‘Rick and Morty’ Writers on Adult Swim’s Lack of Shows by Women: “I Don’t Think It’s Too Late to Change Things”
Rick and Morty recently kicked off its third season on Adult Swim, and three episodes in, it’s already received plenty of rave reviews online. Season 3 also marks the first time that Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland added women to their writing staff, and The Hollywood Reporter recently spoke with the four new writers – Jane Becker, Sarah Carbiener, Jessica Gao, and Erica Rosbe – about joining the staff as well as developing the female characters on the show, the idea that the writer hiring process is always a meritocracy, Reddit trolls, and their thoughts on Adult Swim’s lack of female show creators.
Here’s Gao, who was also the first woman writer on Robot Chicken, on the Rick and Morty writers’ room:
If you’re not counting Dan and Justin it was a balanced writers room with 50 percent women and 50 percent men. That’s just incredibly rare, unfortunately. More often than not, I’m the only woman in the room or the only person of color — or I’m both. So, having a balanced room just makes things a lot easier for women in the sense that you feel you can pitch things and someone else will understand you.
Here’s Gao on the hiring process:
One thing that really pisses me off is when people talk about how hiring writers should be a meritocracy. The people who say that have never ever thought about what that actually means and where that meritocracy comes from. Overwhelmingly, the person who is deciding who is the funniest is going to be a white guy, usually in his 30s or 40s who for sure grew up middle class or upper middle class. Someone like that is going to have very specific life experience and a specific sense of humor.
Here’s Gao and Becker responding to Mike Lazzo’s comments on Reddit last year, where he tried to justify Adult Swim’s lack of women-fronted projects by saying that “women don’t tend to like conflict, comedy often comes from conflict, so that’s probably why we (or others) have so few female projects”:
“I’ll be honest,” Becker said, “I was very saddened by the comments that were made. I thought that was wrong. But I don’t think it’s too late to change things at Adult Swim. They were good to us and we have a relationship with them now.”
“It’s a bummer that [Adult Swim] don’t have any female [showrunners] and it definitely has the vibe of a boy’s club,” said Gao. “I would like to hope that things would change, but speaking from just working on the shows I’ve worked on, I’ve had good experiences. At least on the show level, these two particular shows make an effort to hire women writers.”
At the end of the interview, Becker says she’s hopeful about what all this means for Adult Swim moving forward. “We found a problem and we’re exposing it. That’s always a good thing,” she said. “I think you have to move with it. I think resisting the change will make things worse. It’s good that we pointed out a problem and I hope Adult Swim is going to try and change it by hiring more female showrunners.” The fact that Adult Swim has writers like these four – women who aren’t afraid to constructively point out some of the problems at the male-dominated network they work for – is a very promising start.