Writing a Trojan Horse

courtesy of Netflix
Image courtesy of Netflix

I was surfing Jezebel earlier today and found this interesting pull quote from Jenji Kohan – showrunner for current Netflix hit Orange is the New Black – on how the lead character of Piper was a Trojan Horse when it came to telling the stories of the minority characters on the show:

You’re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it’s a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it’s relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It’s useful.

Shonda Rhimes came to mind as the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal. After all, Meredith Grey was her Trojan Horse. And Emmy nominated writer Mindy Kaling had The Office as a Trojan Horse before launching the wildly hilarious (and should have been nominated show) The Mindy Project. So what does that mean for screenwriters, specifically in scripted television, who want to bring minority stories to the masses? Is the sad reality that yes, we – yep I said “we” – must resort to the military tactics made famous by the Greeks? Apparently so.

With this in mind it will be interesting to see if HBO will actually pick up its current development project with Issa Rae (Awkward Black Girl) and Larry Wilmore (The Daily Show, The Bernie Mac Show) because right now, Fox’s The Mindy Project, NBC’s Ironside (Blair Underwood) and ABC’s Scandal will be the only network shows with a minority as its lead character for the upcoming Fall 2013 primetime television season.

Something to think about!

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