A senior Disney executive has acknowledged that some projects get turned down because they are deemed inadequately diverse, reinforcing suspicions that quality content has taken a backseat to political agendas.
Dana Walden, Walt Disney Television’s chairman of entertainment, revealed during a recent panel discussion that her network had rejected several pilots, but not because they didn’t find the stories compelling.
“I will tell you for the first time we received some incredibly well-written scripts that did not satisfy our standards in terms of inclusion, and we passed on them,” Walden said during the event last week, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Last year the channel’s parent company ABC (American Broadcasting Company) introduced new guidelines which aimed to make content “as inclusive as possible.” One of the new rules stipulated that 50% or more of regular and recurring characters in a program must come from minority groups.
It seems that the rule has been zealously enforced. Walden cited one rejected script that focused on a white family, with the ‘diversity’ coming from their neighbors. The executive said that such content was “not going to get on the air anymore” because it’s “not a reflection of our audience,” adding that she felt “good” about the direction her network was taking.
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Walden further noted that she was excited about a BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) programming initiative soon to be launched on Hulu, which is owned by Disney.
“It is programming that is by BIPOC storytellers, for BIPOC audiences, curated by executives of color,” she explained.
The executive may claim to know what audiences want, but many social media users saw things differently.
“She must be incredibly proud of judging scripts on diversity versus quality. Who needs quality anyway?” asked one frustrated commenter.
Others argued that Walden’s definition of diversity seemed to be only skin-deep, making it somewhat similar to the racial prejudice that her company apparently is so vigilant about guarding against.
So-called diversity means viewing, judging, & dealing with people based on outward appearances such as skin colour & ethnicity, and *not* their character, does it not?
Don't racists do the same?
— RealPoCoTex (@relPoCoTex) April 15, 2021
Many observers simply couldn’t understand why well-written scripts couldn’t be tweaked to appease ABC’s guidelines, while others joked that the policy explains why big-budget entertainment was becoming increasingly subpar.
I don’t believe for a second that there are “incredibly well written scripts” anywhere in Hollywood
— Timmy Perk (@timmy_perk) April 15, 2021
Disney Television isn’t the only Disney operation to embrace inclusivity. Disney’s theme park division recently announced that it plans to offer more inclusive products like costumes for people in wheelchairs, and ‘LGBTQ Mickey ears’.
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