studio, and network (again) along with Standards & Practices sign off. Finally, it's aired and sponsors/local affiliate stations have to be okay with it. That's a lot of people with power who approve what the American audience gets to watch. And ain't no one along the way think blackface was maybe a bad idea?
In the op-ed, Penny also slams the practice of blackface scene removals, saying that takedowns "absolve you and all of us from having a long-overdue conversation."
He goes on to argue that these scenes would have never made it past its first stage if only there was better representation in the industry.
"Make 60% of your entire show (writers, directors, producers, DPs, all crew members — production and post) people of color. Period," he suggested. "And I get it. It's hard to get a television show on the air. It's completely natural to want to hire writers, directors, producers, or editors you've worked with before and that you trust. "
He continued: "However, if Black creatives in those departments can't get on those White shows and meet future showrunners who will inevitably hire people they've worked with when they get a show, that's… SYSTEMIC."
You can read his entire column here.
Penny's call out follows multiple takedowns of episodes and gags from The Office, Jimmy Kimmel, 30 Rock, W/ Bob & David, Little Britain, The League of Gentlemen, Jimmy Fallon and more.
Earlier this month, Penny called out the takedown practice in the following tweet:
I don't want writers and showrunners to pull down their blackface episodes. I want them to explain how they got their in the first place and why weren't there more writers of color in their rooms to stop it. And heads of networks to explain why they ok'd it.— Prentice Penny (@The_A_Prentice) July 2, 2020
Insecure just wrapped up its fourth season. HBO renewed the show for Season 5 back in May.