Publishing will never be fair

From UnHerd:

When I worked in publishing in the early Noughties, “nobody is going to buy a book with a black girl on the cover” was a thing that people still said, out loud, in professional settings. The received wisdom was that books by and about marginalised people wouldn’t sell. At another meeting (a friend in marketing reported), a male sales rep scoffed that he’d never be able to sell a book because the cover model, a young woman with a Kardashian-esque physique, was “too fat” to be relatable.

That the industry had a diversity problem was impossible to argue with: “an analysis” of the gender makeup of the New York Times list shows how heavily it once skewed male — and how, in the last decade, a massive push to diversify publishing has enjoyed no small amount of success.

But God help any writer bold enough to say so.

When James Patterson noted in an interview last month that older white men weren’t getting writing jobs as easily as they used to, outrage ensued. After being savaged for a week online and in the media, Patterson apologised (not that this mollified his critics). This week, Joyce Carol Oates kicked the same hornet’s nest, writing on Twitter that “a friend who is a literary agent told me that he cannot even get editors to read first novels by young white male writers, no matter how good; they are just not interested”. This state of affairs, she added, was “heartbreaking for writers”, particularly those with the self-awareness to be duly aware of “their own privilege”. But the response from within the literary community was not sadness, but fury.

The outpouring of replies were split between people who argued that Oates’s assertion was false and people who argued that it was true but not heartbreaking, and in fact a real and unmitigated good. And then there were the people who argued both of these things simultaneously, sometimes even within the same breath. For whatever reason, this type of self-refuting argument is particularly ubiquitous on Twitter; the fallacy, which some have termed The Law of Salutary Contradiction, is best summed up as: “this isn’t happening, and also it’s good that it’s happening”. One representative reply read: “I am a literary agent. This is not so. And why ever would we invest our hopes in the continued success of white men in an industry which persists in shutting out queer and BIPOC authors?!”

Is it happening? With more than one extremely high-profile person flat-out accusing Oates of lying, it’s worth surveying the statistics. This is only an informal snapshot of the data, but one that still tells a story: of the 100 most recent debut book deals listed on Publisher’s Marketplace, 83 went to women. Of the remaining 17, 12 went to white men — ten of whom appear to be under the age of 40, and thus young by literary standards. It’s not a total shutout, of course, but it’s also not parity. And the same trend can be observed in terms of not just who’s published, but who’s celebrated; for instance, of the 13 books on the Booker longlist, released this week, three are by white men, none of whom are under 45 (one is the oldest ever recipient of a Booker nomination).

Link to the rest at UnHerd

Would PG be completely wrong if he regarded Wokeness as just another form of bias against persons based upon a characteristic they cannot change?

Looking back at his personal observations of bias over the years, biases come and go.

When PG was a tiny little chappie, in more than a few places in the United States, bias towards Negroes (an obsolete term now, but not then) was a common standard in many parts of the United States. Some states had explicit laws restricting Negroes from engaging in certain activities open to Whites. Moe than a few colleges and universities prevented Negroes from enrolling.

It was quite common both in areas regarded as part of the South and elsewhere for deed covenants and restrictions to prevent Negroes from purchasing homes in a residential neighborhood.

However places not usually considered as Southern also had covenants and restrictions that prevented Negroes from living in a subdivision or neighborhood.

Here’s an example of such a covenant from Prairie Village, Kansas, a wealthy suburb of Kansas City:

“None of said land may be conveyed to, used, owned, or occupied by negroes as owners or tenants.”

Here’s another from a suburb of St. Louis:

“… no part of said property nor any portion thereof shall be for said term of fifty years occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race, it being intended thereby to restrict the use of said property for said period of time against the occupancy of owners or tenants of any portion of said property for residence or other purpose by people of the Negro or Mongolian race.”

And from El Cerrito, a neighborhood in San Diego:

“(15) That neither said lots nor portions thereof or interest therein shall ever be leased, sold, devised, conveyed to or inherited or be otherwise acquired by or become property of any person other than of the Caucasian Race.
“(16) That neither said lot nor any portion thereof shall ever be lived upon or occupied by any person other than of the Caucasian strictly in the capacity of servants or employees actually engaged in the service of such occupant, or in the care of said premises for such occupant, such circumstances shall not constitute a violation of this condition.”

PG has mentioned before that, among those who came of age in the United States during World War II, more than a few ended up being racially biased against Japanese and, in some cases, anyone who looked as if they might be Japanese.

Back to Wokeness today, quite a lot of elite colleges and universities display bias towards Asian-American students in their admissions decisions.

From The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper at Harvard University:

Over an 18-year period stretching from 1995 to 2013, Asian-American students admitted to Harvard scored higher on the SAT than did their peer admits from other racial groups, according to data released in the admissions trial last week.

A Crimson analysis of the previously confidential dataset — which spans admissions cycles starting with the Class of 2000 and ends with the cycle for the Class of 2017 — revealed that Asian-Americans admitted to Harvard earned an average SAT score of 767 across all sections. Every section of the SAT has a maximum score of 800.

Over an 18-year period stretching from 1995 to 2013, Asian-American students admitted to Harvard scored higher on the SAT than did their peer admits from other racial groups, according to data released in the admissions trial last week.

38 thoughts on “Publishing will never be fair”

  1. Anyone know the following for KDP?
    Distribution of authors by race and sex?
    Distribution of revenue by race and sex?
    Distribution of unit sales for the top 100 books by author race and sex?
    Distribution of revenue for the top 100 books by author race and sex?
    Anyone can play. Pick your metric…

    It’s often said generals are always fighting the last war. I suspect we may have a similar situation here. Woke publishers are biased in favor of woke authors championed by woke Tweeters.

    Go for it. This could work in the days when there were significant barriers to entry. No more. Let them feel good about themselves. Let the sliver of woke consumers collect transsexual coming of age novels.

    Note the OPs posted here dealing with total book sales. They always seem to ignore huge segments of the online market. Dollars are fungible.

  2. To be blunt: “Fair” is something only children and progressives believe in.
    Try talking “fair” to Ukrainians or Syrians or Haitians or Burundians.
    “Fair”is just a zero-sum political smokescreen to take was wasn’t earned.
    The only alternative in life is productivity and believers in “fair” don’t believe in it.

    Try this:
    – total world productivity is $100T, from 8B people.
    – total US productivity is $25T, from 320M people, or about 4%.
    “Fair” according to tbe “equity”-mongers is $12,000 a year, which is roughly what Albania or Tunisia produce.
    How many of those “equity”-mongers would choose to live off $1K a month? Before taxes.
    Not many, methinks.

    Fair is easy to promote when it’s other people’s money you’re giving away.

    Bah. Humbug. 😉

    • Fair means distribution of sales revenue from the top 100 books is proportional to the racial make-up of the country. Never happen. Consumers don’t care about fair.

      • That’s one (Orwellian) definition of fair.
        Out in the real world of dollars and cents, fair is something (vaguely) proportional to the revenue your “precious” produced.
        The difference is posturing vs reality.

        One thing I wonder is how are the decidely unwoke overlords going to respond to the local pandering costing them euros.

  3. Well, out here in Woke Land (remember: the opposite of “woke” is “comatose”), during COVID — with no ceremony — they renamed the street in front of a major library branch Hirabayashi Way.

    Almost no one has noticed.

    What’s frustrating to me as a “mere observer” — and “frustrating” is almost certainly a vast understatement for those in the middle of things — is that we’re in the equivalent of track and field in 1969. Late last year, John Carlos on the podium in Mexico City did something “incivil,” and it’s got everybody busy talking far more about symptoms and symbolism than causes, problems, and solutions. And meanwhile, almost nobody is noticing that average times and performances are getting better. <sarcasm> Pretty soon, a black man — or woman — who’s good enough at sport will have personal… conduct… similar to Ty Cobb’s routinely excused on the grounds of athletic genius, and nobody will even notice the skin color. </sarcasm>

    Which is primarily to say that the law of unintended consequences is the only law that approaches the law of Murphy in its universal applicability.

    • Almost nobody noticed the street renaming?
      Might it be because it affected nobody’s life in a meaningful way?
      Pretty much every major city has a street named after MLK. By all reports in the media it hasn’t changed lives in any significant manner. In many cases the street just “happens” to be in an “economically distressed” section of the city.

      Odds are the same applies to the Publishers devoting their litfic publishing to diversity authors. In no big publisher that I’ve heard of has litfic ever been a “rainmaker” bringing in a significant revenue stream. The big money still comes from the genres and the Kings, Patterson, Sanderson, and Roberts of the business. And a whole lot of dead white males.

      All they’ve achieved is replace one set of whiners for another.
      Tokenism solves nothing.
      Neither did Mr Carlos or his more recent knee bending follower.
      Plenty of media attention, no significant change. Just more tokenism, grand gestures of no consequence.

      A more recent example from the current regime:
      A few months back, NASA announced with great fanfare a new class of *highly diverse* astronauts from which they would be choosing tbe crews for the next moon missions. (Someday.) A program receiving minimally adequate funding from the IdiotPoliticians™ because it is supposed to take the first woman to tbe moon, tbe first black person to the moon, the first Canadian and first European. (They’ll probably take a Japanese astronaut too at some point, but nit tbe first. That one will be riding a SpaceX STARSHIP at their *own expense* using money tbey earned in the business world.)
      Great fanfare.
      A week or so ago they more quietly announced (solely in the Space-focused internet sites) that actually the moon missions will be open to all astronauts, including old white males, not just the new class. This became necessary because the trained comoetent veterans were starting to quit to join the new privately financed, for profit, space station projects underway. (Five at last glance.)

      Much like LitFic at the BPHs the NASA gestures get the PR but the meaningful activity is quietly being carried out elsewhere, well beyond the realms of tbe social engineers. For profit. And in the world of profit there is only room for competence and productivity.

      Guess which group is actually changing tbe world.

  4. I can certainly attest to the Prairie Village, Kansas covenant… that’s part of my childhood KCMO neighborhood. Major portions of the residential city on both sides of the state line were developed as subdivisions by JC Nichols, and those sorts of covenants were common in the period (1920s-1950s). But there might as well have been a “and you can’t live here if your income is less than %=$XXXXX”, either. Or Jewish — exceptions were sometimes made for that. Or Mafia, also reluctantly accepted (or you met with a “would be a shame for something to burn down” persuader).

    Didn’t keep everyone from watching the Negro leagues play, eat barbecue, and pack the thriving jazz & blues joints.

    Ain’t no such thing in life as fair, just better behavior on all sides.

  5. Whenever this issue arises, I always wonder how agents or acquisition editors work out that supposed bias. Do they Google the person and look at their appearance or look for comments they’ve made on social media? I’m sure if someone searched me, they’d make certain assumptions about my race, nationality, gender, religious preference, political preference, etc. Do these authors add in their query letter their race, preferred pronouns, and whether or not they love they guns?

    • Darren, the problem is probably not with the agents or the acquisition editors — and when it is, it’s either fixable or intentional-and-therefore-unfixable (for some value of “fix”). The problem is all too often with less-visible, less-accountable decisionmakers, who are far too often “living in the past” at best. So I’m going to delve a little over a decade into the past…

      Consider the cover of Justine Larbalestier’s YA novel Liar. Over the author’s (and editor’s, and agent’s, although that’s less public) protests, marketing demanded a white girl on the cover… and the protagonist is decidedly not white. Why? Because marketing had had “good success” for that perceived audience with white girls on the cover. “Good success” meant “higher preorders compared to the cost-sales projection and fewer returns;” it did not mean “total sales over the life of the book” or even “total sales during the first 18 months following publication.” Leaving aside “how long ago?” and “were the books actually comparable, actually for the same readership?” for the moment — only for the moment, they’re even-more-important questions for which the data is even murkier — consider the accountability and visibility question: What was the actual source of data, and who made this decision?† More to the point, what excuse is there for active misrepresentation in the furtherance of the “good success” imperative that was presumed to lead to/consolidate the personal status of those embracing it?

      Then, too, there’s a perspective issue: The Janus of “the result of a system change is imperfect” and “fear of missing out because my interest was somehow categorized as being on the border.” All of which argues for an entirely double-blind submission system… which would, and does, have its own problems, thus dragging this particular Janus right back into the conversation.

      † I have more than suspicions. I’m satisfied with the reliability of my information; but it’s not definitive and I do not pretend it’s definitive, especially as to the names of two of the people involved behind the scenes, and thus I say no more. Absent evidence of intent, that’s where it’s going to stay. Especially since naming any individuals could be taken as an accusation in a rather distortive and tribalist way: I’ve been there, having worn a military uniform very shortly after Vietnam, so I try to avoid that sort of thing.

      • Understood. I wrote a novel with all black characters and a black child on the cover. I’m sure some look at my photo on the internet and assume things about me, my race, my perspective, my background, and my experiences. How could I possibly write from the perspective of a modern-day slave in Ghana, Africa? That’s why I want to know how these biases are made. I suspect, that whoever makes these decisions, works mostly off of assumptions. In many instances, we can call that what it is—racism.

        • Just as the map is not the territory, the author bio is not the book… and particularly so when the author bio is a thumbnail sketch that omits things like (hypothetically) “I’m not going to invade my neighbors’ privacy and tell you about the years I spent learning about their experiences in West Africa.”

          Tribalism. It’s what’s for dinner. Or at least the balance sheet.

          • You can take the sapiens out of the caves but you can’t take the caves out of the sapiens. Its bad enough that when they don’t find anything to pin “other” on the target, they invent something.

            That is one thing Roddenberry got right, if a bit sledgehammerish.

    • Articles in the past several months indicate Netflix, Lucas Film, et al have had memos where they demand their shows have on-screen and off-screen RePreSentaTion (say “representation” with a faux French accent, it’s funnier).

      Then came the Daily Mirror article about how this policy will lead to lawsuits in Hollywood. It’s not impossible to believe that editors and agents may have had similar rules in place. Asking if a prospective writer is in the approved identity group wouldn’t be legal … but neither was the price fixing publishers tried with ebooks.

      • That. Confirms. Suspicions.

        In Hollywood in general and D+ in particular this practice is already resulting in substandard writing and directing as the rush to diversify is pushing inexperienced and marginally qualified writers and producers to the helm of expensive shows.

        Like a certain “legal” comedy run by a staff with zero legal knowledge and even less willingness to consult with anybody who did, by their own admission. Instead, they delivered a one note show with feminist “jokes” that even actual feminists find obnoxious and unfunny, and shoved the legal stuff and superhero action off camera. (At least the first two episodes. I’ll not be watching any more.) Still, at least this time they won’t be shuffling the nominal protagonist aside in favor of a previously non-existent female character.

        Incompetence + arrogance = rapidly declining viewership.

        BTW, thanks for the link.
        It nicely summarized the original:

        • You’re welcome. Comics YouTube has been all over this, including the She-Hulk debacle. This line from the Bounding article:

          “And one thing that we all realized very slowly was none of us are that adept at writing, you know, rousing trial scenes.”

          They could have stopped at the bolded part. We all definitely knew that part; the specificity about the trial scenes was just a bonus. This highlighted comment on the Critical Drinker’s critique sums up She-Hulk:

          Just to put it into perspective, here’s reasons why Bruce can be angry:

          – Having an abusive father who beat his mother to death
          – living with a monster inside him
          – being hunted for a good portion of his life
          – living with the consequences of the harm caused by hulk, and blaming himself for it
          – being so depressed by it that he was gonna end his life.
          – after seeing no way out being so conflicted that he pushed himself into isolation into a third world country
          – after finally having a team and a “family” he has to watch the love of his life die and his best friend also sacrifice his life.

          And this is just stuff in MCU, go into comics and there’s whole lot more.

          And now, reasons why she hulk is angry?

          – catcalling

          And she tells Bruce that she has been controlling her anger infinitely more???

          I’ll be so glad when studios start valuing making money again that they pay actual writers and directors to tell actual stories.

          • In the Drinker’s after hour discussion he suggested the writers used the show as therapy over their own failings and wish fullfilment.


            Then the whole crew of critics (4 women included) went to town on the first episode when the protagonist staggers into a (roadhouse?) bar all muddy, torn clothes and bleeding and instead of somebody calling 911 three bimbis show up to give her a makeover. Even for a comedy that is simply bad writing.

            Ditto for her getting fired for saving a courtroom of people, only to find a new job in 6 minutes. Considering how the Marvel movies are taking flack for the lack of consequences in the movies that was particularly tone deaf.

            The thing is supposed to be a comedy. But it is anything but funny.

            And the sad thing is, they think they are doing good work. That they are “earning their way”. Over at WB they ate $90M of BATGIRL because the test audiences found the thing so bad they walked out and the director and star claim tbe movie was fine. They are being victimized! Yeah, right.

            If they seriously think so they are in for a shock when they realize they are the flavor of the week and the clock is ticking for a new flavor to roll in. And the money keeps rolling in on TOP GUN: MAVERICK after 14 weeks. Fifth all time highest domestic gross and counting. Deep in the bowels of Hollywood the beancounters are looking at the horrible attendance numbers, the chains heading to bankruptcy and, maybe, doing the math.

            Social engineering and annoying 60% of the population may not be the best way to keep people from going to gaming 24/7 as the substack piece says.

            • That video was great, and I loved Nina Infinity’s point about being fed up with putting down the male characters as a [stupid] means of building up the female characters. That one move is always a “tell” that the storyteller is incompetent.

              Gaming 24/7 (sort of) is where I’m trending; I just don’t want to be bothered with shows wedded to “The Message” as Drinker likes to put it. Sixty hours of fun, + replay for variant outcomes, + a DLC or an expansion pack = a year’s worth of entertainment for a relatively cheap price. That’s what Dragon Age and Mass Effect taught me when I didn’t have a TV, and couldn’t convince myself to buy one. I really didn’t miss TV then, and with showrunners like the She-Hulk crew, I have no reason to miss it now.

              • I dug out MASS EFFECT Legendary and started a new run to see how the tweaks change tbe game.
                Shoukd carry me until PENTIMENT comes out.

            • I don’t disagree with the criticism per se, but I do wonder at the amount of pushback for what is I would consider entertainment for teenagers.

              Just because superheroes can have adult themes, or make relevant observations to the human condition, they are rooted in children’s comics.

              There again, perhaps I lack the right critical faculties to make a good critic. As always, I think it is a matter of taste, and bad writing or story telling is prevalent in most genres.

              Sturgeon’s law comes to mind – 90% of everything is crap. But what do I know? Apart from I know that I don’t know what I don’t know.

              • She-Hulk: Attourney at law isn’t a kids show. Too much sexual innuendo for that. It’s not even original (Ally McBeal covered the same territory with a similar tone, without superhumanx but with much better writing).

                Thing is, Disney itself has done much better when it comes to actual teenage shows about superhumans. If you haven’t, check out SKY HIGH, from 2005. It is actually memorable. And yes, it has “a message” afterschool TV style but it doesn’t sledgehammer it. Instead it delivers actual jokes, gently spoofs both the teen angst and superhero tropes, and it witty, charming, and adult safe. 🙂

                And yes, it was fully diverse, at least in front of the camera.


                Very good cast of names and future names.

                Just one example from the very first episode: in the middle of a class action trial, the protagonist is starting to deliver her (so-so) closing statement when a super strong woman bursts into the room, starts throwing tables around, and forces the petite protagonist to shapeshift into her alternate form as a sevenfoot superstrong green barbie to catch a table headed towards the jury and knock out the intruder.
                So, do we find out what the intruder wanted? No.
                Do we see the reaction of the judge, jury, press, anybody? No.
                We get nothing because that is exactly where the episode ends.
                What would be the linchpin crisis point of any well written narrative instead fades to black. (And not for a commercial break. They obviously didn’t know how to write the followup scene so they just punted.

                Instead, the second epsode picks up the next day at the protagonist’s place of employment where she is intercepted by her boss to fire her because saving the jury et al, caused a mistrial. (Right, because killing tbe jury wouldn’t?)
                So, do we get to see the aftermath of her “coming out” or the consequences of getting fired? No.
                Because opposing counsel is waiting outside to hire her. But only if she remains in her superhuman barbie form at work.

                The one rule most commonly presented to wannabe writers is “show, don’t tell” but this production is all about telling and not showing. All the meaningful stuff, like the protagonist struggling to adjust to her new nature, gets waved off because she is “special” or shoved off camera.

                The product fails as a legal show, it fails as a superhero show, and it fails as a coherent piece of writing. No shock really when you consider tbe behind the camera staff has no significant track record in any of the three, in contrast to three recent genre productions in streaming: SANDMAN, REACHER, and LINCOLN LAWYER, all coming with genre creds and *experienced* showrunners in the specific genres. No amateur hour any of them.

                Now, factor in the substack piece and it (finally) makes sense why Disney would trust a hundred million dollar production (and several brilliant actors) to such an incompetent crew: they’re trying to be “fair”.

                Problem is, there *are* competent “diversity” creators out there whose reputation will be suffering long term from this shotgun Hollywood “affirmative action” gesture.

                This approach serves nobody.

              • That it’s a show made for teenagers doesn’t excuse the garbage themes and messages. Why teach teenagers that they’re oppressed because of petty annoyances (catcalling)? Why teach them not to be grateful they face nothing more than petty annoyances, and instead allow them to think those annoyances are on par with actual suffering?

                Why teach them that if they’re female they don’t have to do a true journey — setting goals, overcoming obstacles with grit and intelligence, acquiring and testing virtues et cetera? Part of “the message” that She-Hulk and ilk deliberately send is that a girl or woman never has anything to learn — especially from anyone male — and she’s “just awesome.” Anyone who doesn’t think she’s “just awesome” is supposed to be the bad guy. Especially if the bad guy is a guy.

                I’ve been re-watching some of the old 80’s era cartoons I grew up on, and hands down they’re superior in their storytelling and themes and characterizations than the woke crap they’re putting out now. Compare 80’s era Teela from “He-Man” to Kevin Smith-Teela on Netflix and tell me it’s not noticeable how inferior the latter is. One is selfless, honorable, fun, and compassionate, and relates to her adoptive father in a mature and loving manner. I loved the scenes where 80s-Teela tag-teams with her dad to fight the villains.

                The original Teela made mistakes and learned from them. She was a fan favorite, contrary to Kevin Smith’s lies on the matter. His version of Teela is self-absorbed, selfish, whiny, and a jerk to everyone, including her own father. And we know she’s “strong” because she’s mannish in appearance, unlike the feminine and allegedly weak 80’s-era Teela.

                Why send girls the message that being a cheap knock-off of violent male meatheads — not even valorous heroes, mind you, but just macho psychos — is what strong womanhood is about? I don’t see the use in telling a girl that the wise, insightful Galadriel is weak, and only demonstrating martial prowess can make her “strong.” (I know the video is long, but the young woman’s thesis is in the first two minutes and she’s spot on). Each segment is time stamped in her table of contents, and in the one at the 16:13 mark she points out the effects on young girls on being bombarded with pop culture messages that femininity makes a woman weak, pathetic, and stupid. That message is relentlessly pounded into them with various media, and that’s yet another reason to me to care, because as she puts it, “the kids are not alright.”

                There is a such thing as cultivating tastes, discernment, and values. Children’s shows — is She-Hulk a kid’s show? — used to do that, and do it in a fun way. I was relieved that my nephews despised the new He-Man. They watch anime instead, where characters have to earn successes by overcoming genuine trials, and go through actual growth and arcs rather than have everything handed to them, or having their selfishness and stupidity validated.

                American comics, cartoons, and kids shows used to illustrate the same themes and values as anime. It meant that back in the day we had a higher quality of Sturgeon’s crap 🙂 But now we have woke writers who can’t be bothered to learn how to tell a story. Let alone create real characters who mature and level up. Now the stories are insidious, and as the articles in the links above point out, audiences have learned not to trust in the storytellers anymore.

              • Except they’re not children’s comics. They haven’t been for a very long time. I haven’t collected comics for a while, primarily because I had to choose between eating and entertainment. But even when I was a teen, they weren’t for kids. 300, 30 Days of Night, Punisher, etc. Not for kids. The Ultimates line Marvel started in the early 00s had Hulk eating people and Ant-Man beating Wasp.

                If anything, the Marvel movies have toned down the ‘adult issues’.

          • “And one thing that we all realized very slowly was none of us are that adept at writing, you know, rousing trial scenes.”

            Okay, this is getting to me. A storyteller should have some integrity, and a work ethic. There are universes I would never write in, e.g., “Doctor Who,” because I don’t know the canon and I really don’t care. But I knew early in life I wanted to be a reporter, so I took language classes and history classes for assorted regions so I could be a foreign correspondent. And I took “law” classes in high school and college so I could understand what’s going on if I did the courts & cops beat. These classes were fun because one teacher was a lawyer who gave in-class commentary during the OJ trial, and the college teacher was a retired homicide cop who gave real-world examples.

            I just can’t wrap my head around deciding to take a job writing a character who is an attorney, and not bloody knowing how to write trial scenes. If you don’t know how, two options: learn how, or pass on the job. For crying out loud, I once did a work for hire where one character was an actress and the other character was a football player. I found out all about Stanislavski’s Method acting and other techniques, and looked up football positions so I could figure out what wide receivers and quarterbacks do. Then I looked up common injuries players might receive and how they get them so I could plausibly write a scene where the character gets injured at practice. The editors thought my execution was vivid and believable.

            In my daily life I care so little about football that my parents actually thought I was being held hostage when I mentioned I was watching the Super Bowl when they called one day. In truth, I wasn’t watching it, but my friend was visiting my dorm because she wanted to watch it and I had a TV and she didn’t. But I cared about telling a good story, so I [reluctantly] learned what I had to about football in order to do that.

            A story must necessarily be crap if the writer doesn’t care enough about it to do even a 30-second Google search. You can’t pick up a John Grisham? Watch Law & Order? Wasn’t there a Johnny Depp trial going on before She-Hulk aired? The Kyle Rittenhouse trial was hilarious to watch on YouTube, where real-life lawyers were offering witty commentary on their livestreams. None of the writers thought of watching and learning?

            There’s just no way to tell a good story if you don’t know the subject you’re writing about, and you lack the wit and honor to grasp why your ignorance matters. In a livestream the author Karin Slaughter spoke of how she owed it to her readers to give them a good story, because she knew she was competing for their attention and money. She never wanted her readers to feel she was disrespecting them by doing a half-assed job. Without even reading her books I already respect her as a storyteller, just because of her principles. Really don’t see how a writer can go wrong with those principles. But Hollywood lately has been determined to show us what happens when a writer doesn’t have them.

            • And tbere’s nine episodes in the show. All this is from the first, 30 minute, episode.

              It used to be 12, with three specifically focused on the Tim Roth character that got dropped beause, yes, they were all court-based.
              Instead, we’ll get to see how bad it is to date as a seven foot green barbie.

              And, in case anybody wonders, all the writers, directors, and producers are female and diverse. Young and untried but, hey, they fill the quota. I wonder if anybody will ever hire them after this…

              Considering the Disney execs are all old white males (50+) maybe they’re doing it on purpose? Or this is what they think passes for “family friendly” today?

              On the other hand, HBO MAX is doing fine with HOUSE OF DRAGONS. Martin maybe be a long in the tooth “pastie” but his stuff works, even when focusing on a female fighting a medieval patriarchy. Proving the real problem is the execution more than the material. (John Byrne had a fantastic fun run on the She Hulk just by cribbing off Looney Tunes: Daffy’s feud with the illstrator.)

      • An article in the Daily Mirror may not be the best-ever basis for cultural criticism; Bat Boy needs to chime in first. Bat Boy’s main… venue… has at least equivalent journalistic integrity and investigative competence — even effort — to the DM. And more than did its now-defunct UK namesake.

        The real issue is that H’wood is so endemically selfish, corrupt, and greedy that it’s difficult to imagine a basis for a lawsuit against its customary practices that wouldn’t seem viable to some attorney, somewhere. Every “two steps forward, one step back” change in a small part of that culture neglects the simultaneous jump to the left and step to the right (now there’s some RePreSen……… TaTion).

        Being clever/insightful on one axis is no guarantee of merit on any of thousands of other potential axes… especially when viewed in a reflection in the fun-house mirror of a different form of expression. And when one mixes anything outside the personal competence of collective rooms of screenwriters who came to notice in that very same system — “law” is a particularly obvious example, but far from unique (all of which are offensively bad) — the results are unlikely to be… enlightening. Or, too often, worthwhile entertainment.

        So watching this thread spin off onto a criticism of a TV sitcom based on a too-often-one-note comic in which none of the creators (in either medium) had a fracking clue about its putative milieu is both popcorn-level amusing and painful. There’s a difference between “authenticity” and “having a clue” — after all, Crichton had an M.D. and Grisham was (once upon a time) a tax lawyer…

        • Bad writing isn’t worth scrutinizing?
          Just asking.
          Clearly one can learn a lot from really good writing but bad writing, even for video can be educational, too. (E,g., The last three STAR WARS “Skywalker movies”. A perfect example of how not to do a trilogy. Starting with a lack of a unifying plot plan.)

          And in the case of She Hulk (which handled properly could be good enough for a one-off limited series), there is the need to understand what one can and can’t do and act accordingly, even if money is thrown at you.

  6. Btw, a while back I ran into This factoid:

    “Arthur Brooks, a social scientist at Syracuse University, was the first to point this out all the way back in 2006 when he went on ABC News and blew blue staters minds. “The political Right is having a lot more kids than the political Left,” he explained. “The gap is actually 41 percent.” Data on the U.S. birth rate from the General Social Survey confirms this trend — a random sample of 100 conservative adults will raise 208 children, while 100 liberal adults will raise a mere 147 kids. That’s a massive gap. ”

    In addition, in certain reddish elite circles, large single earner famikies are a status symbol. Have to fully fill those LINCOLN NAVIGATORS. 😀

      • Which, as the law of unexpected consequences guarantees, will only grow the ranks of the red guys. They haven’t noticed that the bulk of new arrivals this year come from Cuba and Venezuela. Two nations destroyed by “socialist” regimes.

        They’re also about 20 years behind tbe times because the demographic they think is in favor of open borders is the biggest opponent of tbe policy, given that they are the biggest target of identity theft.

        Much like the government largesse leading to ever increasing inflation, current Hollywood policy hurts the diversity hires it pretends to help by putting their competence into question for the long haul. No good comes from tilting the table in any direction.

        The Law of Unintended Consequences rules and will continue to rule for a long time.

        • The story in that link is incredible! Not sure the proposed solution will accomplish what it’s supposed to if people don’t have to personally present themselves to prove their identities, though. The practice of leaving the birth certificates everywhere like a business card is straight up mystifying, but I imagine the consequences have put an end to that?

          As for the rest, I do love the irony of unwittingly bringing in socialist-hating Cubans and Venezuelans. The Hollywood situation is an unforced error, because no one told the people in charge to devalue talent and skill and imagination. The diversity hires I somewhat pity, because if they sincerely wanted to be good at their jobs they’re deliberately undercut by the low standards they’re held to. But that’s where integrity comes in, because if you can see you’re being held to a lower standard it’s on you to hold yourself to a higher one.

          • The real driver was a break in at the maternity ward of a San Juan hospital where they made off with a couple boxes of blank certificates. Not for use locally but to sell in the southwest at a few hundred bucks each.

            The key benefit is getting the new certificate copy requires a physical presence on the island. So no, it didn’t stop the problem completely, but it cut down the late night calls from debt collectors demanding thousands from 3 year olds.

            As for the current migrant profiles:


            What I find amusing is that Arizona and Texas are helping the migrants get closer to their desired final destinations in the “Sanctuary cities” of NYC and DC shifting the cost to the fans of the open border. Last I heard Florida is gearing up to do the same for non-cubans sent there by DHS.

            The camps are hardening.

      • Something seems to have gone awry. Contrary to plan, folks with Spanish surnames tend to think for themselves and make decisions in their own self-interest. Faculty lounges gasp in horror as another monolithic bloc bites the dust. Unchecked immigration might qualify for a Darwin Award.

    • May I gently point out the bad math here? It’s only a “massive gap” if both

      • The sample of 100 conservative adults is drawn from a child-bearing age population of roughly comparable size to that of the liberal adults (hypothetical, easy-to-describe example: the comparable conservative-adults-of-childbearing-age is 100,000, while the population of liberal-adults-of-childbearing-age is 10,000,000). It’s certainly possible that the populations are of comparable size, but neither Brooks’s work nor the OP make any effort whatsoever to do anything other than equalize sample size.

      • There is 100% partnership of conservatives with conservatives, 100% partnership of liberals with liberals, and no single-parent families from mixtures in which the remaining parent is “opposite” of expectations. This is, umm, nuts and counterfactual.

      And that’s before getting into the assumption that conservative parents always raise conservative kids (and liberal parents always raise liberal kids); I’m a paradigmatic example of conservative parents not always successfully raising conservative kids…

      tl;dr Olympic-caliber conclusion jumping. There might be a kernel of truth in there somewhere; neither the factual basis nor stated reasoning unveils it.

      • A minor quible: the function of today’s “left” and “right” has long since left behind the attitudes encapsulared by the terms “conservative” and liberal”. Neither examplifies either mindset as neither is supportive of the status quo and neither is actively looking to promote tolerance and commity. Rather both are equally intolerant rabble rousers, bith creating their own nemeses.

        Times have changed and the old Camps are dead and buried.

        Does tbis meet your standards?

      • What you say is of course true, and this is pretty much par for the course for statistics on the internet. However, it is equally true that there are major variations in fertility between different groups (be they ethnic, national or religious) and at the national level there is a whole collection of countries where the birth rate is well below replacement level, which is obviously going to have a major impact on their futures. Maybe the future lies with Societies able to persuade/force their women to have children at a rate above the replacement level, and all the current Western concerns that we are now grouping under the “woke” heading will go by the board as the believers die out?

        The effect of religion can be illustrated by Israel, where the ultra-orthodox community’s portion of the general population has grown from 10% in 2009 to 12.6% in 2020, growth which seems to be driven the high fertility rate in the Haredi population (6.5 live births per woman).

        As for the USA, the difference in fertility rates between Republicans and Democrats has seen a lot of research since 2006, but it is as usual hard to track down reliable accounts and separate them from the general mixture of ideological bias and wishful thinking. The “Institute for Family Studies” appears to fall on the conservative side of the line and its view is thus presumably not biased in favour of liberals. In their report on “The Conservative Fertility Advantage” they conclude that:

        …this conservative fertility advantage probably will not give conservatives some inevitable long-term political edge. Fertility rates are falling for conservatives just as much as liberals. Given the size of the fertility differential between conservatives and liberals, it doesn’t actually take a large amount of ideology switching to offset this higher birth rate. Thus, while conservatives may wish that their fertility advantage could afford a durable political majority, that hope is probably just as fleeting as the now-silly-sounding claims of progressives a decade ago that immigration would create a durable Democratic majority. That’s because, at least right now, conservative parents have not been sufficiently successful in keeping their kids in the fold.

        So we can blame people like CEP for letting the conservative side down by ideology switching (and maybe his parents for not training him as well as the Haredi in Israel do?)

        • I would also sarcastically note — but I do have data to back this up, it’s just not available on the ‘net — that at least part of the ultraorthodox population growth in Israel since the mid-1990s has resulted from shenanigans with who is “Jewish enough” to immigrate. Ultra-orthodox administrators (and behind-the-scenes powerbrokers) have not been, umm, even-handed in which not-resident-in-Israel rabbis to believe when they are certifying someone for right of return immigration.

          It’s the natural (unnatural but expected?) result of theocracy. And it doesn’t matter what organized religion is at issue: The self-proclaimed more-pure true believers have outsized influence, which manifests itself in strange ways.

        • Over in Sweden they had some success in tweaking birth rates with generous paid maternity leave laws: up to 18 months per kid. *Minor* side effect: companies won’t hire women of child bearing age because they might lose them for up to six years straight.

          (Yet again, the law of unintended consequences).

          They also tried boosting population by taking in lots of immigrants but that too backfired because the generous nanny state benefits meant most of the immigrants didn’t integrate, kept to themselves, and crime exploded.

          Basically, not only is life not “fair”, but any attempts to change matters runs into human nature and makes things worse.

          Like the idea that sociopolitical groups might raise children who adopt opposing philosophies? Yes, it happens. In fact, the recent identity war catfights over library books and school curricula are a consequence. Parents sleepwalking their kids “education”? They did for decades but not any more. School vouchers, home schooling, and school board rebellions are the new normal as school systems joing the long list of institutions no longer trusted by the masses.

          Things will get far worse before they stabilize again.

          • Just today:


            It turns out that “free” university not only doesn’t improve inequality, it actually makes it worse for the poor.

            And, equally counter intuitive, it seems the UK got it right when they ended free tuition and made it for pay. (Though not necessarily for profit.)

            Both lessons should be heeded by the gerontocracy but won’t.

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