Eight of the CW’s 12 female showrunners took the stage at this year’s TCAs in a display of the network’s commitment to telling stories for women, by women.
Representing series as diverse as superhero adventures (“Arrow,” “The Flash”), supernatural thrillers (“iZombie,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “The Originals”), fresh takes on soap operas (“Jane the Virgin,” “Reign”) and realistic dramedies (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), the octet of women writers turned the conversation around to sexual assault as a plot device — or rather, the relative lack thereof on their shows — and the pleasures of fighting against female under-representation in Hollywood.
“I have this rule that I’ve broken a million times,” shared Julie Plec,
executive producer of “The Vampire Diaries” and its spin-off, “The Originals.” “As a fan, watching TV: Never make anyone an alcoholic,
raped, never make them molested, because when all is said and done, their
character becomes singularly about being that. You lose the ability to
write them as human beings without that problem weighing over them.”
Diane Ruggiero-Wright, who oversaw “iZombie” and “Veronica Mars,” volunteered that she was upset by the violence in “The Girl With the
Dragon Tattoo” and is thankful she’s now in charge to avoid sexual-assault stories she’d rather not delve into.
you’re on staffs of other shows where you’re not the showrunner, and you
have to do a rape storyline and you don’t want to do it. And you know
when you’re watching it, they’re going to see your name on the episode
and they’re going to think you think that this is your interpretation of
what it feels like to be a female. And it sucks. And it’s not,” she affirmed. “You’re on a staff of a show, and you have to write. It’s such a
horrible position to be in as a writer, and I’ve been a writer in that
“There are so many people who do [rape storylines],” Ruggiero added, “and it’s gratuitous, and I think you have to be responsible about it.”
“Arrow” EP Wendy Mericle said, “We don’t do sexual violence, and that’s always been part of culture of
show before I came on.” She continued,
“Ultimately it’s been done so much, you can see it on almost any
procedural on TV, and it’s not that interesting at the end of the day.
Let’s try to challenge ourselves and do something in a way that doesn’t
glorify that. And that’s the kind of challenge we present ourselves
whenever the conversation goes that way. That’s when we try to steer it
The panelists did not discuss the controversial rape scene last year on “Reign.”
The showrunners also discussed what it’s like to work on a network with so many women in charge.
“There’s a lot a women who are looking for good roles, and so the fact
that we get to be part of the group … it’s a great opportunity for women
to act and to be storytellers” said Plec.
“There is a real problem with women
being underrepresented,” added Aline Brosh
McKenna (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”). “What’s good about [the gender situation at CW] is if women see it and think, ‘I’m going to do that.’”
Ruggiero-Wright was also open about what she saw as her responsibility to other women in the industry. “You want to hire the best writer for the job, and so if the best writer
for a particular job is a man I’m going to want to hire a man, and if the
best person is a woman I’m going to want to hire the woman. And if it’s
between the two, honestly, I’m going to pick the woman,” she said. “I’m going to
support the sisterhood.”
The showrunners also praised the CW for supporting women characters and perspectives.
“You definitely feel, when you’re on the CW, like female voi ces and
female stories are welcomed enthusiastically,” said McKenna. “I never feel that it is
being second guessed in any way or that our experience is being hemmed in
in anyway by men. I just fell like it’s a very obviously female-friendly group.”
Added “The Flash’s” Gabrielle Stanton: “I was really struck by
the variety of shows. They’re not traditional chick shows. We’re up
here doing all sorts of different kinds of shows, and I think that’s
definitely kudos to the CW.”